He is currently Director of the Center for the Study of Globalization at Yale University, is the Latin American co-chair of the Inter-American Dialogue, and is on the board of directors of Citigroup.
Ernesto Zedillo was born on December 27, 1951 in Mexico City. His parents were Rodolfo Zedillo Castillo, a mechanic, and Martha Alicia Ponce de León. Seeking better job and education opportunities for their children, his parents moved to Mexicali, Baja California.
In 1965, at the age of 14, he returned to Mexico City. In 1969 he entered the National Polytechnic Institute, financing his studies by working in the National Army and Navy Bank (later known as Banjército). He graduated as an economist in 1972 and began lecturing. It was among his first group of students that he met his wife, Nilda Patricia Velasco, with whom he has five children: Ernesto, Emiliano, Carlos (formerly married to conductor Alondra de la Parra), Nilda Patricia and Rodrigo.
In 1974, he pursued his master's and PhD studies at Yale University. His doctoral thesis was titled Mexico's Public External Debt: Recent History and Future Growth Related to Oil.
Zedillo began working in the Bank of Mexico (Mexico's central bank) as a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, where he supported the adoption of macroeconomic policies for the country's improvement. By 1987, he was named deputy-secretary of Planning and Budget Control in the Secretariat of Budget and Planning. In 1988, at the age of 36, he headed that secretariat. During his term as Secretary, Zedillo launched a Science and Technology reform.
In 1992 he was appointed Secretary of Education by president Carlos Salinas. A year later he resigned to run the electoral campaign of Luis Donaldo Colosio, the PRI's presidential candidate.
In 1994, after Colosio's assassination, Zedillo became one of the few PRI members eligible under Mexican law to take his place, since he had not occupied public office for some time.
The opposition blamed Colosio's murder on Salinas. Although the PRI's presidential candidates were always chosen by the current president, and thus Colosio had originally been Salinas' candidate, their political relationship had been affected by a famous speech during the campaign in which Colosio said that Mexico had many problems. It is also notable that the assassination took place after Colosio visited the members of the Zapatista movement in Chiapas and promised to open dialogue, something the PRI opposed.
After Colosio's murder, this speech was seen as the main cause of his break with the president. The choice of Zedillo was interpreted as Salinas' way of bypassing the strong Mexican political tradition of non-reelection and retaining real power, since Zedillo was not really a politician, but an economist (like Salinas), who clearly lacked the president's political talent and influence. It is unclear if Salinas had attempted to control Colosio, who was generally considered at that time to be a far better candidate.
Zedillo ran against Diego Fernández de Cevallos of the National Action Party and second-timer Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas of the Party of the Democratic Revolution. He won with 48.69% of popular vote, and became the last president to distinguish the 70-year PRI dynasty in México during the 20th century.
A few days after taking office, one of the biggest economic crisis in Mexican history hit the country. Although it was outgoing President Salinas who was mainly blamed for the crisis, Salinas claimed that President Zedillo made a mistake by changing the economic policies held by his administration. The crisis ended after a series of reforms and actions led by Zedillo. US president Bill Clinton granted a US$20 billion loan to Mexico, which helped in one of Zedillo's initiatives to rescue the banking system.
At first, Zedillo was regarded by many as a puppet-president, but any rumors of obedience to Salinas were silenced as soon as Raúl Salinas, the "inconvenient brother" of former president Carlos Salinas, was convicted of murder.
Zedillo's presidential motto was Bienestar para tu familia ("Well-being for your family"). His most enduring act of government was the creation of Progresa, a poverty-fighting program based on subsidizing the poorest families in Mexico, provided that their children went to school, later renamed Oportunidades (Opportunities) by president Vicente Fox.
Zedillo conducted an electoral reform, which lowered the influence of the PRI. In the 1997 elections, for the first time the PRI did not win the majority in Congress.
Zedillo also privatized the state railway company, Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México. This led to the suspension of passenger service in 1997. In 2000, Zedillo recognized the electoral victory of opposition candidate Vicente Fox before midnight on election day, paving the way for what seemed an unlikely change of power. For this reason some PRI members consider him a traitor, despite an 11-point advantage for PAN, claiming that the election was too close to admit defeat so soon and that in any event, the concession should have come from the PRI's candidate, Francisco Labastida, and not Zedillo.
