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A Nation Outraged : Mexicans demand justice in case involving ex-president’s brother

Two weeks ago, Swiss authorities arrested Paulina Castanon--the wife of Raul Salinas and the sister-in-law of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari--and charged her with using falsified documents in trying to withdraw money from a Geneva account containing $83.9 million. The news rocked Mexico.

Raul Salinas, now in a Mexican jail on a murder charge in the shooting of a brother of his wife, maintains that the mon- ey was legitimately accumulated. Under Mexican law, he has until Dec. 4 to prove it.

He may also have to explain 48 other bank accounts that investigators have turned up under his name in Mexico and abroad. Then there is the real estate--44 properties, at least, owned by Salinas. All of this on a public official’s salary that never exceeded $100,000 annually.

Salinas definitely was in the right place at the right time. He was director general of Conasupo, a government agency that helps the poor. Many past directors general of Conasupo, possessing the authority to import merchandise and the political connections to place it in the market, have made illicit fortunes. Raul had the post, the au- thority and the connections. And everybody knew it.

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With the arrest of Raul, Carlos Salinas published a letter to the Mexican people trying to establish some distance between himself and his brother. If Raul is guilty of something, the former president said, he should be punished. Carlos Salinas also said he was shocked by the developments. However, although there is always a possibility that the former leader did not know what his brother was doing, most Mexicans find that a stretch.

Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers who backed the Clinton Administration-engineered bailout of Mexico last year deserve and expect a thorough investigation in this case. Mexicans, even more, expect and deserve justice; only that will salve their outrage. They demand severe punishment for those found guilty. After all, the money Raul kept in that Swiss bank could have kept 107,860 minimum-wage Mexican workers on the job for a year.


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