New Owner Takes Over Mexico City Newspaper

By: Eloy O. Aguilar, Associated Press Writer

(AP) A former student spy, law enforcement agent, drug suspect, and son of a Mexican general who fought with Pancho Villa is taking over what was once Mexico’s most influential daily newspaper.

Miguel Aldana Ibarra, a 57-year-old businessman, struck a $150 million deal last week for the troubled Excelsior newspaper and most of its assets. The paper owes $70 million in taxes and other debts.

Aldana, whose father fought in Villa’s army during the Mexican revolution at the beginning of the 20th Century, retired from law enforcement in 1984 as head of Interpol in Mexico and set up a law firm and an industrial promotion office. He also became president of the national bar association.

Six years later he was arrested on drug charges — an incident that he termed “revenge” for some of his large drug busts. He spent four years in prison before being cleared.

He said he has filed a lawsuit against the people who had filed charges against him.

Aldana’s law enforcement background led him to create the National Confederation on Security and Justice, an organization whose goal is to get civilians and business people to work together on security projects.

He also has conducted studies on crime and security for government and private business.

“I am proud of my years as a policeman,” he told The Associated Press. “But in Mexico, if you are a policeman, people immediately associate you with corruption or drug dealing.”

Most of his education was paid for by a government scholarship that required him to gather political information on leftist student groups in Mexico City.

Aldana’s corporation includes other businesses, including real estate and construction.

Regarding the newspaper sale, Aldana denied earlier reports — including ones Excelsior published — that he had Canadian and U.S. partners in the venture.

“They are my partners in other business of the corporation,” he said. The money for the purchase is coming from bank loans and other investors, he said.

Aldana told The Associated Press he intends to revive the failing newspaper by paying its debts and investing in its expansion and recovery. “We want to unify the Excelsior family,” he said.

Excelsior started as a private newspaper, but in 1932 it became an employee-owned cooperative.

Like Mexican papers of its time, Excelsior followed the political line of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled the country for 71 years until its defeat in 2000 by President Vicente Fox.

In the 1970s, when Excelsior tried to become independent, President Luis Echeverria sponsored a group that stopped the movement.

Two years ago, as circulation dwindled, Excelsior offered its support to losing PRI presidential candidate Francisco Labastida.

A year later co-op members fired their leader, but the paper continued to have financial problems.

According to the purchase plan now being finalized, Aldana will pay $20 million late this month, $90 million in January, and $40 million in late February.

Jaime Contreras, president of the co-op’s board of directors, said the newspaper will maintain its editorial policies and called the sale “an operation that will preserve and strengthen Excelsior as a journalistic institution.”

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