Two massacres took place during the presidency of Zedillo: Aguas Blancas and Acteal. It was strongly suspected that top officers within Zedillo's cabinet (but not Zedillo himself) were involved, but none of them were ever indicted.
The previous months to Zedillo presidential inauguration, a wave of political motivated assassinations happened in Mexico to personalities such as Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo; front-runner presidential candidate Colosio of the PRI that Zedillo replaced as candidate for the election; José Francisco Ruiz Massieu, brother-in-law of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari and PRI Secretary General, etc. So with the purpose to give credibility to the investigations of those political crimes and grant "a healthy distance", president Zedillo appointed Antonio Lozano Gracia a member of the opposition Political Party PAN as Attorney General of Mexico. With the purpose of promoting a different political agenda, this commission turned the law procedures into a systematic opposition of due process and justice. This caused serious problems for the Interior Government of President Zedillo that originated among the 1995 Zapatista Crisis.
On January 5, 1995 the Secretary of Interior Esteban Moctezuma started a secret meeting process with Marcos called "Steps Toward Peace" that took place in the village of Guadalupe Tepeyac, belonging to the municipality of Pantelho, Chiapas. Important specific agreements that both parties agreed to comply where agreed, in which the Mexican army would withdraw of certain points, such as San Andres Larrainzar, and Marcos accepted a group of citizens to be involved in a formal negotiation to start in a couple of weeks. Because of the fast progress of the negotiations in the steps toward peace, the possibility of an agreement look very close: Marcos wrote, "Unemployment threatens me."
During the investigative stage in the identification of Subcomandante Marcos, the Mexican government speculated that Marcos was a dangerous guerrilla fighter. This theory gained much traction at the end of 1994, after the dissident Zapatista Comandante Salvador Morales Garibay revealed the identities of his former fellow Zapatistas to the Mexican government, among them Marcos. » They all were indicted for terrorism, arrest warrants were issued, and arrests were made in a military action. » There was a storm of political pressure clamoring for a fast military solution to the 1995 Zapatista Crisis. On 9 February 1995, in a televised special presidential broadcast, President Ernesto Zedillo announced the identity of Subcomandante Marcos as Rafael Guillén, born June 19, 1957 in Tampico, Tamaulipas to Spanish immigrants, a former Professor at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana School of Sciences and Arts. Max Appedole, an old friend and Instituto Cultural Tampico classmate of Rafael Guillén, played a major role with the Mexican government in avoiding a military solution to the 1995 Zapatista Crisis, by demonstrating that contrary to the accusations announced by President Ernesto Zedillo, Rafael Guillén was no terrorist. » Max Appedole recognized the literary style of all the Marcos manifestos that were published in the media and linked them to the literary tournaments organized by the Jesuits in which they competed in Mexico. The results convinced him beyond doubt that Marcos was his friend Rafael Guillén, a pacifist. » » » »
The Mexican Indian communities claims for centuries, they have being historically unattended by the a distant government, their claims had reach a critical point in which they decided they needed to let their voice be heard to find their place in Mexico, so the answers and solutions can be found or die trying.
