By Mark Stevenson, The Associated Press - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s government proposed a sweeping overhaul of the banking sector Wednesday…
MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s government proposed a sweeping overhaul of the banking sector Wednesday to make credit cheaper and more available, a move desperately needed in a country where bank loans represent less than 20 per cent of GDP — one-tenth the level seen in the United States.
The plan would encourage banks to compete and lend more, create incentives for mid-size companies to list shares on the stock market, and modify bankruptcy laws to make it easier for lenders to seize debtors’ assets.
Critics warned it could launch a wave of foreclosures like those seen in Spain and the United States, while supporters said it is needed to spur banks to lend to Mexico’s credit-starved businesses.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 7:42 AM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – A Canadian tourist has died in the Mexican resort of Cancun.
TORONTO – A Canadian tourist has died in the Mexican resort of Cancun.
Local media reports say the 21-year-old, identified as Sydney Taylor, died early Tuesday after apparently falling about 10 metres from the balcony of her second-floor hotel room.
They say the victim was identified by her Canadian roommate.
By David Agren - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
That boom coming from North America’s southernmost state isn’t just gunfire
A new truck rolls off the assembly line every minute at the GM factory in the conservative Catholic heartland of Mexico’s Guanajuato state. The factory in Silao, set in the shadow of a giant Christ statue considered the geographic centre of the country, produces so many trucks that GM has expanded its workforce by more than 60 per cent since 2008 and has plans to hire even more. The nearby Volkswagen plant just opened a $550-million engine plant and Toyota has announced plans for a facility down the road.
Manufacturing activity is mushrooming across Mexico, mirroring an upswing in the overall economy. The country produced more than 2.8 million cars last year, while factories in border towns like Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez churn out everything from plastic toys to plasma TVs. Manufacturing is now moving back from China—almost as fast as it fled Mexico a dozen years ago—as Asian salaries and shipping costs continue to rise. “This has nothing to do with Mexico,” Ed Juline, head of Guadalajara-based Mexico Representation, a business consultancy, says of the trend. “It has everything to do with China.”
Ten years ago, wages in Mexico were six times higher than those paid in China, but the gap had narrowed to 40 per cent by 2011, according to an International Monetary Fund report. Geography also works in the country’s favour, as companies take advantage of its easy access to U.S. and Latin American markets, where economies are expanding, demanding Mexico’s autos, appliances and advanced electronics.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
The tourist hot spot is full of beaches, warm weather—and debt
Sun, sand and Hollywood stars put Acapulco on the map. Crime, cartels and decapitations sent it to the scandal sheets. Now the granddaddy of Mexican destinations is attracting damaging attention again for a debt so crushing that the municipal government couldn’t pay the severance packages of 500 outgoing police officers. “Acapulco is bankrupt,” new mayor Luis Walton said recently, adding that the debt had soared 394 per cent to $123 million under his predecessor, Manuel Añorve Baños.
The revelations threaten to further ruin the reputation of a city better known for gangland gore. And it’s not the only Mexican municipality confronting problematic public finances and crime. Mexican municipalities now owe a collective $4 billion in debt, according to the federal government, up from almost nothing a decade ago. Analysts attribute it to poor incentives: Mexican mayors serve single, three-year terms with no re-election so they undertake expensive, ornamental projects (like parks and bridges) instead of fixing the waterworks or funding police departments.
How Acapulco spent so much money remains a mystery—Añorve denies the allegations of mismanagement. Little was spent on security, according to Raymundo Díaz, director of an Acapulco human rights group, who says outside the tourist strip patrolled by soldiers are barrios rife with crime and extortion.
By Jane Armstrong - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 12:49 PM - 0 Comments
He’d recently retired to his ‘utopia’ in Mexico, a walled compound in a region he knew well
Ron Lloyd Mackintosh was born Aug. 24, 1948, in Toronto, to Don Mackintosh, an accountant, and Dorine, a homemaker. Ron, an only child, was close to his cousin Dan Sutton, a year his junior. They spent summers at the Mackintosh cottage at Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay, where the boys swam and hiked and camped overnight in tents on the beach.
Ron loved comic books, ghost stories and playing pranks on his cousins. Once, he switched the black licorice sticks Dan hid under his pillow with red pieces. “We couldn’t figure out why the licorice changed to red,” Dan says. “He had us believing that ghosts did it.”
