Skip to content

Tennis (Court Oath) Anyone?

21 March 2017

DRAT! The “powers that be” thought they’d pull a fast one when, during the course of turning the Federal District into a State, they packed the Constituent Assembly by cutting down the number of citizen-elected representatives, and assigning more seats to the President (and, by default, his party) and our neo-liberal “mayor”. If there was a “conspiracy”, it was to weaken the Federal District’s quirky insistence on being out of step with the rest of the nation… consistently voting for the left, and passing more progressive legislation that only slowly makes its impact felt on the rest of the nation. In other words, the hope was to preserve the status quo.

Intislly, there was just a feeling that the exercise was simply a bit of legislative finagling, without much meaning to the average citizen. However, as Bernardo Bátiz V. writes, things didn’t quite turn out as expected, and that’s all to the good.

An historic break

(Jornada, 20 March 2017  My translation)


Mexico City’s new Constitution is an important and historical document., despite the lack of e interrest in the electoral process by which the 60 deputies were elected to the Constituent Assembly, in addition to those appointed, Only about a third of potential voters went to the polls. But,, once the assembly was in place, various non-governmental organizations, indigenous communities, neighborhood associations, merchants and others, together with many individual citizens, became increasingly interested in the various issues on the agenda and participated in discussions alongside the deputies.

All who asked to be heard were received; Innumerable groups and agencies presented their points of view, objections and contributions. The Indigneous Peoples’ and Original Communities committee held the most wide-ranging consultations, and was recognized for their work by the United Nations. Citizens of diverse political tendencies, from the far right to the far left, thronged Plaza Manuel Tolsá to lobby deputies as they headed from committee meeting in the Palacio de Minería to the Xicoténcatl Hall, hand us leaflets, petitions and even some drawings of late gestation fetuses…

Experts agree that it has been a very long time since a debate of this magnitude has taken place in Mexico outside of parliamentary groups; There was no coordinating comittee that took decisions behind closed doors to be simply ratified by the plenary: the consultations were just that, a place to listen to opinions and arguments, but never to make definitive decisions. Of the ten parliamentary factions in the Assembly, none cast unaminous votes. Within each, there were discussions and disagreements.

The result, celebrated by all, is a novel and advanced document, even though given the heterogeneity of the 100 participants it did not turn out to be an impeccable text from the grammatical or literary point of view. It is, instead, a signpost for what the people of Mexico expect.

The Mexico City Constitution represents a historical break with the neoliberal line of constitutional and legislative changes os the last 25 or 30 years.Indeed, the reforms to the federal and local constitutions and changes in secondary legislation during this period favored neoliberals, the most significant being the “Pact for Mexico” which gave shape to the [Peña Nieto administration’s] structural reforms.

Legislation, from Salinas to Peña, has tended to favor transnational corporate interests and the protection of private initiative The Mexico City Constitution breaks with that, moving towards a law with more social content, and restroring the concept of social law places the supreme value of society, not on the competition so dear to neoliberals, but on collaboration, solidarity and the concepts of equality and social justice.

The present leaders of the system, the unreading rulers of the country, do not know history. They are unaware that the French Revolution overthrew a 900-year-old dynasty after Louis XVI summoned the Estates General never imagining it would end in the Tennis Court Oath. Louis never dreamed that the representatives of the Estates General along with some from the nobility and the clergy would assume their responsibility as representatives of the nation and would not be content to passively accept the mandates of their lords and betters. As representatives of the nation they tried the king, changed the regime, abolished the titles of nobility and changed history.

The capital’s constituent assembly also took our role seriously. We approved an advanced document only after much work, and many debates. The powerful of the regime, who fight against it now, despite the fact that it was they who called the assembly in the first place, are frightened by the change of course, an outbreak of humanism and solidarity so contrary to neoliberal legislation.

They did not expect what happened; For not reading history, did not learn that people get tired, change, correct and straighten directions. The neoliberalism imposed on us from the outside is not the best for the development and happiness of the Mexican people; The capital is giving the signal for the change of course;The constituents were only their interpreters and that can not be supported by the guardians of the economic interests of the potentates.This is the only way of explaining such an excessive and well-concerted raid against the Magna Carta of progressive Mexico City.