Under the command of Marcos the Zapatista Army of National Liberation launched a social movement that give hope and vision to other native American people and other native people on earth under the similar historical situation. Organizing a social phenomena, now widely recognized as the world first postmodern revolution. » »
On February 9, 1995, in wake of having revealed the identity of Subcomandante Marcos, President Ernesto Zedillo made a series of counterproductive decisions that completely broke with the strategy and action plan that he had previously laid-out, including an agreement with then Secretary of the Interior Esteban Moctezuma to compromise with Marcos, which was finalized a mere 3 days prior in Guadalupe Tepeyac. In fact, Zedillo chose the opposite extreme and sent the Mexican army to capture and annihilate Marcos, doing so without even having consulted his Secretary of Interior; without knowing exactly who Marcos was and only with the PGR's solitary presumption that Marcos was a dangerous guerrilla, President Ernesto Zedillo decided to launch a military offence to capture or annihilate Marcos. » Arrest warrants were signed for Marcos, Javier Elorriaga Berdegue, Silvia Fernández Hernández, Jorge Santiago, Fernando Yanez, German Vicente, Jorge Santiago and other Zapatistas. At the Lacandon Jungle with The PGR in pursuit, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation fell under siege by the Mexican Army. Javier Elorriaga was captured on February 9, 1995 in a military garrison at Gabina Velázquez in Las Margaritas, and later taken to the Cerro Hueco prison in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas. » On February 11, 1995 the PGR announced that they had executed a coordinated operation in the State of Mexico, whereby they were able to capture 14 persons allegedly involved with the Zapatistas, 8 of which had already been delivered into custody of Judicial Authorities and from whom was seized a substantially-large arsenal of weaponry. » The PGR repressive acts got to the extreme of pressuring the San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas Catholic Bishop, Samuel Ruiz García of arresting him for aiding to conceal the Zapatistas guerrilla activity. Even though this activity was public years before the uprising in Proceso (magazine) among Mexico most important magazines and it was the Mexican Government who was for years trying to disguise it. » » » And with no consideration to the political consequences of with no legal reason hurting, the already seriously damaged, recently restored Mexico Vatican political relations » because of the May 24, 1993 political assassination of a Prince of the Catholic Church, the Guadalajara, Mexico Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo that precisely that Agency the PGR has left it unresolved.
Marcos resolve was put to the test, when the Zapatista Army of National Liberation was then under the Mexican Army military siege In their camp and at the Lacandon Jungle. Marcos response was immediate, sending Esteban Moctezuma the following message: "See you in hell". Conflicting signals got strengthened in favor of a fast military solution. The facts seemed to confirm Manuel Camacho Solis 16 June 1994 allegations that the reason for his resignation as the Chiapas Peace Commissioner, was due to sabotage done by the then presidential candidate Ernesto Zedillo.
Under the big political pressure of a highly radicalized situation Mexico Secretary of the Interior Lic. Esteban Moctezuma believed a peaceful solution was possible, he champion to reach a peacefully negotiated solution to the 1995 Zapatista Crisis betting it all on a creative strategy to reestablish the Mexican Government Zapatista Army of National Liberation dialog to search for peace by demonstrating Marcos natural peace vocation and the terrible consequences of a military solution. Making a strong position against the 9 February actions against Peace, Secretary of the Interior Esteban Moctezuma defender of a political solution, to the 1995 Zapatista Crisis to submit his resignation to the President Ernesto Zedillo which he does not accept it and asks the Secretary of the Interior Esteban Moctezuma to try the improbable task of restoring the Conditions for dialog to reach a negotiation. For these foregoing reasons the Mexican army, ease actions, giving an opportunity that Marcos capitalized to escape the military site emplaced in the Lacandon Jungle. » Faced with this situation, Max Appedole, Rafael Guillén, childhood friend and colleague, at the Jesuits College Instituto Cultural Tampico asked for help from Edén Pastora the legendary Nicaraguan "Commander Zero" to prepare a report for under-Secretary of the Interior Luis Maldonado Venegas; the Secretary of the Interior Esteban Moctezuma and the President Ernesto Zedillo about Marcos natural pacifist vocation and the terrible consequences of a tragic outcome.
The document concluded that the marginalized groups and the radical left that exist in Mexico, have been vented with the Zapatistas movement, while Marcos maintains an open negotiating track. Eliminate Marcos and his social containment work will not only would cease, but will give opportunity to the radical groups to take control of the movement. They will respond to violence with violence. They would begin the terrorist bombings, kidnappings and belligerent activities. The country would be in a very dangerous spiral, which could lead to very serious situations because not only there is discomfort in Chiapas, but in many places in Mexico.
On March 10, 1995 President Ernesto Zedillo and Secretary of the Interior Esteban Moctezuma sign the Presidential Decree for the Dialog, the Reconciliation and a peace with dignity in Chiapas law. It was discussed and approved by the Mexican Congress.
