On Monday a neighbor of mine in San Miguel de Allende stopped to tell me “my son’s in Europe and he just tweeted that Carlos Salinas is dead.”
“Who,” I retorted, “the Goat Sucker? There’s going to be a national fiesta.”
Well, as it turned out the Goat Sucker — named that after the infamous Latin American monster known as El Chupacabras, which during the 1990’s sucked the blood out of animals, particularly goats — did not die.
In fact, for the second time in two years that the former president of Mexico during the 1988-1994 term whose full name is Carlos Salinas de Gortari has been killed on the social web. The last time was in August 2014 when some time-waster posted a hashtag claiming the death of Salinas.
This time “the source” of the false alarm came in a fake hashtag from President Enrique Peña Nieto himself as well as well as another one — a confirmation — from television powerhouse Televisa. Both the president’s office and Televisa have denied posting these news items.
This was a typical stunt of what is known in Mexican political Spanish as a “borrego” or a sheep; a gossip spread around which is totally unfounded.
What’s awesome was the immediate reaction in the web to the death of the former president of Mexico. It would not be ventured to claim that Carlos Salinas de Gortari is not merely the most unpopular of living presidents but also the most hated one.
— MORENA NACIONAL (@AMLOoficialNEWS) March 28, 2016
The moniker “The Goat Sucker” or Chupacabras does not come for free. Those who still remember him accuse him of being the most thieving president in Mexican history, and mind you, most former presidents could easily compete for that title. Nevertheless, in the minds of the populace the name that sticks out is that of Salinas.
He is said to have sucked the blood and money out of Mexican people. In fact, two weeks after he left the presidency in December 2004, the nation plunged into bankruptcy and the worst financial crisis in history, and on that Mexicans have had more than a few perhaps for the same motive.
My first reaction to his death that there was going to be a national fiesta was not mine alone. The opinion was general and quite a few of the hashtags afterwards showed disappointment after learning it was a “borrego.”
Salinas did not have to come out and claim he was still alive as the press did not play up on the “borrego” and since the false news had been planted in the web since Sunday afternoon — that he died of heart failure in his home in Dublin — it was immediately denied and did not go much further.
Incidentally, this is not the first time Salinas de Gortari gets “killed” on twitter. In August 2014 a similar story was planted with similar results.
Over the years the former president — keenly aware of his unpopularity — has published several books on the alleged great leap forward the nation took under him, but his word has no value among Mexicans who also know him as “the one that must not be addressed by name” or in two words, “el inombrable.”
By the way, personally my first suspicion that this last murder of Salinas was fake is because just two weeks ago he was in Mexico attending a birthday party (check out my column Two Private Events) and there’d been no news items that he had left the nation.
But this little example in daily Mexican political life only comes to show you that most of those who seek the glory of presidential power end up in political skid row.