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Green power to the people

18 June 2022

Over the last few months, English language media (i.e. US and it’s satellite states) has been carping on Mexico’s alleged sins of omission when it comes to dealing with climate change. And… claiming some sort of dictatorship in the making, evidenced by such horrors as reviewing contracts with some Spanish and US “clean energy” providers that did little or nothing when it came to providing promised low cost energy, and much to do with evading taxation and maximizing profits. Even generally pro-Mexican (or, left-leaning) media mentioned the Mexican state as less than ideal when it came to environmental issues. Which is true… but…

… while the biggest US “concern” has been that under new energy regulations here, the US companies complained it was unfair they couldn’t get into the market (basically meaning they couldn’t … as the Spanish firms were doing… producing energy at lower cost, but not paying or underpaying transmission costs (transmission lines being property of the state electrical company, CFE) that lowered the energy costs for their alleged “partners” but inflated their profits.

The complicated scam was based on a “loophole” in the previous energy regulations that allowed for private energy cooperatives, something more like a small solar farm serving a rural community. Instead, what you had were massive wind farms — which did produce power at a lower cost than other sources — adding their load to the CFE transmission lines, but charging their “partners” (including the country’s largest chain of convenience stores) their rates, as if the electricity in each of the several thousands of shops around the country were all getting their electrical power from that specific wind farm.

That, and plants along the border, were not producing electricity, as promised, for the country, but to supply needs, mostly in California.

Both of which were, in the US view (pushed, most amusingly, by Ted Cruz, the Senator from the state known for mismanaged electrical power systems) unfair, and… somehow (I don’t get it)… a violation of the “new NAFTA” USMCA treaty.

All making AMLO some sort of anti-green guy. Add in that he wouldn’t go to the recent Summit of (some of) the Americas, in part in protest against Venezuela’s exclusion, fueling fears that Mexico was going in the “wrong” direction (i.e. out of the US orbit) and two things that we should have noticed were overlooked. The first was that US had dispatched John Kerry to lobby AMLO to attend. A former Secretary of State made some sense on the face of it, but Kerry’s present position is ” United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate”. And… with gasoline prices rising and consumer/voter worries about shortages looming, the Biden administration appeared to be bowing to the inevitable and at least offering to loosen some sanctions on the Venezuelan government, if… please, please, please, it would start selling its oil that the US itself had done everything in its power to prevent the Venezuelans from selling anywhere.

Could it be that… while AMLO wasn’t going to budge when it came to attending that Summit… Kerry wasn’t really shuttling back and forth to Mexico City to talk about that? Or. that the outreach to the Venezuelans is just about sanctioning Russian oil?

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, announced this Friday a series of agreements that guarantee US investment in the energy sector. After months of discreet diplomatic work, meeting were held two weeks ago between the Government and 17 U.S. solar and wind power companies.

López Obrador anuncia acuerdos para garantizar inversiones de EE UU en energías limpias” (El País, 17 June 2022). My translation

The deal was kept under wraps until the “Major World Economies” virtual forum met Friday, which … in addition to opening the Mexican energy market to those 17 companies (one of which has already announced a solar farm in Sonora which will be providing electricity to California as well as locally), Additionally, the Mexican president announced that PEMEX, the state oil company was investing two billion (thousand million) US dollars in reducing methane emissions by 98% in the oil and gas production industry; upgrading 16 hydroelectric plants; and speeding up the time table for converting to renewable energy sources, to 35% by 2024.

Earlier this week, Lopez Obrador had crowed that by next year, Mexico would be self-sufficient in producing gasoline and oil products. Although previous administrations had promised to build new refineries but never did, this one bought out one in Texas, and has another (Dos Bocas, in Tabasco) nearing completion, and a couple more in progress. This means by next year, oil exports will be being cut back, which would affect the US supply (depending on the month, Mexico is the third or fourth largest foreign source for US oil) and, although it had only been seen as something happening in the theoretical future, maybe Mexico will simply stop exporting oil altogether, sooner rather than later. Which, as much as any European war, would make the sudden (so far feeble) attempt to play nice with Venezuela make sense.

Not to poo-poo the idea… but

13 June 2022

“Mexico City will be receiving the first automatic containers to compost dog and cat droppings for future use as biogas or energy…”

Jornada, 13 June 2022

While no government funds are involved (supposedly), the system is supposed to collect poop, and when 70 percent full, send a signal to an electric vehicle which will collect the compost.

Ok.. fine. But this depends on people (I can’t see the dogs cooperating… and cats? Forget it!) uh… dumping… the stuff, which I don’t imagine they’d be willing to save up to make a trip to the composter all that worthwhile. In other words… unless they get their shit together, I’m afraid the eight experimental installations is gonna end up in the crapper.

The Mexican Army marches into Moscow…

9 June 2022

I think that I shall long-time see…

7 June 2022

Out with the old (and dead), in with the new.

The palm tree that stood in the round-about in front of the Mexican stock exchange died at… what for Canarian palm trees… is the perfectly respectable age of 100 or so. It’s been replaced by a relatively youngster… a 20 year old ahueheute (a-who-WHA-tay), aka “Montezuma Cypress”, aka “Taxodium mucronatum” that should be around for a while… they live somewhere between 800 and 1500 years.

Left: Ahuehuete. Right: the palm before it came down.