It was the night of April 3, 1995 precisely at 8:55 pm when the first meeting between representatives of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation which had declared war on the Mexican State the first minute of 1994, and the representatives of the government of President Ernesto Zedillo. His Secretary of Interior, Lic. Esteban Moctezuma, had sent a high rank officer, who delivered a letter to representatives of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, who did not lose radio communication, with Marcos. The letter expressed the Secretary of Interior commitment with a political path to resolve the conflict. The messenger was Luis Maldonado Venegas Mexico under Secretary of Interior. This was how the April 3, 1995 in Prado Pacayal, Chiapas a place located in the Lacandon Jungle near Ocosingo, the secret negotiations prior to restart the dialog between the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and the Mexican government were initiated, this happened with Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Batel as witness of honor for the negotiations between Marcos and Luis Maldonado Venegas, Mexico under Secretary of the Interior on behalf of Lic Esteban Moctezuma Mexico Secretary of the Interior. These negotiations took place with the purpose of establishing parameters and base for the peace dialog between the parties. After several days of unfruitful negotiations, without reaching any specific agreements, it was very early in the morning nonstop in to the next day, in a strategically calculated move, as a conclusion Luis Maldonado Venegas proposed a definitive suspension of hostilities and measures of distention always proportionally higher to the Mexican government to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation On his way out, Luis Maldonado Venegas said:
"If you do not accept this, it will be regretted not having made the installation of the formal dialog in the time established by the Peace Talks Law".
Subcomandante Marcos took this as a direct threat, so he did no longer reply.
Subcomandante Marcos gave a message to the witness of honor Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Batel: "You have been witness to the fact that we have not threatened or assaulted these people, they have been respected in their person, property, their liberty and life. You have witnessed that the Zapatista Army of National Liberation has a word and has honor; you have also been witness to our willingness to engage in dialog. Thank you for taking the trouble to come all the way down here and have contributed with your effort to a peaceful settlement of the conflict, we hope that you will continue contributing in this effort to avoid war and you and your family, continue accepting to be witnesses of honor in this dialog and negotiation process." Finally, he asked the witness of honor to accompany Secretary Moctezuma negotiator Luis Maldonado Venegas in his way out, all the way to Ocosingo, to verify they are leaving well and unharmed. (The April 7, 1995 meeting ended at 4:00 a.m.). »
Without much hope of dialog, it was already in hostile conditions as the Secretary of Interior negotiator Luis Maldonado Venegas began his return to Mexico City. When passing by the Ejido San Miguel a patrol of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation beckons them to stop, surprised without even knowing what was happening, Maldonado was handed a radio, by means of which Mexico under-Secretary of Interior Luis Maldonado Venegas achieved with the Subcomandante Marcos the re-initiation of the Dialog and all the necessary agreements in accordance with the law to start the formal Peace Talks dialog between the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and the Mexican government. The charismatic leader of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional the Marcos led the zapatista movement to leave their arms a side and start the dialog for peace agreements with the Mexican Government. Time showed that the fight against a military solution to the conflict and the strategy to achieve a peaceful solution to the 1995 Zapatista Crisis was legal, politically and honorably correct, saving many lives in Mexico. » For the formalization of the Peace Talks. On April 17, 1995 the Mexican government appointed Marco Antonio Bernal Gutierrez as the Peace Commissioner in Chiapas. » » After a rocky start because of conflicting intelligence that caused the 1995 Zapatista Crisis President Ernesto Zedillo heading to a Military solution. When the intelligence issue was cleared, confirming that Subcomandante Marcos was no terrorist but a pacifist by nature, President Ernesto Zedillo change direction to the action demonstrated the humility of a Great Man of State, for that President Ernesto Zedillo endures heavy political criticism at the time, for doing the opposite of his February 9, 1995 television appearance. President Ernesto Zedillo did not accept Secretary of Interior Esteban Moctezuma resignation and ask the Secretary of Interior the restoration the Dialog conditions to achieve a peace solution to the 1995 Zapatista Crisis. President Ernesto Zedillo Administration and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation achieved an honorable Peace and it is now a universal reference and example of respect to people honor and dignity.