Every Easter, Ron joined Dan’s family in Clearwater, Fla., for a month-long holiday. The cousins swam every day in the motel pool. “He loved the heat,” says Dan. “Always. He hated being cold.”
Ron’s mother was strict with her only son, but Don was more easy-going. Ron and Don played chess and shot pool in the basement of their Eglinton Avenue West house in north Toronto. In the backyard, there was a giant slide, which Ron and Dan polished with waxed paper to make it more slippery. Continue…
By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 11:41 AM - 0 Comments
Gangs target financially successful families in the country’s ongoing drug war
In Mexico, Daniel Balcorta had it good. Three cars, a house with a pool, lavish meals at Cancun’s top restaurants—such were the perks of a successful realtor selling beachfront on the Yucatan coastline. A former professional soccer player, Balcorta had paired minor celebrity with a strong grasp of Internet commerce, and developed a thriving business catering to well-heeled snowbirds from the U.S. and Canada. “I even had a private jet I’d rent to fly around my clients viewing properties,” says the 34-year-old ruefully. “We lived a very comfortable life.”
One call to his cellphone would change that. It was Aug. 14, 2009, and the man with the raspy voice on the other end introduced himself as a representative of “the Company”—gangster-speak for Los Zetas, a notorious criminal cartel known throughout Mexico for drug trafficking and extortion. The time had come for Balcorta to pay, the man said, and the price was 500,000 pesos (about $50,000). “You must have the wrong person,” Balcorta responded, and he promptly hung up.
But the man called back, and thus began a month-long nightmare during which the gangsters called Balcorta and his wife, Maria, no less than 10 times demanding they pay up or else. When the Balcortas stopped answering, the gangsters left voice mails threatening their lives and those of their children, aged 5 and 2. On Aug. 17, Maria took a call at the house in which a man told her the Zetas would kill Balcorta “or a member of your family” unless she persuaded her husband to co-operate. They complained to police—twice—but the calls kept coming. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Famed soccer squad, Chivas, pushes Mexico to rethink what it means to be Mexican
Herculez Gómez was born to Mexican parents, plays pro soccer in Mexico and switches seamlessly between Spanish and English. But he was born in the U.S., and suits up for Team USA when playing internationally—which means he’s not Mexican enough for the fabled fútbol franchise, Chivas.
For decades, the Guadalajara-based club, the country’s most storied and popular team, has strictly adhered to a policy of signing only domestic players. But with mass migration and Mexican attitudes toward foreigners changing—and a domestic league awash with imported stars—the club may be forced to chuck its antiquated approach. After all, “it’s increasingly difficult to find Mexican players that are going to win you the league,” says Guadalajara-based soccer journalist Tom Marshall.
Chivas, whose rabid fan base tops 30 million, hasn’t won a championship since 2006. The on-field futility is fuelling talk of the unimaginable: according to a recent ESPN report, Chivas was interested in Gómez. The football club, in denying the claim, said it would welcome anyone who fit the legal definition of Mexican—though not if they play for another country internationally. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 8:11 PM - 0 Comments
Mexico’s Ambassador Francisco Barrio Terrazas presented the Decoration of the Mexican Order of the…
Mexico’s Ambassador Francisco Barrio Terrazas presented the Decoration of the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle to former Speaker Peter Milliken. It is the highest award a non-Mexican can receive. Milliken was lauded for helping to build relations between Canada and Mexico during his time as Speaker.
By The Associated Press - Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 4:43 AM - 0 Comments
CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico – A big fire erupted at a natural gas pipeline distribution centre near Mexico’s border with the United States on Tuesday, killing 26 maintenance workers and forcing evacuations of people in nearby ranches and homes.
CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico – A big fire erupted at a natural gas pipeline distribution centre near Mexico’s border with the United States on Tuesday, killing 26 maintenance workers and forcing evacuations of people in nearby ranches and homes.
Mexico’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, initially reported 10 deaths at the facility near the city of Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas. Later, the death toll was raised to 26, including a man who was run over when he rushed onto a highway running away from the facility.
Pemex said at a news conference Tuesday night that the fire was extinguished in 90 minutes and the pipeline was shut off. The pipeline carries natural gas from wells in the Burgos basin.
The company’s director-general, Juan Jose Suarez, said four of those killed were Pemex employees and the rest were employed by contractors. He told reporters in Reynosa that 46 other workers were injured, including two hospitalized in serious condition. Suarez said they haven’t found any evidence showing it was an attack.
