A movie released in 2012 – Colosio: El asesinato (Colosio the Assassinated) – examines the public murder of Donaldo Colosio Murrieta in 1994. The Colosio assassination is Mexico’s version of the Robert F. Kennedy assassination: Both were presidential candidates on the verge of success when they were suddenly gunned down by shooters at close range. (See the book Shadow Play, by William Klaber and Philip H. Melanson for info on the RFK assassination. Further background on Colosio: El asesinato can be found in yesterday’s blog entry.)
At top is (hopefully) embedded a video clip of the first 2-and-a-half minutes of Colosio: El asesinato. It begins with these words:
Hay décadas en las que no pasa nada,
y semanas en las que pasan décadas.
I translate this as, “There are decades in which nothing happens, and weeks in which decades happen.” Such was the situation in 1968, with the assassinations of Martin Luther King on April 4th and Robert F. Kennedy on June 6th, followed by the tumult in Chicago during the Democrat Convention of August 26 – August 29. And so too did decades happen in Mexico around the time of the Colosio assassination.
Colosio: El asesinato is currently available (with English subtitles) on Netflix. However casual viewers might not know the context of Mexico circa 1994. This was the time of a controversial trade deal between Mexico, Canada, and the United States: NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Back then, things like the Los Zetas Beheadings of 2013 were still a long way off.
Source for what follows, except where otherwise noted, is the book, Bordering on Chaos, by Andres Oppenheimer. (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1996) A version of the below premiered in my old Conspiracy Nation Newsletter in the 1990s.
In 1988, Harvard trained Carlos Salinas de Gotari became President of Mexico. During his term of office (1988-1994) the big push for the so-called North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) gathered steam. In the United States, the Salinas government spent $11 million per year on what is politely called “public relations” – propaganda – designed to persuade Americans that Mexico would make an excellent NAFTA partner. But, among other things, Yale trained Bill Clinton’s and Harvard trained Carlos Salinas’ NAFTA wound up sending a flood of cheap corn and wheat into Mexico. This hurt Mexican farmers badly. They, in turn, could no longer afford to hire the Chiapas Indians as field hands.
Carlos Salinas was so often referred to as “the Harvard trained Salinas” that he is nicknamed “Harvard Trained Salinas.” The Mexican state of Chiapas is so impoverished that it is nicknamed “Mexico’s basement” – in other words it is kept hidden how backward it is. The majority of its people are poor, Indian peasants. The women must walk for hours every day, just so their families can have water and firewood. Their shacks are lucky to have a tin roof. So what did Harvard Trained and his government do? Help them get electricity and running water? No, Harvard Trained and upper crust chums decided to get them 3700 basketball courts! The Chiapas Indians, thanks to Harvard Trained, then put together 12,000 basketball teams. They still don’t have shoes and their average height is about 5 feet 3 inches tall — but hey: at least after a hard day of toting firewood they can relax and shoot some hoops! Harvard Trained also caused an $11 million, world class opera house to be built in Chiapas.
On February 23rd, 1993, a private dinner party was held at the sumptuous home of former Mexican finance minister Don Antonio Ortiz Mena. The party was attended by President Salinas and several Mexican billionaires. The meeting was supposed to have been top secret, but news of its having occurred leaked out. Reportedly, each of the attendees agreed to give $25 million to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The “revolutionary” PRI is in fact what amounts to the political party in Mexico. It is the political party that was born out of the early 20th century Mexican Revolution, way back in the late 1910s. PRI is akin to the Democratic Party in Chicago in the sense that, sure there are other political parties, but everyone knows that really only that one party has the power. So just why would it be that several Mexican billionaires would secretly give $25 million apiece to the PRI? Had they suddenly become extremely “patriotic” yet, being humble about it, did not wish to fanfare what noble fellows they are?
The “Zapatistas” – the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a revolutionary leftist political and militant group based in Chiapas – were big in the “news” around the time of the “weeks which contained decades.” On May 22nd, 1993, the Mexican army entered the now-abandoned Zapatista camp near San Miguel, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. It was seen that the “spontaneous,” “populist,” Chiapas insurgent army was surprisingly well-funded: the Zapatista camp was huge, and included a volleyball court; it was equipped with electricity, televisions, and kitchens. By 1994 it was becoming clearer that the Zapatista rebel army was not autonomous. It was actually being run by white, middle-class intellectuals in Mexico City. The “Sub-commander Marcos” was not native to Chiapas; he was white-skinned, well-educated, and from Mexico City.
1994 saw the imminent expiration of Harvard trained Salinas’ term of office. On March 23rd, 1994, PRI’s presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was assassinated in Tijuana. The confessed assassin of Colosio, Mario Aburto Martinez, was at first perceived as a “lone nut.” But this view quickly changed as the government-appointed special prosecutor went on record stating that there had been what he called a “concerted action” (in other words, “a conspiracy”) behind Colosio’s murder. Speculation grew that the killing had been done at the behest of powerful persons in Mexico. The growing apprehension threatened to crash the Mexican stock market, the Bolsa, and precipitate flight of capital from Mexico.
