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Portentious Week in Mexico



     David Crow reports from Mexico:
     Three events shook Mexico, both figuratively and literally, this week. The first was the June 7 assassination of popular TV personality Paco Stanley. News media, especially TV Azteca (for which Stanley worked), attempted to capitalize politically on the event as actors and newscasters excoriated leftist Mexico City Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas, blaming him for the capital's grave public security problems and emotively calling for his resignation. However, revelations of Stanley's cocaine addiction and ties to late drug trafficker Amado Carrillo ("Lord of the Skies") led to the probable conclusion that the crime was a settling of scores between drug dealers. A backlash against media irresponsibility has since set in, which may favor Cárdenas in the long haul.
     Two things seem clear. One, public insecurity is a nationwide problem that governments at all levels have failed to solve; in fact, it is already the main campaign theme for two presidential aspirants within the PRI, Manuel Bartlett and Francisco Labastida. Two, the murder made vivid the extent to which narcotics trafficking has invaded Mexican public life in a way no other political crime has.
     The second event to rock Mexico was the arrival of ex-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari after four-and-a-half years of self-exile in Ireland. Although Salinas had been in the country before semi-clandestinely, a press conference and subsequent television interview marked his return to the political arena. Salinas alleged personal motives for the visit, but commentators unanimously interpreted the visit as an attempt to influence the PRI's internal selection of its presidential candidate. Vilified by the public at large, the ex-chief of state has carefully maintained and cultivated ties in the world of politics and business during his stay abroad.
     The theory is that Salinas would support Roberto Madrazo, governor of Tabasco presently on leave, from behind the scenes. As part of a complex web of quid pro quo favors and complicities, Madrazo owes a good part of his political prominence to Salinas. If Madrazo were to win the nomination, Salinas would then be in a position to wield backroom might; if, as seems likely now, Labastida becomes the PRI's candidate, Salinas's support of Madrazo would give him bargaining leverage within the Labastida camp. In any event, Salinas's visit was seen as a sign that the system has forgiven him and the coast is clear for further intrigue.
     Finally, an earthquake of 6.7 on the Richter scale shuddered through Mexico City, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Puebla yesterday. Twenty-two deaths, mostly in Puebla, were the initial toll. Damage in Mexico City, fortunately, was limited to condemned buildings in the city's center and frazzled nerves for veterans of the Big One in 1985. One wonders what Julius Caesar would read into the portentous ides of June were he alive.
     My comment: Paco Stanley's assassination provoked a sensation because of his popularity, one more proof that the public shows poor judgment in selecting its entertainment heroes. I can't see who this affair can help Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas.
     Carlos Salinas de Gortari now appears pathetic. He flew from Europe to Mexico and back in a private plane for his short visit: clearly he or his friends can afford to travel in style. It will not endear him to the Mexican people.
     Our good WAISer Ed Simmen gave the commencement address at the University of the Americas in Puebla. He was given a gold watch as a token of appreciation. The crowd of 900 applauded him loudly and deservedly. There is no truth to the story that the Puela earthquake was an aftershock from his speech.
     David says nothing about the other crisis, in the universities. Don't worry. I am writing a bilious piece about it.

Ronald Hilton - 06/16/99


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