Company executives said there was a gas leak, followed by an explosion, but the precise cause had not been determined.
“Why there was such leak is something that must be investigated,” said Carlos Morales Gil, Pemex’s director of exploration and production.
Civil protection officials evacuated ranches and homes within three miles (five kilometres) of the gas facility, which is about 12 miles (19 kilometres) southwest of Reynosa.
Authorities didn’t say how many people were evacuated, but the area is sparsely populated, Tamaulipas state’s civil protection director Pedro Benavides told a Televisa station.
The highway that connects Reynosa to the industrial city of Monterrey was closed to traffic, authorities said.
Egidio Torre Cantu, governor of the state of Tamaulipas, sent condolences to the victims’ relatives and vowed to make sure those injured receive help for their recovery.
Pipelines carrying gasoline and diesel in Mexico are frequently tapped by thieves looking to steal fuel.
Several oil spills and explosions have been blamed on illegal taps. But thieves seldom target gas pipelines.
In December 2010, authorities blamed oil thieves for an oil pipeline explosion in a central Mexico city near the capital that killed 28 people, including 13 children. The blast burned people and scorched homes, affecting 5,000 residents in an area six miles (10 kilometres) wide in San Martin Texmelucan.
By Andrew Hepburn - Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 11:18 AM - 0 Comments
Andrew Hepburn is a former hedge fund researcher. He writes on commodities, the stock market and the financial industry – but without the jargon. Follow Andrew @hepburn_andrew
The global financial crisis created its fair share of villains. But it also produced a few superstars, those who saw the crash coming, bet accordingly and made a fortune.
People like Michael Burry, David Einhorn, and Canada’s own Prem Watsa saw their material and reputational worth skyrocket as a result of immensely contrarian investment decisions they made linked to the credit crisis.
Then there’s Agustin Carstens.
Let’s take a brief trip down memory lane.
It’s the summer of 2008. Oil prices are soaring, eventually touching $147 per barrel. Some forecasts predict a continued surge in prices to $200. For oil-producing countries, times are beyond good.
Enter Carstens, minister of finance for Mexico, a major oil producer. As the price of oil remains high even as the global economy deteriorated, he decides that Mexico’s state oil company, PEMEX, should protect itself against the possibility of collapsing energy prices.
So around late August, PEMEX starts buying put options* on its 2009 oil exports. (*Put options are financial insurance contracts. In exchange for a premium, it gives the buyer the right to sell something at a future date at a given price.)
The credit crisis eventually sends crude prices diving, but Mexico has locked in an average price of $70 per barrel for 2009. The options cost $1.5 billion. They produce a windfall of $5 billion.
By macleans.ca - Monday, July 9, 2012 at 1:10 PM - 0 Comments
Poverty down in Canada, Brodeur re-signs with Devils, and drownings mar Canada Day
Taking care of ourselves
Add another star to Canada’s exceptional economic performance during the Great Recession: poverty ﬁgures have actually improved. According to recent income data released by Statistics Canada, the percentage of Canadians living in poverty continues to fall—despite a global financial crisis—hitting an all-time low of nine per cent in 2010. That’s down from 12.5 per cent a decade ago. Single mothers, typically the most prone to poverty, actually reported a slight increase in after-tax income in 2010 compared to the previous year, thanks to generous government transfers and higher employment earnings.
Moving right along
The U.S. Supreme Court’s approval of so-called “Obamacare” is a crucial step forward in America’s ceaseless battle over health care. Lack of basic medical coverage for 30 million Americans has fed into the country’s overall sense of economic insecurity and, flawed though this plan may be, it is time for the U.S. to join the rest of the developed world in ensuring basic health care for all of its citizens. If Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, chooses to make it a ballot question in this fall’s presidential campaign, so much the better: elections are precisely the venue for issues of this magnitude.
By macleans.ca - Monday, June 25, 2012 at 5:45 AM - 0 Comments
“I started making my peace with God,” says Max Young, a sailor from Sacramento…
“I started making my peace with God,” says Max Young, a sailor from Sacramento whose 50-foot boat collided with a breaching whale off the western coast of Mexico. “I thought I was going to die.”
“I could see its head,” the 67-year-old adventurer says of his much-too-close encounter on June 12. “He only had a few barnacles.”