Meanwhile, subsequent to the death of PRI nominee Colosio, Ernesto Zedillo was unveiled as the Mexican Establishment’s new candidate for the post of el presidente. Government workers were bused to PRI headquarters in downtown Mexico City to serve as cheering background for the new candidate. On television they could be seen – to the naive they appeared as spontaneous, enthusiastic supporters of Zedillo. The new candidate, Zedillo, was reportedly the puppet of PRI hard-liners, who favored toughness, intolerance, and repression toward dissent.
In this time frame, Mexico’s ruling class had been experiencing increasing internal tensions. The government was undergoing a process of what is code-named “privatization,” thought by some to really mean the selling off of publicly-owned assets to private corporations for benefit of greedy stockholders. By the summer of 1994, the “enthusiastic” push for candidate Zedillo was in high gear. The PRI secretly paid millions of dollars to Mexican newspapers in return for their publishing campaign propaganda disguised as news. About 10 percent of these monies went to reporters themselves, to keep them quiet about what they knew. Televisa, the Mexican television monopoly – really an octopus that smothers all other news – gave the vast majority of its air time to the Zedillo campaign. The opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) candidate, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, got only miniscule coverage by Televisa. To confuse voters, the Establishment’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) even created small, fake opposition parties which were secretly funded by PRI.
Meanwhile, the Mexican common people struggled for whatever influence they could wield over how their lives were being affected. The “El Barzon” movement, one million strong, fights the banksters. Crushed under usurious debt, they demand renegotiation of past loans. Activist groups launch an “adopt a public official” campaign: the “adopted” official comes under close scrutiny by the adopter; he is put “under the microscope” and, if he is corrupt, pressure is brought to bear.
Thanks to NAFTA (North American “Free Trade” Agreement), the Mexican-U.S. border is more wide open than ever to “free trade.” That border is becoming the number 1 drug smuggling route for illicit narcotics. 75 percent of cocaine entering the U.S. comes in via Mexico. Yearly profits of about $20 billion further corrupt politics via bribery and terror. The drug money is laundered through Mexican banks and through investments in resorts and shopping centers. The city of Guadalajara has become the “Wall Street” for Mexican money laundering. Is that why Cardinal Posadas Ocampo of that city was assassinated? Supposedly it was a case of “mistaken identity” – but was it rather that Posadas Ocampo had become a thorn in the side of Dope, Incorporated?
Then, on September 28th, 1994, in downtown Mexico City, Jose Francisco “Pepe” Ruiz Massieu, PRI general secretary, was gunned down. Could this tragedy have happened because his brother, Mario Ruiz Massieu, was a senior government prosecutor who had publicly sworn to defeat Mexico’s massive Gulf drug cartel? To stave off such suspicions, hours after the slaying of Jose Francisco brother Mario was made chief investigator into the case. Daniel Aguilar, gunman in the assassination of “Pepe” Ruiz Massieu, had fortuitously been captured at the site of the killing. His full confession led ultimately to PRI congressman Manuel Munoz Rocha. But Congressman Munoz Rocha then disappeared!
The initial public excitement and outrage regarding the assassination of “Pepe” Ruiz Massieu died down with time. With the heat off, the investigation by Mario Ruiz Massieu into his brother’s death began to bog down. On November 15, 1994, Mario Ruiz Massieu charged that the PRI was blocking his investigation. Later that month, he resigned as special investigator into his brother’s murder. In early December, Mario Ruiz Massieu fled Mexico. He was arrested in Newark, New Jersey, carrying $7 million. Mexico demanded he be extradited; they charged that Mario had covered up involvement of Raul Salinas – Carlos Salinas’ brother – as mastermind behind the killing of “Pepe” Ruiz Massieu!
By late December of 1994, both the Colosio and Ruiz Massieu assassinations had made foreign investors nervous; their Mexican deposits began a stampede for the exits. A Zapatista uprising in Chiapas lessened investor confidence still further. There was a financial crisis. It was decided to “float” the Mexican peso – allow the market to fix its price. In the next few months, American investors lost more than 30 percent of their money. The Mexican financial troubles threatened a worldwide chain reaction that could have crashed stock markets throughout the world. In early 1995 U.S. President Bill Clinton used his executive powers to release $20 billion from the U.S. Treasury Exchange Stabilization Fund – money originally meant to stabilize the U.S. dollar – to help save Mexico from bankruptcy. The New York investment bank Goldman-Sachs reportedly had huge investments down in the land of our NAFTA neighbor. The just-appointed U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin had until quite recently been head of Goldman-Sachs. Hmmm…. Was there a conflict of interest?
