Category Archives: Latin America

Did Pussygrabber threaten to invade Mexico?


Both the Associated Press and a leading Mexican journalist report that a leaked transcript of a call between Narcissist of Pensylvania Avenue and his Mexican counterpart, Donald Trump threatened to send the army South of the Border to take charge and kick ass.

From the Associated Press:

President Donald Trump warned in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart that he was ready to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.

The excerpt of the call did not detail who exactly Trump considered “bad hombres,” nor did it make clear the tone and context of the remark, made in a Friday morning phone call between the leaders. It also did not contain Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s response. Mexico denies that Trump’s remarks were threatening.

Still, the excerpt offers a rare and striking look at how the new president is conducting diplomacy behind closed doors. Trump’s remarks suggest he is using the same tough and blunt talk with world leaders that he used to rally crowds on the campaign trail.

>snip<

The phone call between the leaders was intended to patch things up between the new president and his ally. The two have had a series of public spats over Trump’s determination to have Mexico pay for the planned border wall, something Mexico steadfastly refuses to agree to.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt given to AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

If Trump really said it [Peña’s mouthpiece firmly denies it], it wouldn’t be the first time, or the second, or even the third.

And make no mistake, sending troops into another country to wage war on civilians [even if they are criminals] is the very definition of invasion.

A Mexican journalist adds context

The reporter who reported on the transcript offered a strong affirmation of her report.

From teleSUR English:

Mexican journalist Dolia Estevez has defended the veracity of the claims she made Wednesday about a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto, in which the former used a “humiliating” and “threatening” tone.

The information has been strongly rejected by the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which said Estevez used absolute “falsehoods” and acted with “obvious malice.”

“The ministry is lying and exerting the same tactic used by Peña Nieto against critical Mexican journalists by trying to discredit my information,” Estevez said in an interview with Aristegui Noticias Thursday morning.

>snip<

According to Estevez’s reports, Trump told Peña Nieto that he could be forced to send in troops to deal with the southern neighbor’s “bad hombres.” CNN reports that a White House official also denied this information. “Even the Mexican government is disputing these reports,” the source said.

Estevez said that time is again proving her points to be true. A phone call between President Trump and the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also led to a diplomatic rift between two allied countries after the two leaders exchanged harsh words over refugee policy and Trump abruptly ended the call.

“I don’t understand why the Mexican government is trying to hide this issue. I mean Trump has shown a hostile tone against several world leaders like Turnbull. Why would Peña Nieto be the exception? Now they call me a liar, but it is the Mexican government who is lying again,” Estevez said.

The Washington-based award-winning journalist also mentioned that Mexico’s Foreign Ministry is lying when they rejected her report about a meeting held on Jan. 31, between Mexico’s top diplomat Luis Videgaray and the United States Northern and Southern Command chiefs. According to Estevez, the encounter took place in the southern border city of Tapachula, Mexico.

The U.S. embassy in Mexico said the meeting was part of a cooperation plan to reinforce security at Mexico’s border with Guatemala and that it was scheduled a long time ago. However, they did not reveal who attended the meeting.

And now for some comic relief. . .

For your amusement a report on Trump’s call and other events of the second week of his presidency from Late Night with Seth Meyers:

Trump’s Second Week Is as Chaotic as His First: A Closer Look

Program notes:

Seth takes a closer look at the confusion surrounding President Trump’s controversial travel ban and his bizarre calls with foreign leaders.

Mexican ban on Monsanto’s GMO corn upheld


Perhaps the most singular example of 21st Century rentier capitalism is agrabiz giant Monsanto.

The company has staked its future on a one-two punch, depriving farmers of what they’ve always cherished and protected, the right to hold some of their crop back each year to provide seed for next year’s crop.

With its patented GMO crops [previously], genetically engineered to withstand the company’s own patented weed-killer, the company not only leases one-time intellectual property rights in its seed but peddles the poison needed for those crops to survive.

Oh, and never mind that the genes herbicide-resistant genes have jumped to other plants, creating a so-called superweeds that require yet another round of gene tweaking accompanied by the release of yet more tepxic weed-killers.