The 55-foot-long whale left Young bailing fast in a sinking boat with the nearest hope of rescue — a merchant ship — 60 miles away.
When he’d all but given up, Young told the AP on Sunday night that he saw the freighter. “I knew I was going to be OK.”
After almost a week on the freighter, the sailor was back on dry land late last week.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
Mexico’s presidential front-runner faces a student uprising in the election’s final days
Just weeks ago, Enrique Peña Nieto seemed to have Mexico’s July 1 election easily in hand. But a series of demonstrations led by students at a posh Mexico City university has shaken the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate’s campaign, putting a significant dent in his lead.
What had been a dull race was turned on its head on May 11, when Peña Nieto was speaking at the private Universidad Iberoamericana, “La Ibero,” as it is known, in Mexico City. Before then, Peña Nieto looked set to crush both Josefina Vázquez Mota, the governing National Action Party (PAN) candidate, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the left-wing PRD, the Party of the Democratic Revolution. But tensions at La Ibero ran high as the audience, some holding signs, criticized his cozy relationship with the media. They erupted when Peña Nieto defended his handling of a 2006 uprising, when he was governor of Mexico State; the case involved incidents of police brutality against civilians. Students booed him out of the auditorium, and PRI officials clumsily rushed to the airwaves to depict the audience as “paid agitators.” Incensed, three students gathered video of 131 attendees flashing their student IDs to prove they were enrolled at La Ibero and posted the result on YouTube.
Soon, calls for others to join the movement—to become the symbolic “No. 132”—spread to Twitter. And so a name was given to the uprising—#yosoy132, Spanish for “I am 132.” The viral reaction was both “surprising and intimidating,” admits Rodrigo Serrano, a communications student at La Ibero who launched the original video from his couch. “The country was angry. And we somehow detonated that anger.”
By Paula Todd - Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
A delegation goes after the region’s strongmen by using the clout of Nobel women
A filthy maze of streets crammed with battered cars and sullen soldiers is at the heart of one of the world’s most dangerous cities, but the first thing Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams does is make herself a target here. In a baseball cap and jeans, she jumps from a rented van and climbs quickly onto a makeshift stage in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa to grab a microphone: “Feliz Día de la Mujer! Happy Women’s Day!” she shouts in fluent Spanish, acknowledging the 57th anniversary of the day Honduran women got the right to vote. “We are here to support you, to celebrate your courage.”
Women and girls of all ages clap and sing before her, while unsmiling men with cellphones hover and a ragtag circus of hawkers, tortilla-makers and red-eyed teens clutching soda bottles of glue watch in dazed curiosity from the sidelines. It’s not every day in this ravaged country, currently ranked No. 1 in the world for murders by the United Nations, and temporarily deserted by the Peace Corps, that two dozen prominent Canadian and American lawyers, analysts, businesswomen, activists, artists and journalists—led by a Nobel Peace Prize winner—commandeer public space. And in this region, where girls dodge a barrage of physical and psychological assaults just to reach womanhood, the air snaps with both exhilaration and anxiety.
“It is very bad no matter what government. Women are always raped, beaten, killed. Always humiliated,” says Francisca Romera, 58, opening her mouth to show smashed teeth bubbling with infection. “I was beaten when I talked against the government.” Nearby, Anna Amader begs for help as her hungry little girl fingers her breast through a thin blouse. “It’s very hard here,” she says. “There is so much crime, gangs. They use guns. I just want my children to go to school.”
By Jane Switzer - Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Honduras bans motorcycle passengers in an effort to curb drive-by shootings
As Mexican drug cartels encroach and homicide rates climb, lawmakers in Honduras approved an unusual plan to curb violent crime: banning motorcyclists from riding with passengers. The law, passed on Dec. 7, temporarily bans pillion passengers for the next six months following two high-profile drive-by murders involving gunmen on motorbikes. On Dec. 6, radio show host Luz Marina Paz Villalobos and her driver were shot dead outside her home in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. The next day, former government security adviser Alfredo Landaverde met the same fate while driving with his wife. According to the United Nations, Honduras has the world’s highest homicide rate at 82 murders per 100,000 people a year—the by-product of drug-related slayings as cartels use the country as a trafficking hub for transporting cocaine from South America to the U.S.
Despite protests that the law punishes low-income citizens who rely on the popular motorbikes for transportation, Tegucigalpa Mayor Ricardo Álvarez told La Tribuna newspaper that in addition to the existing military presence on the streets, the city may need international support to fight violent crime, and that the ban on motorcycle passengers could still be “part of the solution to Honduras’s plight.”
