The Giant with the Seven-League Boots, Part 2

On March 12, 2004, we learned from INTERPOL that a citizen of Argentine origin, naturalized in Mexico, was wanted in a case of illicit operations.

The relevant investigations confirmed that he had entered the country on February 27 of that same year in a private plane together with another person and was staying in a legally-registered rented house.

He was arrested on the 30th of that same month of March.

On the 31st, the Mexican Foreign Ministry presented Cuba’s MINREX with an extradition application for Carlos Ahumada Kurtz, given an order to apprehend this individual for his proven participation in a nonspecific criminal fraud.

Five days later, the precautionary measure of remand custody was imposed on him as a result of the investigations.

During the interrogations, he stated that, in November 2003, he reached an agreement with political leaders from the National Action Party (PAN) and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Senator Diego Fernández de Cevallos and former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, to expose the fraudulent administration of officials at the Federal District government, close collaborators of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the PRD mayor of the FD. In videos filmed by him or his collaborators, René Bejarano, the mayor’s personal secretary, appeared, receiving thousands of dollars from Ahumada, as well as other videos which show Gustavo Ponce Meléndez, FD finance secretary, spending large sums of cash in a casino in Las Vegas, United States – material that was broadcast on Mexican television.

Bejarano had been tricked into giving an interview to a television program in which he fiercely criticized acts of corruption by government officials and, at the end of his contribution, they invited him into an adjacent studio and showed him a video in which he was seen receiving money, all of which constituted a tremendous scandal with devastating consequences for his prestige.

Salinas de Gortari and Fernández de Cevallos had seen the videos beforehand and organized – along with Santiago Creel and Rafael Macedo de la Concha, secretary of government and Attorney General of the Republic in the government of President Fox, respectively – his exposé and the subsequent broadcast, offering him in exchange economic support for his businesses and legal protection for him and his family.

Ahumada met with Fernández de Cevallos on a number of occasions to analyze the quality of the videos, improve them and even to conceal his own face in the footage, and ratified the denunciation in a room at the Hotel Presidente in Mexico City, where representatives of the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic were also present.

Once the videos had been broadcast, Salinas – through his lawyer Juan Collado Mocelo and his personal assistant Adán Ruiz – advised Ahumada to leave Mexico and take refuge in Cuba, which he did, maintaining communication via visits from the aforementioned employees and telephone calls.

The fundamental objective, according to Ahumada, was to damage López Obrador and the PRD, in order to weaken Obrador’s position as a candidate in the 2006 presidential elections.

On April 28, 2004, Carlos Ahumada Kurtz was deported to Mexico, handed over the videos to the police authorities there and was detained under the jurisdiction of the Federal District Judge, who had ordered an apprehension order. On that same date, confirmation by MINREX was published regarding the proceedings against Carlos Ahumada and his deportation.

During his detention in Cuba, he was visited by his wife, had access to consular staff and, exceptionally, was authorized to meet with Salinas’ lawyer, Juan Collado.

A ferocious media campaign was generated around this case.

With respect to the deportation, favorable opinions towards Cuba were expressed by party leaders of various organizations, particularly the PRD, as noted in a report from the Cuban Ministry of the Interior, received yesterday, dated August 11, 2010, stating that López Obrador was satisfied with that measure.

On the other hand, in an “Evaluation report on information regarding the deportation of Carlos Ahumada”, one paragraph informs: “The PRD president, Godoy, called our embassy, ‘satisfied’ with the ‘Cuban’ statement and the ‘deportation.’ He said that López Obrador ‘is very satisfied’.” That was what most interested us.

The Attorney General of the Federal District “called our embassy to express his thanks for the deportation and ask about the flight details.”

In that way, countless personalities, representatives of political organizations and parties, congress members and senators, expressed their satisfaction and gratitude to us.

Blanche Petrich and Gerardo Arreola, correspondents for La Jornada, sent a cable noting: “The detainee is directly implicating high-ranking members of the government, the Cuban foreign minister states.”

“Havana, May 5. Seated on the edge of a old-fashioned brocade-covered sofa, looking well, businessman Carlos Ahumada tells his interviewers, located beside the camera recording him: ‘Because I didn’t want to let go of the videos, because that was, in a way, my only way of being able to negotiate what I wanted to negotiate; in other words, that they would help me. And well, unfortunately, I ended up letting them all go and, up until just now, they haven’t given me anything, because, well, they haven’t given me legal protection; on the contrary, what I got was them accusing me of money-laundering; nor have they given me financial help and what they’ve given me is virtually nothing and here I am, under arrest.’

“With this microdose, no more than four minutes after the announced and fearful videos in the hands of the Cuban government, Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque presented “the evidence” that Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez, had demanded.

“‘Lamentably,’ concluded Pérez Roque, ‘the events have considerable political connotations, because high-ranking members of the government are involved in the planning, recording and circulation of these politically-motivated videos.’

“In these excerpts presented to the press that afternoon, Ahumada does not mention the name of anyone on Vicente Fox’s team, or details of the conspiracy against the political figure of the Federal District Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, nor the slightest indication of those who are behind the businessman. And that is in spite of the fact that the foreign minister himself confirmed that the Cuban legal authorities have ‘hours and hours’ of recorded statements from the detainee. ‘Ahumada has told our officials much more than this.’

“Who are “the they” Ahumada is referring to? Who did he hand over the videos to?

