The New York Times
September 19, 1998

          Salinas Brother Is Tied by Swiss to Drug Trade

          By TIM GOLDEN

                MEXICO CITY -- After a nearly three-year inquiry into drug
                corruption in Mexico, Swiss police investigators have concluded
          that a brother of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari played a
          central role in Mexico's cocaine trade, raking in huge bribes to protect the
          flow of drugs into the United States.

          In a secret 369-page report, the investigators assert that Salinas's elder
          brother, Raúl, used his wide influence in the administration to organize an
          elaborate network of protection for drug smugglers. He also channeled
          drug money to his brother's presidential campaign, the report alleges.

          "When Carlos Salinas de Gortari became President of Mexico in 1988,
          Raúl Salinas de Gortari assumed control over practically all drug
          shipments through Mexico," the report states. "Through his influence and
          bribes paid with drug money, officials of the army and the police
          supported and protected the flourishing drug business."

          From a low-profile position in the administration's food-distribution
          agency, the report states, Raúl Salinas commandeered Government trucks
          and railroad cars to haul cocaine north, skimming payoffs that the Swiss
          estimate at upwards of $500 million. On what some of his reputed former
          associates referred to as "green light days," he arranged for drug loads to
          transit Mexico without concern that they might be checked by the army,
          the coast guard or the federal police.

          A partial copy of the report was obtained by The New York Times. It
          appears to be based largely on interviews with nearly 90 former drug
          traffickers, reputed Salinas associates and other witnesses, most of them

          Swiss officials said they expected the report to be the basis for their
          Government's seizure in the coming weeks of more than $130 million that
          Raúl Salinas deposited in Swiss banks.

          Lawyers for Salinas dismissed the report Friday as the slanderous
          product of a Swiss crusade to confiscate what they insisted was a fortune
          that their client earned by legitimate means.

          "The report is absolutely false," Salinas's lead attorney, Eduardo Luengo
          Creel, said in an interview. "It contains statements, assertions and
          situations that do not correspond to the facts. It is a police report. It does
          not have the validity of an evaluation by an investigating judge."

          "We do not even know who these people are," Luengo said of the many
          confidential informants listed in the document, which Salinas's lawyers
          received two months ago. "To accuse someone with anonymous
          witnesses is unconstitutional in any country that enjoys the rule of law."

          The document states that Swiss investigators were unable to determine
          conclusively what involvement the former President, his father and other
          family members might have had in the purportedly illicit activities of Raúl

          Some family members, it implies, were among a group of people around
          Raúl Salinas who were implicated in criminal activities. It based that
          finding on witnesses it described as "principally credible" but did not

          The report says the investigators did not look further into the matter
          because the people mentioned were irrelevant to their inquiry into whether
          Salinas's Swiss funds came from illegal activities.

          Nonetheless, the report adds, somewhat obliquely, "We have to seriously
          question the probability that a person with as much power as the
          President of Mexico for years did not learn about criminal activities of this
          extent, even if his brother was heavily involved." Carlos Salinas has been
          living recently in Europe.

          The Swiss report is by far the most exhaustive assessment to date of Raúl
          Salinas's reported dealings with the Mexican underworld.

          It is clearly a prosecutorial document, one that cites

          Salinas's own version of events mostly to show how it appears to
          contradict other facts. Because the Swiss seizure of Salinas's assets would
          be a civil court action, the report also aims at a considerably lower
          threshold of proof than would be required in a criminal case.

          Raúl Salinas was widely rumored to have grown rich on dubious business
          dealings during his brother's presidency, but the accusations were almost
          never public or specific. Shortly after Carlos Salinas's term ended, in
          December 1994, his chosen successor, Ernesto Zedillo, shattered a long
          Mexican tradition of impunity for presidential families by authorizing Raúl
          Salinas's arrest on charges that he ordered the murder of a leader of the
          governing party who was his former brother-in-law.

          In the tiny maximum-security prison cell where Salinas has spent the last
          three and a half years, he has been struck by wave after wave of new
          allegations. Federal prosecutors in New York are pressing ahead with a
          criminal investigation into the possibility that he may have laundered illicit
          funds through his accounts at Citibank headquarters in New York. And
          after a series of reversals in their murder case, Mexican officials say they
          are close to announcing new corruption charges against him.

          Much of the Swiss evidence seems to come from witnesses who are
          identified only by pseudonyms like "Ludmilla" and "Juan," and whose
          credibility is difficult to judge.

