It is a group that since its birth, almost 60 years ago, is surrounded by mystery.
For decades it was only men. In 2014, when he admitted the first woman in his circle, he changed his name.
It is the Mexican Business Council (CMN), an organization that brings together the richest and most influential entrepreneurs in the country.
Of the group little known and even for several years, was considered a semi-secret organization.
It has been one of the organizations that have had more weight in the economic decisions of at least five governments, and that is why it is not just a millionaire club, some specialists say.
At different times the Council has been instrumental in shaping some of the most important economic projects in the country.
For example, it played a central role in the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the 1990s.
And recently it supported the implementation of constitutional reforms, such as energy and telecommunications.
In fact, for several decades there have been few finance and industry projects that have been carried out without consulting them.
CMN members “have always been very decisive, they have always been close to the presidents, ” financial analyst José Yuste tells BBC Mundo.
“They have as a common denominator that they are rich, have great economic power and also influence the decisions of presidents to defend the free market,” he explains.
BBC Mundo requested several interviews with CMN members but received no response.
The firsts years
The Council was created in 1962 by some of the most powerful businessmen of the time. His first name was the Mexican Council of Businessmen since all its members were male.
From the beginning one of its objectives was to try to influence the government’s economic decisions, explains Marcela Briz Garizurueta, a researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
“It’s a group of businessmen who decided to unite to have interlocution with the highest spheres of political power,” he tells BBC Mundo.
They didn’t always get it. In the 70s, for example, they opposed the economic line of then-President Luis Echeverría.
The president “had a very proprietary government that left little room for a free market,” explains José Yuste.
It was the model of the then ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI): to concentrate on the government activities that in other countries did entrepreneurs such as steelmaking, operate shopping centers and control all movie theaters, as happened for decades in Mexico.
The CMN was a severe critic of these measures, and even promoted the creation of other business bodies to form a block against official decisions.
The situation changed in the 90s during the government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
In her book “The Mexican Council of Businessmen: Emergence and Consolidation”, the researcher Briz Garizurueta says that there was a close collaboration of the agency with the authorities.
Some of its members abandoned anonymity and in the electoral campaign in 1988 supported the then-candidate Salinas.
Afterward several members of the Council joined the government as presidential advisors or as part of the NAFTA negotiating team.
The agency, in fact, funded an advertising and public relations campaign in the United States media. The objective, says the researcher, was to raise awareness among Americans about the benefits of the trade agreement.
The influence was such that the members of the presidential cabinet used to consult their decisions with the members of the Council.
“With Salinas, they were invited to co-govern and they had wide sleeves, they were very important,” says Marcela Briz.
In the following governments, the Council maintained its influence, although not in the same way as it did in the administration of Carlos Salinas.
Thanks to his relationship with the former president, some members of the Council benefited from the privatization of public companies and increased their fortunes
In fact, it was at that time that some Mexicans began to appear in the lists of the richest in the world.
An example is Carlos Slim Helú, who bought Telephones from Mexico when it was public and had a monopoly on the country’s telephone service.
The company became the pillar of the current consortium of the entrepreneur, who ranks fifth in the Forbes list of the wealthiest on the planet.
Another beneficiary was Ricardo Salinas Pliego, who bought the state television station Imevisión to turn it into the TV Azteca network, with a presence in Mexico, the United States, and Central America.
Also Jorge Larrea, founder of Grupo México, which is one of the largest mining companies in the world.
At the CMN, 36 of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in the country participate. The president is Antonio del Valle Perochena.
Other members of the Council are Emilio Azcárraga, Ricardo Salinas Pliego, Alberto Baillères and Germán Larrea.
Despite its influence on government decisions, the Council maintains a low profile, an old strategy that has changed over the years.
For example, it is not known how many members it has. Some media and financial specialists speak of 50 members, but others say they are 60.
Of them it s or the three are women: Blanca Treviño, founder of the company Softek and the first to be accepted; María Asunción Aramburuzabala, who was a majority shareholder of Grupo Modelo, maker of Corona beer, and Laura Zapata, owner of the Envases Universales company.
In the first decades, the UNAM researcher recalls, the Council “was a semi-secret group” that has gradually opened up.
Each year, for example, its members meet at a public event with the president in turn to announce their investments, and several of their members sometimes appear in the media.
But in general, the CMN maintains a discreet attitude. Why? “The decision not to be fully shown has been a tactic that has benefited him politically over the years,” explains Marcela Briz.
In fact, in its almost 60 years of history, there have been few public episodes of political activism.
The most recent case occurred in the 2018 presidential contest when the Council published a statement to question some comments from the then-candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The politician had accused several CMN members of supporting his adversaries in the contest.
“It scared them,” recalls José Yuste. “It is no secret that his natural candidate was not López Obrador .”
The relationship changed after AMLO, as the president is known in Mexico, assumed the government.
Lopez Obrador frequently meets with members of the Council. In addition, the agency announced in June 2019 an investment plan for 623,000 million pesos (about US $ 33,000 million).
“Those who were opponents, almost enemies, decided to work together,” explains the analyst. And it is that as it happened in other years, “they understood that it is better to be close to the government than to oppose it”.
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