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Mexican Candidate Strong on Economics, Short on Political Experience With AM-Mexico-Politics

October 4, 1987

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the virtual president-designate of Mexico, has an economics doctorate from Harvard and is considered an efficient technocrat perhaps lacking in political experience.

Now the budget and planning secretary, the 39-year-old Salinas de Gortari was nominated for president Sunday by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which never has lost a presidential election since its founding in 1929.

He comes from a family of top PRI politicians, has his own network of stalwarts within the party and has been a close friend and influential adviser to President Miguel de la Madrid for more than eight years.

Since the ″dance of the candidates″ began earlier this year, Salinas de Gortari has been careful to appear moderate. But those who know him well say he can be tough and has an unbridled temper when provoked.

As president, they say, Salinas de Gortari would seek to modernize the country and its creaky, stifling, overblown bureaucracy, while trying to preserve Mexico’s social, cultural and political heritage.

″He is all for action, lots of action, but efficient action. Efficiency to him is very important,″ said one acquaintance, who like the others commented on condition of anonymity.

They all agreed he rose through knowledge, study and hard work. They also say one of his major weaknesses is a lack of political experience.

He has never held an elected post - but neither have the three previous presidents, including de la Madrid, who held Salinas de Gortari’s job before his election.

Short, slim and balding, Salinas de Gortari is the youngest member of de la Madrid’s Cabinet. Shy looking, with a full black mustache, always smartly dressed and groomed, Salinas de Gortari sometimes appears half-wistful. But acquaintances say that behind the genial exterior is a sharp mind and a forceful character.

″He is a man out of the ordinary,″ said political writer Adrian Lajous in a recent book on prominent political figures. ″He is exceptionally intelligent and also very fast mentally. He plucks ideas out of the air.″

Born in Mexico City on April 3, 1948, Salinas de Gortari’s family is from northern Nuevo Leon state.

His father, Raul Salinas Lozano, was secretary of commerce and industry in the 1958-1964 administration of President Adolfo Lopez Mateos and is now a PRI senator for Nuevo Leon.

His uncle, Elias de Gortari is a prominent philospher, university professor, educator, and ideologue who advocates the preservation of Mexico’s traditional values.

The candidate was a top student in high school and at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where he received his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1969. He went on to a master’s in public administration from Harvard in 1973, and a doctorate in economic policy and government from the same U.S. insitutution five years later.

Salinas de Gortari joined the PRI in 1966 and in 1974 began work at the Treasury Department, where he met de la Madrid. In 1979, de la Madrid made him director of budgetary policy.

Local news media have said Salinas de Gortari was instrumental in getting de la Madrid to fire Jesus Silva Herzog two years ago as treasury secretary on grounds that Silva Herzog was being ″too soft″ with creditors in renegotiating Mexico’s staggering foreign debt, now estiimated at $105 billion.

Silva Herzog was also a potential rival in the presidential race.

Salinas de Gortari has been credited with formulating most of Mexico’s present economic policy, aimed at overcoming the deep crisis hampering development for the past five years.

De la Madrid has said the policies will only be successful if they are allowed to continue over the long term.

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