By Eduardo Asunsolo
One of the biggest, most salacious stories in Mexico in late 2017 and throughout the next two years was the story of Keith Raniere, Nxivm, and allegations of his branding women in a sorority called DOS.
His reported arrest – or as I prefer to call it – kidnapping – in Mexico, added additional importance to the story, always characterized by the media by use of the words, ‘Cult Leader,” “sex cult,” “sex slaves” and etc.
All of which are gross mischaracterizations of the truth, which I will explain in detail later.
Perhaps of all the things that made this story grow wings in Mexico is the fact that one of the most prominent leaders of Nxivm was Emiliano Salinas.
There was an avalanche of stories focused on him, and let’s face it, in large part because he is the son of the former president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
Many stories wanted to visit the sins of the father on the son, and so every politically-motivated enemy of Carlos was gleeful that his son was embroiled in a giant, salacious, scandalous story.
The fact is that Emiliano is not the man he was portrayed to be in Mexican media.
I know because I know him and I know Keith Raniere. I am a supporter of Raniere and though I am saddened by Emiliano’s distancing himself from the group of friends he was joined with for years, I, and most of us who still support Keith and his teachings, still have warm feelings for Emiliano.
From reading news reports, casual readers might think Emiliano is a cold, calculating man who supported branding women like cattle as the Mexican media [and US media] falsely portrayed.
Much of the propaganda began in the USA when an enemy of Keith’s, Frank Parlato, started the Frank Report and spun a narrative about Raniere, DOS, and Emiliano that was biased and untrue.
I haven’t the space to tell how this narrative was adopted and amplified by the New York Times and other media, which in turn attracted the corrupt attention of the FBI and the US Department of [In]Justice.
I can only say this, that when the news of DOS came out in Mexico, Emiliano moved to distance himself from Raniere.
This, in itself, was tragic since the two men had been friends for more than 15 years and Keith, who is 15 years older than him, was Emiliano’s mentor and teacher. His guide, philosopher and friend.
By the way, and perhaps most readers do not know this, it was a family affair. Not only was Emiliano a staunch and excellent student, coach and teacher in ESP, but his sister, Cecilia Salinas, was also a teacher, and their mother, former Mexican First Lady Cecilia Occelli, participated in many of the courses.
If anyone knows anything about First Lady Cecilia Occelli, they will know she is the soul of dignity and propriety. She would never align herself with any kind of scandal.
Her son, Emiliano, too is a man of good moral character.
Educated in Mexico, Switzerland, France and the USA, Emiliano is fluent in Spanish, English and French. He studied in the primary school division of the Liceo Mexicano Japonés in Mexico City and received his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from ITAM (the Spanish acronym for Autonomous Technology Institute of Mexico) in Mexico.
Later, he received his PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University.
A savvy businessman, Salinas worked as a financial analyst for the Lazard Freres and Co. LLC investment bank in New York City, where he participated in mergers and acquisitions involving Telefónica de España, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Revlon among others. And then he formed his own financial firm, Prosus Capital.
When Emiliano was in his 20s, a good friend of his, Alejandro “Alex” Betancourt, joined ESP and was wildly excited about it. Emiliano was in Boston, going to school at Harvard, finishing his thesis.
After members of his family took a 5-day course and said they loved it, Emiliano decided to check it out as well.
Emiliano loved it. The emphasis on critical thinking, on ethics, on thinking outside the box, of wealth-building through independent and honest methods, all attracted this highly intellectual man.
Then he met the founder of Nxivm, Keith Raniere, who immediately took to him.
The two used to discuss ideas, from how to bring peace to Mexico, to how to explore various facts and interpretations, some of which Emiliano would use to make his doctoral thesis in-depth and, as he hoped, riveting.
One of the first things that ESP helped him with, as Emiliano often attested, was to show him the road to create his own wealth, which didn’t come from his family. This was important for him.
So many children of the rich and famous – with more money than they need at their disposal, without having to work for it, opt for a life of pleasure and ease. Emiliano wanted to work and make his own mark in life.
For him, it was not all about money. A project came up – Inlakech – where people of means challenged themselves to live as people without means in Mexico for a period of time.
Emiliano leapt forward to become one of the leaders of this.
It seemed he always wanted to serve; he had a desire to help his country and his people. I think I saw this at times in him as a burning desire.
He was educated as a politician. But it seems that when he realized what ESP could do, he veered away from politics and desired to dedicate his life to building ESP in the world. He did this, rightly or wrongly, because of his sincere belief that this was something that the world could benefit from.
It was his heart that was leading him, something I and many others saw in him during our days together in ESP.
It’s possible his father didn’t like his commitment, but since his sister, mother and other family members were also involved and loved it, I suppose his father acquiesced and accepted Emiliano’s involvement in ESP.
It led to Emiliano and Alex partnering to open the Mexico City ESP Center.
Contrary to what some believe, Emiliano built this center without using high-end contacts he or his father had. He built a center where thousands of people from all walks of life joined and felt they were welcome.
You did not have to be elite to be part of Emiliano’s ESP center in Mexico City.
If you were a part of the center, you would have access to Emiliano. He was not aloof. He was not above the people who were students. The notion that his involvement in ESP had to do mainly with VIP contacts is more myth than substance. His centers were built up of families and friends.