Saving the rain forest, one chew at a time

20 March 2017

Chewing gum…  sustainable agriculture, and tropical rainforest protection all benefitting worker-management … what’s not to like?


Why I don’t like the word ‘expat’

19 March 2017

Calling oneself an ‘expat’ encourages a certain mentality and way of behaving, a sense of superiority and entitlement which we have to be vigilant of and challenge in ourselves and others. At a time when immigrants are being scapegoated, locked up and deported around the world, from LA to Rome to London, immigrants – regardless of the colour of our passports – have an absolute moral duty to stand up for one another.

Source: Why I don’t like the word ‘expat’


17 March 2017

Occupational hazards…

10 March 2017


Mexfiles has been amused and bemused by former Chihuahua governor Patricio Martínez’ semi-quixotic (though perfectly logical) demand for the return of some lands to Mexico that appear to have been ceded to the United States through surveying error, but he’s not nearly as ambitious (or as quixotic, perhaps) as the grand old man of the left, 82-year old Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solózano.

Martinéz merely points out that an estimated 85,000 hectares (about 280 square miles) of Arizona and New Mexico, surveyed in the 19th century (under frontier conditions).  The survey’s following the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (which has had to be tweaked a few times because of changes in the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo river-bed) overlooked a 8,130 Ha. rectangle in the corner of New Mexico, which Martinéz holds more accurate surveys would show belong to Chihuahua.  The surveys to determine the line of the Mesilla territory (sold to the United States in the Gadsden Purchase of 1855) he believes were purposely done incorrectly, to create a long triangular addition to the state of Arizona, totalling 75,636 Ha.


Martinéz appears to be perfectly serious about his claims, and is actively seeking new surveys using the most advanced techniques to prove or disprove his claims.  Amusingly enough, Donald Trump’s bids for a “great, great wall” presume that such surveying will become necessary, and quite possibly prove Martinéz right… vastly complicating any plans for the”Great Wall of Stupid”.

How serious Cárdenas is, I can’t say, but he is the grand old man of gestures.  Accompanied by his attorney, Cárdenas presented demands to abrogate the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo under which, according to the demand, was based on illegal actions by General Santa Anna and subsequently have never had the force of law. Returning California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona,  large chunks of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming to Mexico not exactly being likely, the demand proposes that the United States pay an indemnity based on 168 years of occupation, and lost income.

With interest, that’d add up to…. a zillion dollars?

To dream,, the impossible dream, to fight, the unbeatable foe….

Does money grow on trees?

10 March 2017

The new General Law on Sustainable Forest Development, passed in the Chamber of Deputies on March 7, opens forests and “associated resources” to commerical development. The measure received the support of the center and right of center parties: the PRI and PAN majority, with support from the smaller New Alliance, Green, and Social Encounter parties.

Photo: Raul Miranda

The center-left to left parties, PRD, Citizens’ Movement and Morena objected, on the grounds that “associated resources” includes wild animals and plants, as well as water, which coexist in a forest ecosystem. Furthermore, with the legislation making “sustainable forest develoment” a priority area of economic development, it requires looking at forest ecosystems in terms of immediate value. From the opposition point of view, this opens the door to seeming forests as a source of profit, not as a ecological reserve for future generations.

Citizens’ Movement deputies also objected to wording in the bill that undoes a land use regulation passed only last year, that prohibits development of burned over forestsfor at least 20 years, meant to allow the damaged ecosystem to regenerate. Under the new bill, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMANAT) could simply could authorize fire-damaged forests as “regenerated” at any point, allowing for non-forest related commerical development .

However, the majority claims the legislation will open the door to privately managed forest ecosystems, that provide a permanent income source and improve the living conditions of the owners and dependents. generating sufficient resources to meet social, industrial and export demands for forest products

The approved bill defines forestry related business to include all natural resources in a forest… presumably allowing for mining and other extractive industries, and allows for cultivation of forest species of commerical value on land set aside for agriculture.
The new law, which was sent to the Senate for discussion, grants state governments the authority to promote the participation of public, private and nongovernmental organizations in projects that directly support sustainable forest development.