By David Agren - Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 0 Comments
Media darling Enrique Peña Nieto leads the pack in the run-up to the 2012 vote—despite some stumbles
Mexican politicians deliver annual reports known as informes, serving up pomp, pageantry and political theatre. Informes glorify accomplishments and gloss over failures, perhaps making it no surprise that recently departed state of Mexico governor Enrique Peña Nieto—the early front-runner for the 2012 presidential contest—served up some unbelievable crime numbers this fall. Peña Nieto bragged of achieving a 54 per cent reduction in the murder rate between 2005 and 2010—and friendly media outlets trumpeted the claim. “Peña Nieto lowers homicides 50 per cent,” screamed the tabloid La Razón. It took The Economist magazine, however, to take Peña Nieto to task, calling his figures “absolutely false” because a statistical revision in 2007 caused the homicide rate to tumble, and forcing the presidential contender to subsequently issue a rare mea culpa.
Such scrutiny is rare for Peña Nieto, who presented new statistics showing a three per cent decline (during the same years the federal murder rate more than doubled to 21.9 per 100,000 inhabitants). For the most part, his ascent from provincial politician to presidential front-runner has been marked by deft media and crisis management—and, critics allege, plenty of positive coverage from Mexico’s dominant media empire, Televisa. Peña Nieto leads the early polls for the July 1, 2012, election in which his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)—which ruled Mexico for 71 uninterrupted years until 2000—will attempt to regain the presidency. Polling ﬁrm Consulta Mitofsky gives the telegenic Peña Nieto a nearly 30-point advantage over his closest competitor. “He’s emphasized personality more than issues so far,” says George Grayson, Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.
Peña Nieto recently unveiled proposals for economic and structural reforms, many of which PRI lawmakers have actually torpedoed in congress for the past 11 years. And he spent much of his six-year gubernatorial administration, which concluded on Sept. 15, promoting public works projects. “Government that delivers,” boast signs all over his state. He didn’t speak that much about crime during his time in office, even though drug cartels have waged turf wars in the state of Mexico, which surrounds most of Mexico City and contains its grittiest suburbs. The 45-year-old contender’s stated ideas for quelling violence, including gradually withdrawing the military from the streets and generating better intelligence, generally differ little from those of President Felipe Calderón. And he’s rejected the idea of brokering a deal with the deadly drug cartels that are behind most of the country’s violence—although PRI politicians allegedly did just that in past years to keep a lid on crime. It’s something some voters expect will happen again, in spite of Peña Nieto’s statement. “The PRI is returning to put this all under control,” says engineering student Alejandro Mendoza, 22.
By Patricia Treble - Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 10:05 AM - 0 Comments
A pre-dawn visit to the city’s penitentiary uncovers 19 prostitutes, two peacocks, and 100 plasma TVs
Prisoners at Acapulco’s penitentiary didn’t have time to clean house when more than 500 Mexican police officers paid their residence an unannounced pre-dawn visit last week in order to move 60 inmates to other correctional facilities. In addition to 100 plasma TVs, video games and two bags stuffed with marijuana, the officials also discovered 19 prostitutes, two peacocks and six female inmates in the men’s section. As if the place wasn’t crowded enough, more than 100 cockerels, used for popular cockfights, were found on the premises, as well as two peacocks—described as “pets” by Guerrero state spokesman Arturo Martinez.
Acapulco is in the midst of a violent crime wave as rival drug gangs battle for control of the area. Recently, a human rights commission accused the prison, along with others in the state, of being controlled by inmates. It isn’t alone. In July, detainees in the Cereso Hermosillo jail in Sonora state were caught selling $15 rafﬂe tickets for a one-in-200 chance of using a cell fitted out with air conditioning, a full kitchen including appliances, as well as a comfortable bed and even a private toilet.
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 11:05 AM - 1 Comment
With drugs cartels making business difficult to conduct at home, more well-heeled Mexicans are investing in the U.S.
In some regions, the battered U.S. economy is getting a boost from an unusual stimulus—investment from well-heeled Mexicans. Drug violence and gang-related kidnappings have led to an exodus of the wealthy in recent years, as Mexico’s businessmen increasingly seek safety north of the border. As industrial hubs such as Monterrey, Mexico’s third-largest city, watch their entrepreneurs pack, places like San Antonio, Texas, are welcoming a flurry of Mexican investment.
