A Cabinet member on Thursday confirmed that it was indeed his voice on a recording that revealed him saying that a former president had stolen half of the budget of a now-defunct federal fund, but that he has no proof to back up what he had said.
In tape conversation released Thursday on a radio morning show, Communications and Transportation Secretary Luis Téllez said that former President Carlos Salinas took half of the "partida secreta," a budgetary allotment that could be spent at the president's discretion.
"What appears on the tape is what I said to a group of friends at a casual meal, and I said it in an improper manner since I didn't have any thing to support it," Tellez said at a Thursday press conference.
"I have never had any evidence of illicit actions by former President Carlos Salinas."
Téllez added that he had been threatened with the prospect of the comments being made public by a journalist he did not name, who had wanted his cooperation on a book project. The journalist was identified by media outlets as Diana Pando.
On the tape, Téllez can reportedly be heard saying: "In the case of Salinas, half of the secret account was stolen. He did many things. [Former President José] López Portillo wrecked the country, [and] at the end, Salinas [did] too."
The revelations sparked outrage and indignation in Congress on Thursday. Some lawmakers demanded that Téllez resign, or at least take leave until an investigation has been carried out. Others spoke sarcastically of the secretary's past as a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
"Téllez knows a lot, without any doubt, said Javier González Garza, the leader of the Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, in the Chamber of Deputies. "Do you think that [the fund] was robbed? I believe so."
The PRD has alleged that Salinas stole the 1988 election from them and that the former president carried out a persecution campaign against the PRD around that time. Téllez served as an agriculture undersecretary in the Salinas administration, and was later campaign coordinator in 1994 for then-presidential candidate Ernesto Zedillo. He subsequently served as an advisor to Zedillo in Los Pinos and later as Energy Secretary.
Some analysts describe relations between the Salinas and Zedillo camps as strained.
"Salinas will look on [the tape] as another betrayal by the Zedillo clan," said ITAM political science professor Federico Estévez.
"Téllez would have been in a position to know … what the finances were during the last year of the Salinas administration," he said.