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LAS AMERICAS Ernesto Zedillo’s Top Ten Greatest Hits BY JOHN ROSS Mexico’s oft-promised but neverrealized war against corruption is on again and the target this time is none other than the heretofore squeaky clean outgoing president Ernesto Zedillo. The year 2000 is a presidential election year here and front-runner Francisco Labastida inaugurated the new millennium with an old battle cry. The candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has not lost an election in seven decades, promises to root out corruption in the government and his party. In speech after speech before the PRI faithful, Labastida has pledged to clean house in the PM and demanded that all candidates facing election on July 2 provide the public with notarized statements of their personal wealth. Under his administration, Labastida promises that bribe-takers will receive stiff sentences. \(That itself is reform, as such sentences decreased in the state of Sinaloa while Labistada served as “There is no room for corruption in the new PRI!” Labastida repeats at every whistle stop. There is one problem with Labastida’s “moralization” crusade. As the candidate of the PM, the system he promises to reform is the one dominated by his party and its outgoing president. After holding office for the one six-year term the Mexican constitution allows, the seemingly incorruptible Ernesto Zedillo has maintained an image as the Mister Clean of Mexican politics. Are the Zedillo years so fraught with corruption that they require a headline-grabbing clean-up campaign? year theater, in which the successor, after being chosen and blessed by the outgoing president, is permitted to attack the old regime in order to establish his indepenMexico has seen these moral crusades before, the most memorable being Miguel de la Madrid’s mid-eighties presidential campaign, which so frequently promised “moral renovation” that outgoing President Jose Lopez Portillo might have begun to believe he was going to be prosecuted for his six years of plunder. But the crusades are predictable and cyclical, occurring at the end of the sexenio of each outgoing president which is not to suggest that the Zedillo administration is not in need of some moral renovation, even if it is a bit late in the game. Despite his high ratings \(68 percent voiced approval in the most reproven to be one of the most corruptionridden in recent memory. Scandals associated with his presidency include his own campaign finance dealings, his brother’s questionable real estate operation in Chiapas \(which makes headlines at least once a nation’s top drug lords. A thumbnail sketch of Ernesto Zedillo’s ten most scandalous scandals reads like a Mexico Babylon: 1.Campaign Slush Fund. To assist the late-starting presidential campaign that got underway when Zedillo was designated the candidate to replace the assassinated Luis Donaldo Colosio, the PRI solicited an estimated $50 million in contributions \(from two bankers who had looted their newlyprivatized banks, and the director of the holding company for the nation’s two resubsequently fled the country rather than wait around to reap the rewards of their largesse or perhaps face investigation. The embezzled money was later charged to a bank bailout fund sponsored by Zedillo, which will cost taxpayers $80 billion over the next thirty years. FOBAPROA \(the known here as is Watergate and all the subsequent gate-suffix scandals in the United States. 2.Grain Rustling. CONASUPO is another agency acronym that has become synonymous with scandal, although the argument could be made that the scandal occurred before Zedillo became president. Yet Zedillo was behind the scenes at CONASUPO, when the defunct state grain-distribution agency was directed by president Carlos Salinas. Salinas’ blacksheep brother Ratil, now serving time in a prison his brother built, might have been the most corrupt CONASUPO director ever. But during that same Salinas Bros. era, it was Secretary of the Budget Ernesto Zedillo who approved an $18 million rebate to Salinas crony Roberto Gonzalez Barrera. Gonzalez Barrera \(Mexico’s “Torporation, which monopolizes the market for the Mexican staple. When a congressional commission investigated the rebate in 1995, and New York Times correspondent Anthony DiPalma reported Zedillo’s involvement, the President’s office went ballistic, and the Times removed DiPalma from Mexico days later. 3.Where’s Mario? Mario Villanueva was a rising star in the PRI, often embraced by Ernesto Zedillo when he passed through Cancun, the commercial capital of Quintana Roo and the crown jewel of Mexico’s package tour industry. But in addition to serving as governor of Quintana Roo, Villanueva sat on the board of directors of the Cali-Juarez Cocaine Cartel. According to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informants, he made the Quintana Roo coastline the most porous cocaine route in the Caribbean, and as Villanueva’ s term in office drew to a close, indictments were prepared. But the governor gave authorities the slip. After visiting his PRI colleague, Governor Victor Cevera Pacheco, in neighboring Yucatan, Villanueva vanished. Zedillo’ s Attorney General Jorge Madrazo has tried to wiggle out of responsibility by claiming he didn’t have the authority to arrest Villanueva until after he stepped down from office. 4.The Lord of the Skies. Amado Carillo, the most wanted rialto king in all of Latin America, flew DC-7s full of Colombian cocaine into Mexico, earning him the name “El Senor de los Cielos.” Zedillo’s drug cops, however, were never quite able to catch up with Carillo, which was also the case with other established drug barons here \(notably the Arrellano Felix brothers of Tirented out an entire Mexico City hospital and checked himself in for plastic surgery. He reportedly died during a liposuction procedure. The hospital in the swank Polanco district is less than a mile from Los Pinos, 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 18, 2000