Tapes of Governor in Mexico
Spark Controversy
February 16, 2006; Page A8

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

MEXICO CITY -- Secretly recorded phone conversations between the governor of one of Mexico's richest states and one of the country's biggest textile manufacturers have sparked calls for the governor to resign and revived allegations about a Cancun sex ring that catered to rich businessmen.

The recordings, described in Mexico's La Jornada newspaper and played throughout the day on W Radio, show textile magnate Kamel Nacif thanking Puebla Gov. Mario Marin for jailing a journalist who described the sex ring in a recent book. The recordings were delivered anonymously to La Jornada on Monday, the newspaper said.

The recordings have ignited outrage that may further damage Mr. Marin's party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for some seven decades before losing the presidency in 2000 and slipping further on the national stage since. The PRI is seeking to change its age-old reputation for unrestrained corruption ahead of July presidential elections.

The tapes also are reinforcing a widely held perception here that the Mexican police and judicial systems are at the service of the powerful, rather than the law. And they shed light on issues of press freedom in a country where more than a dozen reporters were murdered last year in unsolved cases believed to be related to organized crime. In the northern state of Nuevo Laredo, a daily newspaper that reported on local drug trafficking was assaulted this year by armed men wielding automatic rifles and hand grenades.

On the tapes, in often vulgar language, Mr. Nacif promises to send the governor a bottle of cognac as a demonstration of his gratitude for having arrested the author, Lydia Cacho. The men also discuss having her placed with hardened inmates so she might be sexually assaulted upon arrival in prison.

The governor's spokesman, Valentin Meneses, repeatedly complained in a morning interview on W Radio that the secret recordings violated Mexican privacy laws. In later statements to the media, he claimed the governor hadn't made the phone calls. Mr. Nacif didn't return calls seeking comment.

Last year, Mr. Nacif brought libel charges in Puebla state against Ms. Cacho after she alleged that Mr. Nacif had participated in illegal Cancun sex parties with preteens along with an associate, Cancun businessman Jean Succar Kuri. After fleeing Mexico, Mr. Kuri was arrested in the U.S. on suspicion of pedophilia and breaking child-pornography laws and remains in custody.

In a move that attracted international outcry from human-rights and press-freedom groups, Puebla state police responded to Mr. Nacif's charges by arresting Ms. Cacho. She was ultimately freed from jail, unharmed.

Write to John Lyons at [email protected]

Corrections & Amplifications:

Nuevo Laredo is a city in northern Mexico. This article incorrectly identified Nuevo Laredo as a state.

Audio recording may implicate governor
El Universal
Miércoles 15 de febrero de 2006
Miami Herald, página 1

An alleged tape conversation between Puebla Gov. Mario Marín and prominent businessman Kamel Nacif made public by the media Tuesday revealed a plot to jail a well-known investigative journalist who is defending herself against defamation charges.

The tape, which arrived anonymously to La Jornada newspaper and W Radio, reportedly records Nacif in several phone conversations discussing plans to arrest and prosecute Lydia Cacho, a Cancún journalist who published a book about networks of pedophiles and child pornographers that indirectly implicates Nacif.

Prosecutors say Cacho´s book, "The Demons of Eden," harmed Nacif by saying he has ties to Jean Succar Kuri, an accused pedophile currently in Arizona awaiting extradition.

The author was arrested in December in Cancún and driven 20 hours to Puebla. She was freed on bail shortly after her arrest. Libel charges were later dropped, but she still faces accusations of defamation.

When asked about the tape on Tuesday, Gov. Marín declined to comment, saying only, "I don´t read gossip, I have more important things to deal with."

In a press conference, a spokesman for the governor, Valentín Meneses, refused to confirm that the voice was Marín´s.

However, in an interview with W Radio, the spokesman repeatedly said the recording violated Mexico´s privacy laws and added that Marín had nothing to do with Cacho´s case.

La Jornada said the conversations were recorded from Nacif´s phone line, which apparently was tapped, and that they include his conversations with various people involved in the case.

Cacho responded on Tuesday, saying in an interview with EL UNIVERSAL that the tapes show that Nacif "bought off the attorney general, the judge, and the governor himself with a couple of bottles of imported cognac. To me it is contemptible. The only thing left for Mario Marín, if he has any dignity, is to resign."

In one obscenity-laced conversation, two men talk about getting revenge against Cacho. The governor allegedly says, "I told her that here in Puebla, the law is respected and there is no impunity."

The voice identified as that of Nacif thanks Marín for his support and offers to send the governor a bottle of liquor.

In one of the recorded conversations, Nacif allegedly discusses paying the judge in the case the amount of 140,000 pesos (US$13,300).

In another of the recorded conversations, the alleged voice of Nacif is heard discussing a plan to pay off a guard in the jail to arrange for Cacho to be raped upon her arrival in December.

Cacho herself told La Jornada that a prison nurse alerted her to the plan and was able to block it.

The alleged content of the tape has angered many, including presidential candidate Felipe Calderón, of the National Action Party (PAN), who demanded an investigation into the apparent plot against the journalist.

Members of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and the PAN in the House of Deputies called for legal action against Marín and a federal investigation of the case.

Several international groups, including Reporters Without Borders and the Inter-American Press Association, have criticized the charges against Cacho.