Ex-Mexican leader ends hunger strike within hours

March 04, 1995|By New York Times News Service

MEXICO CITY -- The political drama that has gripped Mexico since the arrest of a brother of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari veered toward farce yesterday as Mr. Salinas went on a hunger strike to rescue his "honor" and then suspended it hours later.

Mr. Salinas, who left office three months ago as one of the most powerful Mexican leaders of the past century, told reporters who followed him to a poor neighborhood in the northern city of Monterrey that his protest had nothing to do with the arrest of his brother, Raul, on murder charges.

But he said he would take nothing but water until the government of President Ernesto Zedillo takes back what it said about him: that the Salinas administration had been largely responsible for Mexico's economic crisis and that under Mr. Salinas evidence in the assassination of a former governing-party presidential candidate was covered up.

"It is a question of personal honor," Mr. Salinas, 46, said Thursday night in a call to the news program on which he announced his action.

But hours after had he settled in to fast at the cinder-block home of a working-class family on outskirts of Monterrey, he walked outside, got behind the wheel of an aging Dodge Dart and drove away, saying he was temporarily suspending his hunger strike "to dialogue."

He did not say with whom.

Moments later, the Mexican attorney general's office issued a statement saying it had no evidence that Mr. Salinas had done anything to obstruct the inquiry into the slaying of the candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio.

Throughout the day, callers who deluged radio station switchboards and people interviewed on the street in Mexico City had been roundly unsympathetic.

"Let him die," said Jesus Sanchez, 48, who was selling ceramic animal statues on a downtown street.

"We all know what hunger is like."

Political observers and officials of Mr. Zedillo's government were also critical, if less harsh.

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