Source: Regeneración, 10 March 2017


Sugar, sugar…

8 March 2017

U.S. sugar consumption ranks third in the world behind India and the EU. The U.S. has the world’s third largest population of 274 million and the largest and most diverse food processing industry. Despite a trend toward greater self-sufficiency in sugar production, the U. S. remains one of the world’s largest net sugar importers – – only the Russian Federation and Japan are higher.

The North American Sugar Market:  Recent trends and prospects beyong 200 (FAO, 1997)

The single most important source for all that imported sugar? Why, Mexico of course: in January of this year, 110,000 metric tons of the stuff. By contrast, the second largest US foreign supplier, Brazil, exported 28,389 metric tons (USDA figures). With nearly all sugar destined for the food processing industry (although also used for producing alcohol, both for drinking and industrial use, pharamceuticals and some plastic substitutes), a sudden sugar shortage could effect food prices within a very short time.

Which is likely now to happen. Imported Mexican sugar is cheaper in the United States than domestic sugar, which was good for processors and consumers, but bad for US sugar growers. Growers complained that Mexico was subsidizing sugar exports (just as Mexico complains the US subsidizes corn exports) so…

The U.S. Commerce Department ruled in September [2015] that Mexico was subsidizing its sugar imports, allowing exporters to dump product into the U.S. at 40 percent below market prices. In order to avoid U.S. retaliatory tariffs, Mexico signed onto a “suspension agreement” that would limit Mexican shipments.

The agreement worked in the sense that overall Mexican sugar exports dropped, but it failed in another way. Mexico began exporting more sugar that could go straight to the U.S. market or to melt houses, bypassing U.S. refiners and cutting them out of the process and profits. Melt houses are able to take sugar that is not fully refined, liquefy it and then run it through a fairly basic processing to make it suitable for human consumption.

The results have been shrinking margins for U.S. refiners, according to sources who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of negotiations now being held between the U.S. and Mexico.

“It’s creating a problem for U.S. cane refiners that don’t get enough raw sugar,” one source said. “The consequences you can see in the market is that raw (sugar) prices have gone up dramatically because cane refiners are competing for relatively scarce raw cane supplies. And the refined price has been dropping sharply since (the U.S. market) has been inundated with Mexican sugar.” In other words, refiners are getting hit twice – first by a lack of available raw sugar to refine and then by lower refined sugar prices.

“The U.S. government regards that as a problem, so they’re looking at ways to make some modifications to the suspension agreement,” another source said.

In other words, despite the “suspension agreement” (meaning Mexico would limit sales in the United States) Mexican sugar was still cheaper than US sugar, and by refining the suger in Mexican before export, it cut into another US business. So, the suspension agreement was again modified.

To protect US sugar and refinery interests,the agreement “suspends” imports from Mexico if they exceed a 820,000 metric tons in a fiscal year. If Mexico goes over the quota, it has to cut exports by 40% and pay a high tariff that gives domestic sugar a market advantage. But given the demand for sugar in the United States, the quota for Fiscal Year 2016/17 has already been filled. So… rather than pay a tariff, Mexico is just holding back shipments. This being the harvest season for sugar in Mexico, and most sugar in the United States being beet sugar (harvested in the fall), the looming sugar shortage will leave the food and beverage industry, as well as other industries that depend on sugar, forced to compete for higher priced imports from non-NAFTA countries, or the small supply of US-grown cane sugar. Meaning higher prices for food and other commodities.

All this could have been worked out, but in a rather neat way, Donald Trump is to blame. While his top cabinet post nominations have been controversial at best, focus on those nominations has meant overlooking the thousands of other presidential appointments that need to be made (or made by cabinet secretaries). Changes in the suspension agreement, or even working out a fine, would involve negotiations between the Mexican Secretería de Economia and the United States Department of Commerce officials. The Mexican officials are in place. Although there is a US Secretary of Commerce, no one is at home in the office the Mexicans need to talk to.

Sweet, huh?