BORDERING ON CHAOS Guerrillas, Stockbrokers, Politicians and Mexico's Road to Prosperity By Andres Oppenheimer; Little, Brown: 367 pp., $25.95

Former [Mexican] President Carlos Salinas de Gortari is now living like a fugitive while his older brother, Raul Salinas, sits in jail accused of ordering the murder of a top ruling party official. Never mind how $300 million ended up in Raul's foreign bank accounts when he never made more than $190,000 a year as a government official.

All of which may be the good news compared to the claims of Raul's mistress, who said she overheard him confessing to the murder of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio to an acurandera (witch doctor).

Only two years ago, Mexico seemed a model of reinvention, poised to enter the ranks of First World nations and economies led by the dapper Salinas and his coterie of Harvard-educated technocrats. Determined to close the biggest trade partnership in the hemisphere's history (NAFTA), they made a decision to ignore and deny a series of troubling indicators that clearly augured imminent calamity in both the Mexican economy and society.

Oppenheimer's foremost achievement is in converting what could have been a starchy foreign policy tome into a riveting page-turner. "Bordering on Chaos" is not merely a "must read," it's a great read.

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