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Carlos Salinas de Gortari CYC DMN (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkaɾlos saˈlinaz ðe ɣoɾˈtaɾi]; born 3 April 1948) is a Mexican economist and politician who served as 60th president of Mexico from 1988 to 1994. Affiliated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), earlier in his career he worked in the Secretariat of Programming and Budget, eventually becoming Secretary. He secured the party's nomination for the 1988 general election and was elected amid widespread accusations of electoral fraud.
An economist, Salinas de Gortari was the first Mexican president since 1946 who was not a law graduate. His presidency was characterized by the entrenchment of the neoliberal, free trade economic policies initiated by his predecessor Miguel de la Madrid in observance of the Washington Consensus, mass privatizations of state-run companies, Mexico's entry into NAFTA, negotiations with the right-wing opposition party PAN to recognize their victories in state and local elections in exchange for supporting Salinas' policies, normalization of relations with the Catholic clergy, and the adoption of a new currency. From the beginning of his administration, Salinas de Gortari was criticized by the Mexican left, who considered him an illegitimate president whose neoliberal policies led to higher unemployment and were perceived as giving away the wealth of the nation to foreign ownership. At the same time, during his first five years in office, Salinas was praised by the right wing and the international community as a leading figure of globalization and credited him with modernizing the country. Salinas was also backed by the United States government in his bid for Director-General of the newly created World Trade Organization (WTO).
After years of economic recovery during his presidency, a series of mismanagement and corruption scandals during his last year in office crumbled his public image domestically and internationally. These events included the Zapatista uprising, the assassinations of Luis Donaldo Colosio (Salinas's hand-picked successor and PRI candidate for the 1994 presidential election) and José Francisco Ruiz Massieu (Salinas's brother-in-law and PRI Secretary-General). This surge of political violence led to economic uncertainty. Facing pressures to devalue the peso, Salinas stood firm, opting for a strategy he believed would help his candidacy to be the inaugural president of the WTO. As a consequence, less than a month after leaving office, Mexico entered into one of the worst economic crises of its history. Shortly after, his brother Raúl Salinas de Gortari was arrested for ordering the assassination of Ruiz Massieu and was subsequently indicted on charges of drug trafficking. Salinas then left the country, returning in 1999.
Salinas is often referred to as the most unpopular former president of Mexico. A 2005 nationwide poll conducted by Parametría found that 73% of the respondents had a negative image of him, while only 9% stated that they had a positive image of the former president. He has been regarded as the most influential and controversial Mexican politician since the 1990s.
Early life and education
Carlos Salinas de Gortari was born on 3 April 1948, the second son and one of five children of economist and government official Raúl Salinas Lozano and Margarita De Gortari De Salinas. Salinas's father served as President Adolfo López Mateos's minister of industry and commerce, but was passed over as the PRI's presidential candidate in favor of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz (1964–70). When Carlos Salinas was chosen the PRI's presidential candidate for the 1988 election, he told his father, "It took us more than 20 years, but we made it."
A tragedy occurred early in Carlos Salinas's life. On 18 December 1951, when he was three years old, he was playing with his older brother Raúl, then five, and an eight-year-old friend when they found a loaded rifle, and one of them shot and killed the Salinas family's twelve-year-old maid, Manuela. It was never determined which of the three boys pulled the trigger, and the incident was declared an accident; it was given newspaper coverage in Excélsior and La Prensa at the time. A judge blamed the Salinas parents for leaving a loaded weapon accessible to their small children. The Salinas family did not know the last name of their 12-year-old maid Manuela—only that she came from San Pedro Azcapotzaltongo—and it is unknown whether her family ever claimed her body. They were also exonerated with the assistance of Gilberto Bolaños Cacho, maternal uncle of legendary Mexican comedian Chespirito, who is also nephew to Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, who became president of Mexico in 1964. He has not commented publicly on this tragic early childhood incident.
Salinas attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico as an undergraduate, studying economics. He was an undergraduate when the student movement in Mexico organized against the 1968 Summer Olympics, but there is no evidence of his participation. He was an active member of the PRI youth movement and a political club, the Revolutionary Policy and Professional Association, whose members continued to be his close friends when he was president. Salinas was a skilled dressage horseman, and was a member of the Mexico national team at the Pan-American Games in Cali, Colombia, in 1971.
Salinas was one of the Mexicans of his generation who studied at elite foreign universities. He earned a master's degree in Public Administration from Harvard University in 1973 and went on to earn a PhD from Harvard Kennedy School in 1978. His doctoral dissertation was published as Political Participation, Public Investment and Support for the System: A Comparative Study of Rural Communities in Mexico.
Salinas met his future first wife, Cecilia Yolanda Occelli González, in 1958 when he was just ten years old. They began dating in 1965 when he was 17-years old and she was 16-years old. However, the relationship ended in 1968 when Salinas moved to the United States to study economics.
In 1971, Salinas and Occelli reconnected in Williamsburg, Virginia, in the United States. They were engaged soon after and married on 15 April 1972, in a ceremony in Mexico City. They moved to Boston, where Salinas was completing his master's and doctorate at Harvard University. The couple discovered that Occelli was pregnant with their first child during Salinas' first semester at Harvard. Their oldest daughter, Cecilia, was born on 22 January 1974. Occelli and Salinas had two more children: Emiliano, who was born on 19 February 1976, and Juan Cristobal, who was born in 1979.
Cecilia Occelli González served as First Lady of Mexico from 1988 to 1994 during the Salinas presidency. Soon after leaving office, Salinas traveled to New York City to take a break from Mexican politics. He returned to Mexico from the United States in 1995, where he immediately asked his wife for a divorce. The couple divorced later in 1995.
Salinas married his second wife, Ana Paula Gerard Rivero, shortly after his divorce from Occelli. It is believed that Salinas originally met Gerard in 1983 at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, where he was teaching at the time, though that story remains unconfirmed. Gerard later worked as a technical secretary for the Economic Cabinet of the Salinas administration. The couple had three children. Gerard gave birth to their eldest daughter, Ana Emilia Margarita, in January 1996. Patricio Gerónimo Gerardo was born 1998, while their youngest son, Mateo, was born in 2006.
In early 2021, he obtained Spanish nationality through the procedure that grants it to descendants of Sephardic Jews.
Early political career
Salinas was tapped by President Miguel de la Madrid to serve as Minister of Planning and Budget in 1982, a position that De la Madrid himself had previously held. It was a key cabinet position since Mexico was in dire financial circumstances following the presidency of José López Portillo, who as a desperate measure had nationalized the banks in Mexico and expropriated dollar-denominated savings accounts. The country held no hard currency reserves, exhaustion of foreign credit, and soaring interest rates. the Ministries of Finance and Planning and Budget became the most powerful positions to deal with the economic crisis. In the cabinet, Salinas's main rival was Jesús Silva Herzog, Minister of Finance. In the internecine politics that would decide who would succeed De la Madrid as president, Salinas sought to destroy the reputation of Silva Herzog. Another key figure in the cabinet was Manuel Bartlett, Minister of the Interior, with whom Salinas forged a non-compete alliance. Salinas also forged other alliances within the circles of power and did not directly compete with De la Madrid for public attention. Silva Herzog made missteps in his ministry, which Salinas capitalized on, forcing his resignation.