Mexico, homeland to the root races of the world’s corn crops, has been fighting to keep Monsanto’s GMO corn out of their country, and now those GMO opponents have won another roung in an ongoing struggle

From teleSUR English:

A ban on planting genetically modified corn in Mexico is likely to continue for years as a slow-moving legal battle grinds on, said a top executive of U.S.-based seed and agrochemical company Monsanto Co.

Last week, a Mexican court upheld a late 2013 ruling that temporarily halted even pilot plots of GMO corn following a legal challenge over its effects on the environment.

Monsanto regional corporate director Laura Tamayo said in an interview that it will likely be “years” before the company can make any progress against the ban.

While Mexico is self-sufficient in white corn used to make the country’s staple tortillas, it depends on imports of mostly GMO yellow corn from the United States for its livestock.

Several years ago, Monsanto submitted two applications for the commercial planting of GMO corn in Mexico. Both sought 1.7 million acres in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, the country’s largest corn-producing area. Both applications are still pending for Monsanto.

Mexico is the birthplace of modern corn, domesticated about 8,000 years ago and today the planet’s most-produced grain.

Critics say genetically modified corn plantings will contaminate age-old native varieties and that toxins designed to protect the GMO grain against pests may be linked to elevated insect mortality.

Neoliberal Argentine regime sacrifices forests


More than a quarter-million acres of Argentinian forest, much of it protected land, has fallen to the chainsaws and axes of Big Agra players since the election of a neoliberal regime under Mauricio Macri, a corporate tycoon and one of Argentina’s wealthiest.

Unlike the administration of predecessor Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Macri won’t let anything stand in the way of his fellow tycoons getting even richher, and the environment be damned.

From teleSUR English:

Over 110,000 hectares of forest were destroyed in Northern Argentina in 2016, including large areas protected because of their biodiversity and crucial role in mitigating the effects of global warming, according to a report Spanish-only] issued by Greenpeace on Thursday.

Greenpeace accused local state officials and agribusiness corporations of illegally collaborating to make systematic large-scale deforestation possible by issuing local decrees allowing deforestation on natural reserves protected by federal laws banning tree-harvesting.

The environment organization found that at least “one out of three deforestations” were illegal, with agribusiness companies paying “ridiculously low fines” which pale in comparison to the large profits they can make through large-scale soy and cattle farming, said Greenpeace’s coordinator in Argentina, Hernan Giardini.

The study only focused on deforestation in the northern provinces of Santiago del Estero, Chaco, Salta and Formosa, which are estimated to represent 80 percent of Argentina’s deforested areas, suggesting that the actual destruction is much greater.

The spike in deforestation in the region— where land is relatively cheaper— is likely driven by increasing meat consumption in recent years, Giardini told EFE.

Deforestation goes hand in hand with violent evictions of indigenous campesinos living in these areas, with agribusiness entrepreneurs occasionally hiring armed paramilitary groups to carry out the displacement.

The report noted that the phenomenon had decreased by half after the former administration of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner passed the Bill on Woods in 2007, but recommended that sanctions be better applied in order to end the destruction of key nature preserves.

Headline of the day: Imperial trade war ahead?


From the Washington Post:

White House threatens Mexico with tax to pay for wall

  • Spokesman Sean Spicer said President Trump intends to pay for the wall by imposing a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico as part of an overall tax reform plan, though he later appeared to backtrack, saying it was “one idea” for funding a border wall.
  • The comment came hours after the Mexican president canceled his visit to Washington because of growing tensions with Trump over the border wall.

Brazil gives Trump a present: Secret military base


Brazil becomes the first nation to give President Littlefingers a major gift, and it’s a doozy.

The unelected neoliberal regime, installed by the legislature after the ouster of moderate leftist President Dilma Rousseff, has been following the standrad disaster capitalism model, selling off public resources and cutting back on programs for the nation’s poorest.

But their latest action is an imperialist’s wet dream, the handover of a site for a secret U.S, military, located in the heart of Brazil’s threatened Amazonia.

From teleSUR English:

The government of Brazilian President Michel Temer has invited the United States to use the Alcantara missile launching base in the Amazon region to launch satellites as part of bilateral negotiations in the so-called “Brazil and United States Defense Industry Dialogue.”