By April 9, 1995, the Bases for the Dialog Protocol and the Harmony, Peace with justice and Dignity agreement Negotiation between the Mexican Government and the Zapatistas got signed. On April 17, 1995 the Mexican Government appoints Marco Antonio Bernal as Peace Commissioner in Chiapas. » » the Mexican Government and the Zapatistas Peace Talks started in San Andrés Larráinzar on April 22, 1995. The Zapatistas rejected the Mexican Government proposal. Peace Talks Dialog re-initiated on June 7, 1995 they agree with Alianza Cívica Nacional y the Convención Nacional Democrática to organize a national Consultation for Peace and Democracy. The Bases for the Dialog Protocol was renegotiated, in La Realidad Chiapas. October 12, 1995 Peace Talks Dialog is resumed in San Andres Larráinzar, Chiapas. » »
The rocky road to Peace between the Mexican government and the Zapatista Army, were due mostly to the initiatives promoted by the PGR. On October 23, 1995, with the purpose to derail the Peace Talks Dialog, the PGR once again, got them seriously disturbed by arresting Fernando Yañez Muñoz and sending him to prison. This time by violating the governing peace talks Law which granted guarantee of free passage to all of the Zapatistas during the negotiations and suspends all the arrest warrants against any of them. On October 26, 1995, the Zapatista National Liberation Army denied any association with Fernando Yañez Muñoz; Announces a Red Alert. Marcos returns to the mountains. On October 26, 1995, the PGR drops all charges against the alleged Comandante German. The COCOPA agreed with the determination. The next day on October 27, 1995 Fernando Yañez Muñoz was freed from the Reclusorio Preventivo Oriente. »
"I was arrested for political reasons and I guess I am set free for political reasons, my arrest was with the objective purpose of sabotaging the talks of peace"
Yanez said to the press. » The next day on October 29, 1995. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation lifts the Red Alert and the negotiations where reinstalled.
Steps for Peace
In contrast with many other talks, with a broad media exposure, strong security measures and great ceremony. Secretary of the Interior Esteban Moctezuma, went for the secret talks, alone, without any security, without the reflectors glitter, which could disrupt the talks, so he went to find a solution in the Lacandon Jungle to meet with Marcos. Important agreements were reached between the two, they called them: Steps for Peace. They demonstrated their sense of will, affinities and confidence where dispensed by with respect by both a significant track of understanding got established. When the 1995 Zapatista Crisis started. It paved the way for what then where call Secret Negotiations.
To which under-Secretary of Interior Luis Maldonado Venegas attended to find a solution, alone, without any security, or media coverage, he went to the Lacandon Jungle to negotiate with Marcos and that he did, Luis Maldonado Venegas restored the conditions for the Peace Talks. These simple acts of courage, determination and confidence, were later matched by Marcos probing to be useful to help keep the faith in the works for a peace solution, through negotiation, champion by Esteban Moctezuma, from the Mexican Secretary of Interior during the series of clashes promoted by the PGR to derail peace.
On February 16, 1996, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and Mexican government, signed the Agreements of San Andrés. With the Terms of Peace and the Constitutional change that guarantees the rights to the Indigenous peoples of Mexico. Approved by the Commission on Concordance and Pacification COCOPA, a bicameral Legislative Commission formed on March 1995 by the Chamber of Deputies (Mexico) and the Senate of the Republic (Mexico), integrated by Deputies and Senate, of the political parties in Mexico to assist in the peace dialog process in the context of the 1995 Zapatista Crisis.
With delegates from 42 countries. On July 27, 1996, the EZLN organized the First Intercontinental Gathering for Humanity and against neoliberal practice.
Time showed that the fight against a military solution to the conflict and the strategy to achieve a peaceful solution to the 1995 Zapatista Crisis was legal, politically and honorably correct, saving many lives in Mexico. After a rocky start because of conflicting intelligence that caused the 1995 Zapatista Crisis President Ernesto Zedillo was heading to a Military solution, and when the intelligence issue was cleared, confirming that Subcomandante Marcos was no terrorist but a pacifist by nature, as well as all the other conclusions that Secretary of Interior Esteban Moctezuma also gave to the President Ernesto Zedillo with the purpose of trying to avoid a bloodbath of the Mexican indigenous people, as well to prevent other also terrible repercussions of an immoral and unnecessary tragic outcome.