          Some claimed they had arranged the protection of drug shipments with
          Salinas directly. Others, including bodyguards, chauffeurs and secretaries,
          said they had attended meetings at which they saw Salinas receive
          suitcases full of cash from smugglers. Still others, including an American
          drug enforcement agent, testified to matters they had learned about

          As the true names of several of the witnesses have leaked out over the
          course of the Swiss investigation, Salinas's lawyers have attacked their
          accounts. But even when the informants are convicted criminals, the
          report often asserts reasons why their claims are credible.

          Legal experts in Switzerland and the United States predicted that the
          confidentiality of the sources arrayed against Salinas might well prove a
          weak point in the Government's case. If a seizure is ordered and lawyers
          for Salinas challenge it in court, as they insist they will, the judge who
          evaluates the case will have access to the witnesses' identities but the
          lawyers will not.

          In contrast to law enforcement officials in the United States who have
          studied Mexican drug corruption for years, the small team of Swiss
          federal police investigators had virtually no background in the subject. But
          since their arrest of Salinas's third wife, Paulina Castañón, as she tried to
          retrieve phony passports with her husband's picture from a Swiss
          safe-deposit box in November 1995, the Swiss detectives managed to
          scour American court files and jail cells for anyone who might claim a link
          to their target.

          In at least a few such cases, United States law-enforcement officials have
          acknowledged, those informants had been ignored or misused by
          prosecutors in the United States until the Swiss sought them out. The
          Swiss report also cites some confidential witnesses who are described as
          people who once worked or socialized around Salinas, and it contains
          what two American investigators described as a meticulous analysis of his
          financial dealings.

          "For us, what they have would be a triable case," said a United States
          law-enforcement official who is familiar with the Swiss evidence. "It
          wouldn't be a slam-dunk, but you could definitely take it to court."

          For the family of a former President who was once celebrated as the bold
          architect of a new relationship between Mexico and the United States --
          the man who championed the North American Free Trade Agreement
          and brought to power a new generation of Ivy League-educated
          technocrats -- the report paints a devastating portrait.

          Quoting unidentified former associates of the family, the report contends
          that both Raúl and Carlos were "introduced" to the drug trade in the late
          1970's by their father, Raúl Salinas Lozano, a former Government
          minister. It did not make clear what that introduction involved.

          "Raúl Salinas Lozano, with his political influence, would have preferred
          Raúl at the head of the Government in Mexico," it continues, quoting an
          informant close to the family to present a dark new twist on an old story
          of brotherly ambition. "But because Raúl Salinas de Gortari's infamous
          earlier life would not have permitted him to hold a high-level government
          position, the father decided to support his son Carlos instead."

          Long before Carlos Salinas began to make his name in the mid-1980's as
          Mexico's young, Harvard-trained Budget Minister, the report suggests,
          his father had built a friendship with one of the legendary figures of
          Mexico's north-border drug trade, Juan N. Guerra. Such a relationship
          has been reported in the past, and angrily denied by Raúl Salinas Lozano.

          The eldest son of the one-time border Senator -- Salinas Lozano was a
          dominant figure in the politics of his home state of Nuevo León -- and a
          nephew of the trafficker Juan García Ábrego, inherited the connection, the
          report contends.

          Quoting a series of former drug traffickers, the Swiss investigators state
          that Raúl Salinas began arranging protection for both García Ábrego and
          traffickers of the Medellín cartel in Colombia even before his brother
          became President.

          One of those traffickers, identified as "Giuseppe," appears to be José
          Manuel Ramos, a former high-level Medellín cocaine distributor who
          operated out of northern Mexico and Texas until his arrest in 1990. Three
          American law-enforcement officials familiar with his case described
          Ramos, who remains in prison, as highly credible.

          Both Ramos and his wife, Luz Salazar, (the "Ludmilla" of the report)
          referred the Swiss detectives to payment ledgers and other documents
          that had been seized at the time of their arrest. According to the report,
          the documents helped to corroborate that from 1987 to 1989, they paid
          Salinas $28.7 million on behalf of their boss, José Gonzalo Rodríguez

          Another convicted trafficker who gushes with information about Raúl
          Salinas, Marco Enrique Torres, has weaker bona fides.

          While the report notes some corroboration of Torres's account by an
          F.B.I. agent who pursued his case, Orlando Muñoz, it fails to note
          Salinas's denials that he ever knew Torres. Nor does it raise questions
          about the more improbable parts of his tale of a long criminal friendship
          between a mid-level drug smuggler and a member of the Mexican political

          Once Carlos Salinas became President at the end of 1988, the report
          states, his brother's power to assure the safe northward passage of drugs
          grew sharply.