Defense Minister Raul Jungmann made the announcement following a meeting with U.S. officials at the headquarters of the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil in the national capital of Brasilia.

The final decision will be determined by Congress, as it remains one of the most sensitive issues in the bilateral relationship. The current law imposes safeguards on foreign technology on national soil. Back in 2003, then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva vetoed a similar proposal by the Congress that sought to allow the U.S. military to use the facility.

During that time, people poured into the streets to celebrate Lula’s decision to defend Brazilian sovereignty and the Amazon, which alone represents 50 percent of Brazil’s national territory.

The facility was created in 1982 under the last of the U.S.-backed military regimes led by dictator João Figueiredo that ruled the country following a 1964 coup. It is located three degrees south of the equator, which allows rockets to be more efficiently launched into space due to the rotation of the earth.

For its construction, an area of 52,000 hectares was expropriated, a process that displaced tens of thousands from native and Black communities that entirely depended on agriculture. The base was part of Washington’s plans to have a military presence in the Amazon.

If passed in Congress, the law will allow the U.S. to control the area and Brazilian authorities would not be able to monitor their activities. Activists have raised concerns that the activity at the base would not be limited to just launching rockets, but could also include other military actions.

Peña plunges, crime rises, woes, and a win


A summary of events south of the border. . .

Peña plunges in the polls

The digits are so low he’d envy Trump’s numbers.

From teleSUR English:

Only 12 percent of Mexicans approve of the performance of President Enrique Peña Nieto, a new poll by newspaper Reforma found Wednesday, the lowest approval rating for a Mexican president since the paper began polling in 1995. At the beginning of his term in December 2012, Peña Nieto had a 61 percent approval rating.

His approval ratings hit a record low this month following the economic crisis and accusations of corruption, human rights violations and plagiarism. Most recently, his decision to raise gas prices by 20 percent has caused deadly riots and looting across the country.

The poll also shows 27 percent of voters favor the opposition leftist Morena party of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in next year’s presidential election, compared with 24 percent for the conservative National Action Party and only 17 percent for Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party.

The discontent with the ruling party also comes with the president’s decision to ignore public opinion claims regarding issues like the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students and the mounting human rights violations during his administration.

Peña Nieto and his political allies have been plagued by corruption allegations throughout his tenure while Mexico has endured escalating rates of violence, drug trafficking and forced disappearances.

More murders, this time in Cancun

Cartel violence is claiming bodies in a favorite venue for young U.S. tourists.

From El País:

Two shootouts in two days this week that left nine people dead and at least 15 people injured have shattered the calm of Cancún, threatening the beach resort’s position as the jewel in the crown of Mexico’s tourism industry.

On Monday, a man opened fire in the Blue Parrot nightclub in nearby Playa del Carmen, which was hosting the BPM electronic music festival. Five people died, among them a Canadian, US national and an Italian, and 15 were wounded in the attack, footage of which was posted on social networks.

The following day, armed men attacked the State Attorney General’s office in Cancún, killing a policeman. Four of the attackers were gunned down and five others arrested.

Security analyst Alejandro Hope says that the incidents were a spillover from mounting tension between criminal gangs fighting for control of the drugs trade, extortion and other illegal activities in the area.

“Things have been getting worse for several months; last summer there were attacks on massage parlors and brothels, but this has made the news because the shootout took place at an international event and there were foreign victims, while the attack on the State Attorney’s office is a direct challenge to authority,” he says.

TrumpOnomics™ worries in Mexico

And it’s not the cost of the wall that’s the biggest concern.

It’s jobs.

From teleSUR English:

Concerns about the policies to be pursued by the incoming Trump administration have caused a freeze on new investment in maquiladoras on the Mexican side of the border, where thousands of workers in that industry face an uncertain future.

Case in point is Ciudad Juarez, a city across from El Paso, Texas, where the first of the maquiladoras — plants where goods are assembled for export — was installed in 1968 and the maquila industry accounts for more than 60 percent of the local economy.

Trump, who takes office Friday, has said he will impose tariffs of up to 35 percent on U.S. companies who move operations to Mexico with the idea of selling their products back to the U.S. market.

Amid pressure by Trump, Ford made a surprise announcement early this year that it would cancel plans for a US$1.6 billion plant in Mexico and instead invest that money in Michigan.