Also in early 1995 the so-called “Chase Bank memo” surfaced in the Washington Post. This Chase Manhattan Bank memo urged the Mexican government to get moving and crush the Zapatista resistance. Furthermore, Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo was aware that the Chase Bank memo represented the secret views of most banksters.
In early March of 1995, Raul Salinas was arrested, charged with being the mastermind behind the murder of “Pepe” Ruiz Massieu. Now ex-President Carlos Salinas, saying he was convinced Raul is innocent, began a hunger strike. But, after a day or two to think it over, he went back to eating. By November 24th, 1995, those with access to Associated Press were reading about Raul Salinas being on trial for murder.
The plot thickens: the murdered “Pepe” Ruiz Massieu was Raul Salinas’ brother-in-law. Around this time also, Paulina Castanon, sister-in-law of Harvard-trained ex-President Carlos Salinas, got arrested; she allegedly used false documents to try to withdraw nearly $84 million from a Swiss bank account. (Associated Press, 11/24/95) At about this time too, Reuters reported that Swiss authorities had blocked several bank accounts in a probe “into a drugs and money-laundering scheme alleged to be linked to the brother of Mexican ex-President Carlos Salinas.” But, said Carlos Salinas, compadre of dashing Bill Clinton, U.S. President, “I know nothing.” Yet, strangely, Carlos Salinas himself next seemed to vanish! Where was Carlos Salinas? (Reuters, 11/30/95) Carlos Salinas, circa November 30, 1995, was formally “accused of treason and fraud in connection with the 1990 sell-off of state phone company Telmex.” (Reuters, 11/30/95) (You see, they were privatizing the state phone company.) But hold the phone! Reuters reported on December 1, 1995 that another $20 million had been found stashed away for Raul Salinas, this time in a London account. And where was Carlos Salinas, the ex-President? He had fled Mexico and was said to be laying low in Cuba. December 2, 1995: Probes were launched by both Canada and Mexico into possible financial wrongdoing by Carlos Salinas. And, according to El Financiero newspaper, “Mexican police have found some $300 million in bank accounts belonging to the ex-president’s brother in Switzerland, Germany, England, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands.” (See also Reuters, 12/02/95.) Reuters (“Mexico Bails Out Top Bank In Growing Crisis,” 12/15/95) next reported “a de-facto renationalization of the bank system that was privatized during the previous government of Carlos Salinas.” It seems that drug traffickers and others had been buying up – “privatizing” – the banks, and now the Mexican government was forced to bail out these same banks to keep them from collapsing. And, noted New Federalist (“Four Nations Investigating Salinas Money, Dope Ties,” 12/11/95), “According to an expose in the New York Times last July, former Bush administration officials charged that they had been ordered by other senior Bush officials to hush up reports of drug activity under the Salinas team – such as how drug-traffickers were buying up Mexican state companies that were being privatized.”
Did Raul Salinas consult with witches regarding the Colosio slaying? Reuters (“Mexico Police Probe Witches In Colosio Case,” 12/16/95) reported that investigators had travelled to the Canary Islands to interview two “witches” who might have information. But why would Raul Salinas consult them on the Colosio slaying when he is supposedly only involved in the death of “Pepe” Ruiz Massieu? Or is there a link between the two deaths?
Meanwhile, Mario Ruiz Massieu, as of December 15, 1995, was still fighting extradition back to Mexico. He had been held without bail since his March 3rd arrest at Newark International Airport.
In 1996, news surfaced regarding Citibank and Carlos Salinas being involved in “a multimillion-dollar international drug-money-laundering scheme.” You may have seen a watered-down version of this story on the CBS program “60 Minutes.” Apparently, when sister-in-law of Carlos Salinas, Paulina Castanon, had tried withdrawing the $84 million from the Swiss bank (see above), it opened up a real can of worms. Castanon, wife of the imprisoned Raul Salinas, was nabbed at a high-class bank, Pictet & Cie, in Geneva. The account at Pictet was set up for Raul Salinas, under a phony name, by Amelia Grovas Elliot of Citibank. She had been, since 1981, in charge of the Mexico branch of Citibank’s Private Bank, a bank within Citibank handling an ultra-exclusive clientele. Citibank itself went bankrupt in 1992 and was secretly placed into receivership by the New York Federal Reserve. This means that the New York Fed has since 1992, supposedly, been “micro-managing” any Citibank transactions of $1 million or more. So it becomes increasingly clear that Raul Salinas was washing a lot of money – be it from illicit drug dealings, bribes, or whatever – with the help of Citibank and under the watchful eyes of the Federal Reserve! (See: “Fed, Citibank, Salinas In Dope-$-Laundering,” New Federalist, 06/17/96; Wall Street Journal, 06/07/96.)