President Ernesto Zedillo, to avoid innocent blood shedding, changed the course of action by doing the opposite of his February 9, 1995 television appearance. For that President Ernesto Zedillo endured heavy political criticism at the time, he demonstrate humility of a Great Man of State, President Ernesto Zedillo did not accept Secretary of Interior Esteban Moctezuma resignation and ask him to restore the Dialog conditions to achieve a peaceful solution to the 1995 Zapatista Crisis. On March 10, 1995 President Ernesto Zedillo and Secretary of the Interior Esteban Moctezuma sign the Presidential Decree for the Dialog, the Reconciliation and a peace with dignity in Chiapas Law. The governing Law that warrant only one agenda be in all of President Zedillo Administration, as well the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional to achieve an honorable Peace and it is now a universal reference and example of respect to people honor and dignity.
On appeal, the Court dismisses the previous condemnatory Sentence for the alleged Zapatistas Javier Elorriaga Berdegué and Sebastian Etzin Gomez given on May 2, 1996 for the crime of terrorism, with 13 and 6 years of imprisonment respectively and they were released on June 6, 1996. » The EZLN suspends their troops Alert Status.
According to a 2012 Economist article, a group of ten anonymous Tzotzil people claiming to be survivors of the Acteal massacre have taken an opportunity to sue former President Zedillo in a civil court in Connecticut, "seeking about $50 million and a declaration of guilt against Mr Zedillo." The victims of the massacre were members of an indigenous-rights group known as Las Abejas; however, the current president of that organization, Porfirio Arias, claims that the alleged victims were in fact not residents of Acteal at all. This has led commentators to allege the trial to be politically motivated, perhaps by a member of his own political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, angry about Zedillo's reforms that led to the party losing power in the Mexican presidential election, 2000, after 71 years of continuous political rule.
The United States Department of State recommended that President Zedillo be granted immunity from prosecution due to the actions occurring as part of his official capacity as head of state. This motion is not binding in the US court system, but judges "generally side with the State Department."
The plaintiffs, who are being represented by Rafferty, Kobert, Tenenholtz, Bounds & Hess may appeal the ruling of U.S. District Judge Michael Shea to sidestep the immunity Zedillo has been granted.
In 2014, the US Supreme Court refused to hear a case against Zedillo on grounds of "sovereign immunity" as a former head of state by survivors of the Acteal massacre.
After leaving office, Zedillo has held many jobs as an economic consultant in many international companies and organizations.
Zedillo currently works at Yale University in the United States, where he teaches economics and heads the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. He is an advisory board member of the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance at the Yale School of Management. In 2005, he became a member of the influential Washington-based financial advisory body, the Group of Thirty. He serves on the board of advisors for Stonebridge International. In 2009, he headed an external review of the World Bank Group's governance. In 2010, he joined the board of directors of Citigroup. He is also a member of the board of directors of Procter & Gamble, Alcoa, the Global Development Network (GDN) and Electronic Data Systems. Dr. Zedillo is also a member of the Coca-Cola Company International Advisory Board. Union Pacific owns some of the railroads that Zedillo privatized during his presidency in Mexico. Dr. Zedillo now serves as a Director of Union Pacific Corporation.
Among his other post-presidency activities, Zedillo is a member of the editorial board of Americas Quarterly, a policy journal that explores relations and development in the Western Hemisphere. He is also a member of the Club of Madrid, as well as the current chair of the Natural Resource Charter's Oversight Board. He has been a member of the Inter-American Dialogue since 2003 and currently serves as its co-chair.
In July 2013, Zedillo joined The Elders, a group of independent global leaders who work together on peace and human rights issues.
In 2016, Zedillo co-signed a letter calling for an end to the War on Drugs, along with people like Mary J. Blige, Jesse Jackson and George Soros. Grand Collar of the Order of Prince Henry, Portugal (30 September 1998)