And it was a family, a big family. It was a community.
Of course, wherever Emiliano went, the shadow of his political family followed. It was at times a blessing, sometimes a curse. On the one hand, it gave him all the access he ever needed; on the other hand, he was used as a punching bag for various political interests.
It made sense that people who wanted to hurt his dad and his political affiliations, used Nxivm’s bad media coverage to hurt Emiliano to hurt his father.
At one point, a Mexican ESP member who had defected recorded a conversation with Emiliano about the sorority without his permission. The audio became public and Emiliano was made to look like a fraud.
It’s possible that Keith’s fault against Emiliano was to not provide him with all the information he needed to defend the allegations.
Emiliano and others whose reputations were important, were misinformed about details of the sorority, and so in going public to defend Keith, Emiliano made statements that to his knowledge were true, which ended up not being true.
This all came down when Emiliano and his lovely wife, Ludwika Paleta, had just had twins.
It was a rough time with all the swirling, relentless, negative publicity.
Emiliano had always wanted to live a normal family life and here he was with two children, twins, and the media was savaging him, claiming he was part of a sex cult that branded women.
None of it was true.
So he broke away from Nxivm and from Keith. I think he loved the man, but the publicity and the scandals were such that he had to distance himself.
When Keith came to Mexico, trying to restore his company and the teachings they represented, Emiliano made a disclosure that he had no plans to meet with Keith.
The two men who had been friends, like an older brother and a younger one, never met again.
As for me, I was a member for a lot less time than Emiliano. But we were members for more than a decade together
I, an ordinary Mexican man, would have little claim to be close with a famous, wealthy Mexican elite. In the normal course of life, such elites as Emiliano would barely give a nod to me.
But this was Nxivm and Emiliano was not such as other elites in the world. He was always recognizing the humble and helping them too.
Perhaps you may not think much of the curriculum or anything Nxivm stood for, but Emiliano believed in it and part of that belief was that anyone in Nxivm was his brother or sister [the Nxivm way] and he was ready to help.
He helped me as well.
He would talk to me, a young Mexican man with no wealth or importance. I recall a time when he, in very simple and normal language, shared a story; perhaps you will think it is silly, about a beloved pet he once lost years before.
He spoke about it as if it had just happened and I felt the pain he felt. He took me back through the years, of how he considered this event as a sad situation for years. It was only later, he said, that the realization came upon him that, as sad as this loss was, he should also focus on remembering the moments they shared together, and being thankful for all the lessons he learned, yes, lessons, even from a pet; you can learn from almost anything, and, of course, the loved they shared.
He probably never knew how his little story, told with such earnestness and candor, helped me bring closure to a painful and very personal loss I had. It was not so much the words, but his wonderful heart that showed in every word of his touching narrative.
Contemplating it, after years have passed, I believe I should have told him that he helped me, and thanked him. I saw him numerous times after that, before he left ESP, but I never told him how that story altered my own perspective and helped me handle my own grief and regret.
It is perhaps a small thing to tell a story to someone younger and more humble than you; what does it take, a few words, a few gestures, but our words have meaning and our gestures do too.
Emiliano’s words then and always seemed fraught with meaning. He opened up a vein of emotions for me one day and let me enter into his personal life and he entered into my life. I gained from it, I learned and I grew.
So Emiliano, if you’re reading this, thank you.
Cantinflas, was a Mexican film actor, considered to have been the most accomplished Mexican comedian and is celebrated throughout Latin America and in Spain. Lastly, I want to say that what I saw in Emiliano was that he was a Mexican, through and through. He had a favorite Christmas meal; he liked jokes, cumbia and tamales, he loved Cantinflas like I did, and he was worried about the increase in violence in México like I was.
Emiliano offered me a ride once when we both were in Albany, [he would come up to Albany to visit Keith and be part of the community]. It was a Saturday night and he knew where I was going. It was on his way to his own destination so the effort was not great, though he did not have to make it and let me intrude on his own pleasant drive to where he was headed.
I got in his car, and, during the drive I remember being shocked at how normal and down to earth the conversation was, which wasn’t what I expected from a man of his stature. I even felt like I could have told him this which to me showed just how wrong I was about him. He was much more humble than I imagined. .
Emiliano smiled as we drove and talked. He put people at ease. It was his natural talent.
By way of further context, I grew up in a normal, middle-low class México, and in this México, you are taught to believe that royalty is bad and the cause of all of the problems of the poor.
And here was Emiliano Salinas, wealthy, famous, from a powerful family and as I saw him driving, I realized he was not looking for luxury or status, or to oppress the poor. He was looking to try to do good things in the world and participate in good things, just like I was.
And although he seemed to have every option in the world open to him to do as he pleased, he seemed to be looking to form a normal loving family, like I was.
I do not have a standing friendship with Emiliano. I never did. Now that he has left the Nxivm community that he once loved, and I still do love, perhaps I never will.
One could make a case that since we come from opposite sides of town, why should we ever?
Still, I’m speaking in his favor now because I believe someone should. He has been pretty well savaged by the media and by the hate by association because of his father and Keith.
Yet, despite what anyone says in the media or elsewhere, I saw him differently. I believe him to be a well-intended, who, as he walks through life, aims to do far more good than harm.
I know it because I saw it for myself.