Pouring money into U.S. business projects, especially ones demonstrated to create American jobs, is, in fact, one of the speediest and surest ways to obtain U.S. work permits and green cards. The number of investment visas granted to Mexican citizens has grown 73 per cent between 2006 and 2010, according to the U.S. State Department. Though Chinese applicants still constitute the bulk of investors hoping to land on U.S. shores, rich Mexicans have become a much sought after source of capital in some areas of the southern United States. And though some in the States are questioning a system they say is “selling” residency rights to the wealthiest bidders, most don’t seem to mind Mexico’s new influx of designer sunglasses, private jet airplanes and, above all, job-creating money.
By macleans.ca - Friday, August 26, 2011 at 10:54 AM - 2 Comments
Officials blame drug cartel as violence escalates in the area
Fifty-three people are dead and a dozen more injured after several gunmen burst into a Monterrey, Mexico casino, doused it in gasoline and lit it on fire. Witnesses said armed men told gamblers and employees to leave while they poured gasoline. Many, however, retreated further into the building out of fear, trapping themselves as the flames spread. “This is a sad night for Mexico,” said federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire in a televised address. President Felipe Calderon released a statement on Twitter, calling the incident “an abhorrent act of terror and barbarism.” Monterrey has been the scene of increasing violence as the Zetas and Gulf drug cartels battle for territory in the area. Attorney General Leon Adrian de a Garza said one of the gangs was responsible for the casino attack. The cartels often extort businesses by threatening to attack them or burn them to the ground if they refuse to make payments. In May, the same casino was sprayed with bullets by armed gunmen, but no one was injured. Monterrey’s murder rate has risen precipitously in the past two years. At this rate, killings in 2011 will be double what they were last year.
By David Agren - Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
With the arrival of the wet season, Mexico City’s beleaguered slums are bracing for the inevitable flooding
With the onset of the summer rainy season, Adriana Cornejo moves her furniture upstairs in the blue-collar suburb of Nezahualcóyotl to the east of Mexico City. Here, the heavy precipitation often brings rising flood waters. “It’s like Christmas. You know it’s coming and you get ready,” Cornejo says.
Flooding dates back centuries in Mexico City and its environs, which were built on drained lakes in a high-altitude valley with no natural drainage outlet. But residents and experts say the situation is worsening as changing weather patterns, past political corruption and the pumping of water from aquifers to serve a regional population now topping 20 million causes areas to sink by up to 40 cm per year.
The National Water Commission has warned of the potential for catastrophic floods, which would cover the eastern half of the Mexico City area—turning it once again into a lake. But water-basin management consultant Valente Souza calls that kind of talk “irresponsible.” Still, he argues places like Nezahualcóyotl, which was built by squatters, are unable to drain themselves and will be plagued by worsening floods.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 5:33 PM - 32 Comments
I think my strawberry obsession has gone too far. Let me explain: there’s a green grocer right at the end of my street in the west end of Toronto that sells the plastic packs of California berries side by side with the local pints. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 10:51 AM - 4 Comments
The New York Times fronts today with a long piece about how changing fortunes…
The New York Times fronts today with a long piece about how changing fortunes in Mexico are affecting rates of illegal immigration into the United States. It’s not unambiguously good news, but there’s enough cognitive dissonance in the piece to keep you chewing through the weekend. Here’s the nut graph:
A growing body of evidence suggests that a mix of developments — expanding economic and educational opportunities, rising border crime and shrinking families — are suppressing illegal traffic as much as economic slowdowns or immigrant crackdowns in the United States.
On how the economy is actually getting better:
Jalisco’s quality of life has improved in other ways, too. About a decade ago, the cluster of the Orozco ranches on Agua Negra’s outskirts received electricity and running water. New census data shows a broad expansion of such services: water and trash collection, once unheard of outside cities, are now available to more than 90 percent of Jalisco’s homes. Dirt floors can now be found in only 3 percent of the state’s houses, down from 12 percent in 1990.
And the place is getting better educated:
The census shows that throughout Jalisco, the number of senior high schools or preparatory schools for students aged 15 to 18 increased to 724 in 2009, from 360 in 2000, far outpacing population growth. The Technological Institute of Arandas, where Angel studies engineering, is now one of 13 science campuses created in Jalisco since 2000 — a major reason professionals in the state, with a bachelor’s degree or higher, also more than doubled to 821,983 in 2010, up from 405,415 in 2000.