“That is up to the Mexican government to determine. We said that he [Pérez Roque] had stated that high-ranking officials were implicated in the prior planning of everything. He stated that there were political aims and objectives. ‘It is in Mexico that all of this must be investigated. It is not our objective. We were obliged to present these elements because Foreign Secretary Derbez summoned us to provide proof. That pronouncement obliges us to broaden and increase the fact.

“‘For one month, Cuba was at the receiving end of a stream of accusations and versions claiming that we were protecting Ahumada. I reiterate that the obligation to provide explanations of these events to the people and political system of Mexico lies with the Mexican authorities,’ he insisted.”

This interesting article by the authors continues for a number of pages that I am not going to attempt to summarize, as I do not wish this Reflection to be as long as yesterday’s.

I also wish to include an indispensable instruction that I conveyed to José Arbesú, deputy head of the International Relations Department of the Central Committee of the [Communist] Party, on April 2, 2004, to travel to Mexico in order to make our totally clear our position in relation to the Ahumada case:

“We have to do it with the leadership of every party, our people have to go there to talk with them, not just the PRD, PRI but also the PT, Convergencia. We also have to talk to Bolaños (Cuba’s ambassador in Mexico). The idea is to explain to them what has happened, how we found out about it, to debunk all the questions that are being raised.”

“In the first place, tell Obrador that we are not involved in any conspiracy whatsoever against him, nor involved in any plot against him, nor are we allied with anyone to damage him. That we found out that Ahumada was here and we are not capable of doing that.

“That we found out about the presence of this individual in our country based on a request from INTERPOL…”

“That the real truth is that we have many problems and we are occupied with other things and the leadership of the country was not even informed about those scandals…”

“That we found out, and as soon as we found out, the investigation was ordered. That we even arrested the guy to uncover the truth; that he was not the only victim in this situation, but we too, the honor, the prestige of the country and the Revolution. There must be no confusion over that. And, on the contrary, we are interested in everything that he has to say about that.

“Ask the opinions of PRI members, of the others, of everyone; what we want is that they tell us. And inform everyone of our position and how they have got us mixed up in this, and that we are not going to allow anybody to involve us in underhand business, that we are accused of sheltering ad supporting…”

The people from López Obrador’s party wanted us to send them a copy of the recording of Ahumada’s statements but we were unable to please them. We sent it, as we had to do, to the authority that had made the extradition application. Any other attitude would not have been a serious.

We perfectly understood López Obrador’s mistrust. He had been betrayed by people he believed were honest and those who were ready to stab him in the back made the most of these circumstances.

There was an additional reason. When Ahumada showed Salinas the material – which he described as a “nuclear strike” against Obrador – Salinas was in Cuba. An exceptionally skillful man, he knew how to move all the pieces just like a chess expert, with much more talent that those surrounding him.

When he was Mexican president, his opponent had been Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas with whom, for obvious reasons, we maintained excellent relations. All the large, medium and small states had recognized him.

Cuba was the last one. Just a few days before he assumed the presidency, we accepted his invitation to attend the investment ceremony.

I was not told if fraud had been committed or not. He was the candidate for the PRI, the party that Mexican electors had voted for for decades. Only my heart made me believe that they stole the election from Cuauhtémoc.

Salinas was extremely amiable with me. He conversed quite a lot and showed me his immense library, filled with books on all four walls and two stories high. He did not have them there merely as decoration.

Something much more important happened. At a point of serious immigration crisis between Cuba and the United States in 1994, William Clinton, U.S. president at that time, didn’t want Carter – who had been proposed as mediator and was the one we preferred – and appointed Salinas. I had other alternative but to accept him.

He conducted himself well and really acted like a mediator and not like an ally of the United States. That is how the agreement was reached – an agreement that was a mockery during the first crisis, in the Reagan years.

When Zedillo – a truly mediocre man who replaced Salinas as president – banned him from residing in Mexico, possibly jealous of his political influence, Salinas was in the midst of a difficult personal situation at that time and asked if he could reside in Cuba. Without any hesitation, we authorized him to do so and his first daughter from his second marriage was born here.

He wanted to invest in our country but we did not authorize that. He legally acquired a private residence in the Cuban capital.

William Clinton did not conduct himself well. He complied with the signed migratory agreements but maintained the economic blockade, the Cuban Adjustment Act and, as soon as he had the opportunity, intensified the economic pressure with the Helms-Burton Act, which the government of that country has maintained against Cuba.

When Salinas described his role in the migratory negotiations in a book, he told the truth and was in agreement with the left-wing publication The New Yorker, which published an article on the activities undertaken by Richardson – the energy secretary– during a visit to Cuba. Salinas proposed to Clinton a prohibition on the provocations by light aircraft used during the war in Vietnam to violate our airspace over Havana, which led us to communicate to Richardson that we would not tolerate similar violations.

When Richardson returned to the United States, he told me that it wouldn’t happen again and I did not concern myself any longer with the problem. Unfortunately, that was not the case and the incident took place.

Salinas kept up the practice of visiting Cuba on a regular basis, meeting with me to converse and he never tried to deceive me. I fell seriously ill on July 26, 2006 and I have not heard from him since.

I have not changed. I will be faithful to the principles and ethics that I have practiced since I became a revolutionary.

Today, I am honored to share the same points of view as Manuel López Obrador and I do not harbor the slightest doubt that, far sooner than he imagines, everything will change in Mexico.

“…The trees must form ranks to keep the giant with seven-league boots from passing! It is the time of mobilization, of marching together, and we must go forward in close ranks, like silver in the veins of the Andes,” declared José Martí almost 120 years ago, on January 1, 1891.

Fidel Castro Ruz
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August 12, 2010

9.30 p.m.

Translated by Granma International