That would mark an abrupt shift away from the current climate of virtually tariff-free U.S.-Mexico trade for qualifying goods under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the president-elect says must be renegotiated.

Mass movement halts water privatization

Delightful!

And exemplary.

From teleSUR English:

A privatizing water law in the Mexican state of Baja California was repealed Tuesday following mass demonstrations against further privatization.

The state’s Governor Francisco Vega issued the decree Tuesday but would not answer press questions, only stating that the decision will benefit the people of Baja California.

The head of Infrastructure and Urban Development Edmundo Guevara, who was the main target of protests for proposing to privatize potable water services, was also in attendance.

Meanwhile, protesters are blocking state facilities in the state capital to demand the resignation of the local president and the deputies who voted in favor of the water law.

They also demanded the state eliminate the gas tax and immediately pay salaries and benefits kept from state employees.

Gasolinazo protests continue to rage in Mexico


The gasolinazo, the name Mexicans have given the the government-mandated 20 percent hike in gas prices as a result of the partial privatization of Mexico’s national oil monopoly, continues to inspire massive discontent.

President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose administration mandated the price hike. Has watched his poll numbers plummet, with only one in four Mexicans approving of his handling of the office.

And now he’s trying to cool things down.

From the Associated Press:

Mexico’s president tried again on Thursday to calm anger over the big jump in gasoline prices this month amid a historically weak currency and continued threats by Donald Trump to steer manufacturers back to the United States.

In his latest speech, the deeply unpopular President Enrique Pena Nieto outlined measures that he said would help families mitigate the impact of the price hike. Yet steps like notifying more than 3 million Mexicans older than 65 that they have money in government retirement accounts seemed unlikely to dissipate the outrage that led to widespread looting in parts of the country and marches calling for his resignation.

Earlier this week, Pena Nieto promised to police price increases for staple goods and invest in modernizing public transportation. But it was difficult to see how any of that could make up for the overnight 20 percent increase in the price of gasoline when the government ended price controls.

After days of seeking ways to strike a calming chord, Pena Nieto tried taking a more relaxed posture Thursday, leaning casually on the podium, cracking jokes — and telling Mexicans to suck it up.

Protests lead to State Department warning

Just how tense the situation in Mexico has become can be judged by this travel advisory from the State Department:

The U.S. Consulate General Nogales informs U.S. citizens that large demonstrations are expected at Port of Entry DeConcini January 14-15, 2017 to protest the increase in gasoline prices.  U.S. citizens are urged to use the Mariposa Port of Entry until further notice. As always, avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.

Demonstrations in Nogales last Sunday turned violent, with police firing numerous warning shots in an attempt to turn back protesters.

Protests continue, on a reduced scale

A report from Business Insider:

Protests against the gas price hike imposed by the Mexican government at the start of this year have spread across the country, appearing in at least 28 of Mexico’s 32 states.

Many of the protests have been peaceful, but in some areas demonstrators have shut down gas stations and facilities belonging to the state oil company, Pemex.

Elsewhere, protests against the gasolinazo, as the price increase has come to be called, have boiled over into looting and violence.

In Mexico City, one police officer was killed while trying to stop looting at a department store, and elsewhere police officers joined in to ransack stores. At least six people have been killed and more than 1,500 have been arrested.

Looting seen during the first week of the year largely subsided this week, but in Tijuana, which shares the Western Hemisphere’s busiest land-border crossing with San Diego, protesters continue to block traffic and confront authorities. Since the price increase — designed to let prices float in response to supply and demand — Tijuana and Baja California state have seen some of the country’s highest prices.

One protest, a blockade in the city of Rosarita, turned violent earlier this week, with at least seven people hurt when a truck rammed the barricade.

A video via the San Diego Informer:

U.S. gas stations on the border do a booming business

While the gasolinazo had been bad for Mexican businesses, it’s proving a real boon for one kind of business on this side of the border.

From Bloomberg Markets:

Mexico’s fuel market liberalization has done something rarely seen before: make California’s pump prices look cheap.

