El Universal (Mexico City), Feb. 18
The interior secretary calls the mention of possible stalled reforms during next year’s presidential campaigns “reprehensible.”
CIA Director Porter Goss’s brief, vague reference to potential instability in Mexico led to banner headlines in newspapers here and a harsh response from Mexico’s government on Thursday.
“The CIA analysis is wrong, it’s erroneous and it’s false,” said Interior Secretary Santiago Creel, considered a potential contender in the presidential race next year.
“It’s also reprehensible for an agency of a foreign government to be expressing opinions about Mexican affairs,” Creel said in a news conference.
“I reject interference in affairs of an internal character . . . in which the CIA has no reason to be making opinions,” Creel added.
The tough words result from the briefest of mentions during Goss’ testimony on Wednesday before the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence.
It occurred in a section of his written report on “potential areas for instability” that referred to “potential flashpoints” in some of the eight Latin American nations with elections next year.
“Campaigning for the 2006 presidential election in Mexico is likely to stall progress on fiscal, labor and energy reforms,” Goss said.
The comments passed almost unnoticed in the United States, but in Mexico City, the daily newspaper El Sol de Mexico made it the top story of the day: “Mexico unstable, according to the CIA.”
A rival paper, Milenio, led with the headline: “The CIA predicts ‘alarming risks’ for the campaigns.”
At his news conference, Creel President Vicente Fox’s top Cabinet secretary, said, “We know that (the CIA) frequently is mistaken and makes erroneous decisions . . .
“What we are going to have here is not a conflict but a democratic electoral competition, as intense or more so as those in the United States,” he added.
Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha, for his part, said that he did not know what the CIA’s original information source was on the matter and confirmed that “the Mexican government is sticking with the democratic course and destiny, which establishes continuity in the country’s security and governability.”
He also said that the current situation prevailing here is one of control and institutional security, adding that he saw “no elements that could cause what (Goss) affirmed in that report.”
Some opponents of the current Fox administration, however, seized upon Goss’ comments as an opportunity to attack the president.
César Santiago, a party official of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, termed the CIA director’s comments “correct” and blamed Fox for fostering a climate of “political deterioration” in the run-up to the 2006 elections.
Another PRI member, the party’s adjunct secretary to the executive, Javier Oliva, also said that Goss had correctly identified a buildup in political hostilities here “due to a lack of a presidential response to a wide segment of the population that had hoped for a real political change.”
A member of the National Action Party, or PAN, Fox successfully beat the PRI which had held the presidency for the previous 71 years in the 2000 election after running on a platform calling for “change.”
On Wednesday, Fox himself hurried past reporters who tried to ask him about the statements during an appearance in the port city of Veracruz.