Salinas de Gortari, Carlos

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Salinas de Gortari, Carlos

Carlos Salinas de Gortari, 1948–, president of Mexico (1988–94). A Harvard-educated political economist, he became minister of planning and the budget (1982–87) and succeeded Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado as president in 1988. A member of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) from his student days, he became the first PRI presidential candidate to face competitive elections. Salinas won with 50.4% of the vote, but his victory was the result of PRI fraud. As president, he worked to revive Mexico's economy by curbing inflation and reducing government regulations. He became the major promoter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and in signing the accord (1992) reversed Mexico's historical resistance to foreign investment and to U.S. involvement in its affairs.

Although Salinas's administration was praised for its economic reforms, it lost some of its luster when his brother Raúl was arrested and convicted in 1995 for the 1994 murder of a PRI official and was later (1996) accused of massive financial misappropriations. After Carlos Salinas responded by criticizing the Mexican government, he was pressured into de facto exile, only returning to Mexico in 2000. Raül's 1995 conviction was overturned in 2005, and in 2006 he was acquitted (in Switzerland) of money-laundering charges.

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