NAFTA, Zapatista guerrillas, and Wall Street form the backdrop for this fine journalistic account of Mexico's current tumult. If the people of Mexico ever rise up in revolution---as they now seem poised to do--it will be at least in part a response to the Wall Street investment bankers who, in Miami Herald reporter Oppenheimer's charged telling, have long profited from that nation's misery. Oppenheimer dissects the career of former president Salinas de Gortari, who is now in hiding, a man who entered office supposedly determined to root out corruption and who, it now appears, robbed the country blind. While doing so, he managed to convince President Clinton to engineer a politically controversial bailout of Mexico, a nation Clinton had hailed as a model of economic development. The complicated financial doings that underlie this story do not make for easy reading, but Oppenheimer lays them out patiently, and Americans wondering just what goes on behind closed doors in Washington can do worse than ponder what he has to tell. What Oppenheimer has to say about Subcomandante Marcos's Zapatista Liberation Army, a substantial portion of the book, is less immediate, if only because Marcos has been so much in the news lately. Still, his tying the Chiapas revolt into the historical context of US-Mexican affairs drives home a needed point; as he writes, ``Mexican presidents had conveyed the idea to their friends in Washington . . . that they were the only ones standing between a modernizing, pro-American Mexico and an insurgent Mexico'' poised to expropriate American holdings there. That specter, Oppenheimer suggests, now allows the administration to hail yet another ``reform president,'' Ernesto Zedillo and to proclaim against all evidence, as Clinton has done, that ``the Mexican economy has turned the corner.'' Mexico watchers expect hard times to come for that country, and Oppenheimer's excellent book explains just why.