Similar changes have occurred elsewhere. In the poor southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, for instance, professional degree holders rose to 525,874 from 244,322 in 2000.
It also does not hurt that the US has changed its approach to helping Mexicans immigrate legally:
[The US consular official] insisted that his staff members change their approach with Mexicans who had previously worked illegally in the United States.
“The message used to be, if you were working illegally, lie about it or don’t even try to go legally because we won’t let you,” said one senior State Department official. “What we’re saying now is, tell us you did it illegally, be honest and we’ll help you.”
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
More than 400 bodies have recently been unearthed in northern Mexico
A new practice has emerged that raises the bar for twisted cruelty in Mexico’s bloody drug wars, where beheadings, hangings and shootings are regular occurrences. The Zetas drug cartel is reportedly pitting kidnap victims against each other in gladiator-style battles to the death. The revelation comes from a drug trafficker speaking anonymously in Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle. The trafficker reportedly described how Zetas gang members storm highway buses, kill the elderly, rape the women, and force the able-bodied men to fight in their blood sport. Armed with machetes, hammers or sticks, these victims are forced to fight until one of them is killed, said the trafficker.
The practice has been linked to the discovery of mass graves in northern Mexico, where over 400 bodies have been unearthed in recent months. Meanwhile, 33 people were killed during a 24-hour span in June in the city of Monterrey, where gangs battle for control of drug traffic. Since 2006, more than 35,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug war.
By Nicholas Kohler and Cathy Gulli - Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
A tiny Wolfe at the bathroom door, a flirty old Castro in Cuba and the Times’ new editor needs her red pen
Happy birthday, Mr. President
Turning 80 usually warrants a birthday party. But Cuban President Raúl Castro was hardly celebrated at all. It seems his advanced age is an uncomfortable reminder to many Cubans that their country’s leaders are old—and old-guard. With no young successors in place (the next in line for the job are 79 and 80), Cubans worry that economic reforms now under way will be jeopardized if either Castro or his brother Fidel, 84, take ill. Still, Castro was positively spry on his birthday, asking female reporters: “How do I look, ladies, how do I look at 80? How many old men of 60 are there who aren’t in my shape?”
Three decades after losing her son Terry to cancer, Betty Fox is ﬁghting to stay alive. The Fox family, in the spotlight ever since Terry’s Marathon of Hope across Canada in 1980, released a statement that the matriarch is “seriously ill,” but stressed she does not have cancer. Though details are scarce, she reportedly spent time at a hospice in Chilliwack, B.C. Her last major public appearance was carrying the Olympic flag during the opening ceremonies in Vancouver last year.
By Stephanie Findlay - Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 9:35 AM - 0 Comments
A recent B.C. complaint is the latest in a series of controversies relating to the rights of migrant agricultural workers in Canada
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), a union that represents food industry workers in Canada and the U.S., filed a complaint to the B.C. Labour Relations Board against the Mexican government and a Mission, B.C.-based farm, for allegedly blocking the return of a seasonal Mexican worker to Canada for his involvement in a union. The UFCW claims it has a Mexican government report blacklisting Victor Robles Velez, who had worked the last four years at Sidhu & Sons Nursery Ltd., for his union involvement. “The Mexican consulate has gone to the farms and injected themselves in the democratic process by telling workers and threatening workers that if they unionize or vote for a union they’ll be sent back to Mexico immediately,” says Wayne Hanley, the UFCW president. The hearing for the complaint, filed last month, is expected to take place in the next couple of weeks.
The Mexican consulate in Vancouver and the owners of the farm categorically deny the charges. “Absolutely not, there is no blacklist,” says a consulate spokesperson, adding the consulate has “absolute respect for the workers’ right to join the unions.”
The B.C. complaint is the latest in a series of controversies relating to the rights of migrant agricultural workers in Canada. Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a controversial ban on collective bargaining rights for migrant agricultural workers in Ontario, a decision critics say benefits employers and leaves foreign workers vulnerable. Andy Neufeld, a communications director with the UFCW, says that, if proven, the B.C. complaints have national, even international, consequences. “We’re talking about a government’s interference with their citizens’ rights,” says Neufeld, adding, “It would be surprising if somehow we were special out here in B.C. and this was an isolated incident.”