The Fortune of
Roberto Madrazo Mystifies Mexicans
It had to happen sooner or later.
People in Mexico are starting to ask questions about
Roberto Madrazo’s wealth. How rich is he? How did he get his money? When did he get it?
Like other Mexican presidential candidates Madrazo,
flag-bearer of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), has made a statement of his assets public. Even so, questions
One reason is that many expected Madrazo’s
total assets to be higher than the sum he submitted. Another is that, even among his friends, there are those who don’t
believe everything he says. Could there be anomalies in his statement? It would be hard to verify.
Third, as a PRI politician since the 1970s,
it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether some public money leaked into his personal accounts during his two terms as
federal deputy, his stint as a federal senator, and his six years as governor of oil-rich Tabasco.
Then there’s the company he’s kept. Many
names from Madrazo’s past figure among the suspected or confirmed high rollers in Mexico’s annals of corrupt businessmen
Madrazo dismisses rumors of his links with former
President Carlos Salinas, but they persist.
Harder to deny is his friendship with Carlos Cabal
Peniche. Cabal is free on bail on charges of absconding with hundred of millions of dollars in bank assets from Banco Union
and Banco Cremi in the 1990s. A heavy contributor to Madrazo’s 1994 campaign for governor, Cabal attended Madrazo’s
53rd birthday party last year.
Another Madrazo pal, former Quintana Roo Governor
Mario Villanueva, is doing time for money laundering.
In December the Madrazo campaign teamed up with Jorge
Emilio Gonzalez, head of the Mexican Green Ecological Party. Gonzalez was the star of the “Green Boy” video scandal
in which he was seen on national television negotiating a bribe with a businessman. Nonetheless, he was acquitted for lack
of evidence. The PRI-Green Party coalition is called the “Alliance for Mexico.”
One would not be remiss to wonder what joint ventures
some of these people might have worked out with a brash young politician who made it to the top. It’s hard to avoid
a lingering suspicion that some of the lucre these men generated might have rubbed off on Madrazo.
According to documents Madrazo filed, his assets
total just over $29 million pesos – around US$3 million. Not bad for a man who spent most of the last 30 years working
on the modest salary of an up-and-coming politician or in public service.
Journalist Anabel Hernandez did the arithmetic on
Madrazo’s publicly reported income through the years. She concludes in articles published in El Universal that the numbers
don’t add up: even if he had saved all his salary it wouldn’t come to US$3 million.
The Spanish-language weekly Proceso has dedicated
long articles to examining the Madrazo phenomenon. The articles raise questions about assets Madrazo is known to have or is
thought to have accumulated. Proceso says he owns a condo in Miami, and more Mexican properties than he disclosed in his statement.
There’s something about a US$30 million transfer of funds to Prudential Securities in the U.S., and Dresdner Bank in
Germany in 2001. And he drives a US$100,000 Porsche.
Many assets appreciate over time, and some of his
wealth might be inherited. Roberto’s father, Carlos Madrazo, a PRI politician of unknown means, died in 1969.
But once we move to the family the picture gets murky
again. Roberto’s three brothers – Carlos, Sergio and Javier – have done well in business and real estate.
Could some of the benefits of governorship have accrued to the brothers?
No one should make irresponsible accusations against
any presidential candidate, and although some interesting questions arise no one is doing so. Instead, maybe we should congratulate
the candidate for maintaining such a modest accumulation of riches when we know he’s been subjected to so much temptation
during his long public service career.
It’s instructive to recall that as a young
man Madrazo’s political mentor was Carlos Hank Gonzalez, who rose from humble beginnings to become a superpower politician
and a very wealthy man. Hank once famously justified his wealth by saying, “A politician who is poor is a poor politician.”
It’s ironic that the extent of Madrazo’s
wealth, declared or not, and the ruthless strategies he’s used to achieve party leadership, far from being advantages
have turned into his chief liabilities as he struggles to convince Mexicans that he’s the best presidential candidate.
It’s a refreshing thought that perhaps times
really are changing.
Kenneth Emmond, an economist, market consultant and
journalist who has lived in Mexico since 1995, is also a columnist with MexiData.info.
He can be reached via e-mail at Kemmond00@yahoo.com.