Sat, Feb 19, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Mexicans angry at CIA's `instability' assessment


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 Mexico's 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 results from the briefest of mentions during Goss' testimony on Wednesday before the US 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 US, but in Mexico City, the daily newspaper El Sol 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 causes 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 said.

Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha told reporters he saw "no elements that could cause what [Goss] said, what he affirmed in that report."

Mexican President Fox himself hurried past reporters who tried to ask him about the CIA official's statements during an appearance in the port city of Veracruz.

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