Drivers are flooding across the border to southern California to fill up on gasoline, after protesters blocking distribution centers near the Baja California capital of Mexicali caused stations to run dry. Antunez’s Shell gas station in Calexico is just five blocks away from the Mexican border and rarely has business been as busy as now. Mexicali drivers wait four to five hours to cross into the U.S. just to fill their fuel tanks and then wait two more hours to cross back into Mexico.

>snip<

Unleaded gasoline in Mexicali was increased in January to 16.17 pesos a liter, or $2.815 a gallon. Seventeen miles north across the border in El Centro, California, pump prices jumped 5.3 cents a gallon to average $2.718 as of 5 p.m. New York time Wednesday, according to GasBuddy, a price tracking company.

“There is a very important commercial exchange happening in the border region,” said Jose Angel Garcia, the president of Mexico gasoline retailer association Onexpo. “There are trucks with large tanks being used to bring fuel into Mexico from the U.S.”

More from CSP News, a trade publication for gasoline retailers in the U.S.:

In Calexico, Calif., gas stations reported a tripling in fuel sales and waits of an hour or more for fill-ups, according to The Desert Sun. The town of 40,000 sits across the border from Mexicali, where protesters had earlier blocked the road into the central fuel distribution center, causing local gas stations to run out of fuel. Federal police cleared the blockade, but waits for fuel in Mexicali were still more than an hour that same day.

“It’s great for us,” Juan Arce, the manager of two SoCo Express gas stations in Calexico, told the newspaper. “I do feel bad for the people to the south.”

Several retailers in Calexico reported similar spikes in business. “It’s been more than double,” said Carlos Vera, manager of a Shell-branded site. On a high-volume day, the gas station typically sells 5,000 gallons of gas; the weekend of Jan. 7, it sold nearly 10,000. Its supplier has had to refill its underground storage tanks each day, Vera said.

Motorists were filling up gallon gasoline containers, empty laundry soap containers and even metal barrels to bring back into Mexico for family and friends.

Cartels add gas to their drug business

And in Mexico, there’s one organization already doing business in a highly valued commodity where the demand is great and the market is eager to buy.

So it should come as no surprise that they, too, are getting into the gasolinazo.

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

The black market is booming. Several states experienced gasoline shortages at the end of last year as more thieves tapped into state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) pipelines. The pilfered fuel was sold to drivers hoping to save money. Pipeline theft in 2015 increased sevenfold, to more than 5,500 taps, from just 710 in 2010. Pemex attributes the company’s 12-year slide in crude production in part to the growth in illegal taps.

The drug cartels have turned to fuel theft as a side business worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and crime groups focused solely on gasoline robbery have sprung up, says Alejandro Schtulmann, president of Empra, a political-risk consulting firm in Mexico City. “You only need to invest $5,000 or $8,000 to buy some specific equipment, and the outcome of that is huge earnings.”

Fuel theft creates a vicious cycle: The theft increases costs for Pemex and makes the official gasoline supply more scarce, contributing to higher prices for legal consumers. Theft amounts to about $1 billion a year, says Luis Miguel Labardini, an energy consultant at Marcos y Asociados and senior adviser to Pemex’s chief financial officer in the 1990s. “If Pemex were a public company, they would be in financial trouble just because of the theft of fuel,” he says. “It’s that bad.”

And while on the subject of funny business. . .

Consider this from teleSUR English:

An anti-corruption group in Mexico revealed Tuesday that the energy minister, as well as relatives of President Enrique Peña Nieto, had financial interests in the recent gas hikes that have sparked protests across the country for the second week in a row.

Energy Minister Pedro Joaquin Coldwell is a shareholder of four of the five gas stations on the Caribbean island of Cozumel in partnership with his sister and two sons.

One of the gas stations was closed down in April 2016 over alleged manipulations of prices, as the station was not providing the amount of diesel customers were paying for, Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity exposed in the official reports by Profeco, the oil watchdog in Mexico. The ruling was appealed.

The investigative paper Aristegui Noticias denounced a conflict of interests even more problematic in the context of the contested gas price hike. “Coldwell is the head of the energy sector in Mexico. As the energy minister, he could access privileged information on the oil business,” said the article.

Coldwell denied any interference in the administration of the four gas stations in an interview with the anti-corruption group, adding he will pass over his shares to a trustee in order to avoid conflicts of interests.