Authentic Mexican gibberish… from Porfiro Díaz

6 June 2022

Even at the age of 80, one thing you can say about Don Porfirio: the man knew how to obfuscate better than just about any politician ever.

In 1908, the President was interviewed by Filomeno Mata, and asked about a statement published earlier that year in which he had hinted of a possible retirement at the end of his term. Don Porfirio gave a master lesson in how to avoid a straight answer:

The main topic, to which you refer is one which, in my opinion, should not be discussed just now, and if on a recent occasion I made a statement with respect to that subject, it was only the expression of a mere personal desire of mine. You will, therefore, not take it strange if, in answer to your request to be informed as my resolution, I forbear to make it known seeing that so long a time has elapsed before the prospect time for manifesting it arrives.

“President Díaz Makes Statement on Rumors of Coming Candidacy,” Mexico Herald, 28 October 1908

So… uh… yeah.

Since you asked

3 June 2022

My response to a person who asked why those of us who chose to live in countries like this, with a high firearms murder rate, still feel “safe” and are reluctant to go to the US:

It’s cynical to say this, but gun violence in Latin America generally is “rational”… or, perhaps, “transactional”. That is, against those threating some economic or power interest (not just including criminal enterprises, but against those like human rights workers, labor organizers, ex-wives, or environmentalists who threaten those interests. In the US, it’s random, or motivated by less comprehenible personal reasons.

And, it comes down to access to the weapons. Here, they’re limited to those that can afford to get them on the black market and state security appachiks, and there, it’s a free-for-all.

You can’t always get what you want (part 1)

2 June 2022

The president of the United States, Joe Biden, “personally wants” his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to attend the Summit of the Americas, to be held next week in Los Angeles…

Juan Gonzales, US National Security Director for Hemispheric Affairs

Joe, it’s your party, but you can’t order people to attend.

D.E.A. Drug EXPORT Administration?

24 May 2022

Reforma reported this morning that two US Senators, Chuck Grassley (Republican) and Dick Durban (Democratic) have demanded information from the DEA regarding the DEA “investigative unit” closed down at the request (or…demand) of the Mexican government this last year.

Specifically, the Senators want to know the exact dates the unit was in operation, and the details of what led to its closure. They write:

Provide the number of reports of misconduct, broken down by crime category and including reports of waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or corruption, received by the DEA associated with the above unit from the date it was opened to the date it was closed.

According to Grassley and Durban, there are “conflicting” stories about why the unit was closed. DEA “anonymous sources” are saying the closure “destroyed … bridges they we were building over several years”, while the Mexican government claims the unit was infiltrated by criminals.

Also mentioned is a DEA airplane that was taken out of the country after requests from the Toluca airport authorities. Allegedly the DEA needed the plane for their activities (unspecified)

Which raises a question not asked very often. What exactly was the DEA up to in Mexico. Presumably assisting Mexicans in the US sponsored “war on drugs” though… given the record of US government involvement (specifically CIA involvement) in narcotics shipments, and the drop in narcotics exports from Bolivia when that country threw out the DEA, let’s just say, “inquiring minds want to know”.

A grave crime…

21 May 2022

From Regeneration:

Two things I’d like to know. Who buys bones (witch doctors?) and who is buried with a bag of pot?

A 30-year-old man was arrested by Auxiliary Police officers for transporting human remains that he illegally unearthed from a grave in a Iztapalapa cemetery.

According to the Mexico City Prosecutor’s Office, the man identified as José “N” was transporting human remains and other stolen items.

The police officers were on a routine patrol of the cemetery when they observed the man removing objects from a grave. When the officers approached him to ask if he had authorization to be in the place, the man claimed to be a cemetery workers, but was unable to verify it.

After searching his belongings, officers found 12 possibly human bones, seven metal crosses and a plastic bag with apparent marijuana.

According to some testimonies, the events occurred on April 26. One of the three criminal groups that steal and sell human remains in cemeteries in this demarcation could be responsible for the events.

Inquiring minds want to know: Who buys bones? And was somebody buried with a bag of pot?

Not coincidental

21 May 2022

More than 100,000 people have disappeared in Mexico since records started being kept in 1964 — but most victims were added to the list after 2006.

Latin American Daily Briefing (May 20, 2022)

For those with short term memory loss, 2006 was the start of “Plan Merida”, the US sponsored and financed “War on Drugs” meant to shore up the (probably illegitimately elected) Calderón Administration. Crime rates have been slowly dropping since 2018 under the present administration, although… obviously… still much too high.

Farewell to arms (imports)?

20 May 2022

A quicky machine translation from Proceso:

MEXICO CITY (appro).- The Secretary of National Defense (Sedena), Luis Cresencio Sandoval González, announced that the possibility of the institution manufacturing weapons for state police in the country is being analyzed.

In this way, control of the institutional arsenal can be guaranteed and the dependency they have on foreign companies that sell long and short weapons, as well as ammunition for police corporations in the 32 entities that make up Mexico, can be avoided, he said.

“There is a project within our military industry that in this administration has increased the capabilities of our military industry and we have thought as a project that at some point, once all the infrastructure in Oriental, Puebla is completed, we could do the analysis to have the possibility of manufacturing weapons, as we currently do for our institution”, explained the military chief.

In the morning conference, Sandoval González said that in the event that the weapons manufacturing project in Sedena materializes, the main objective will be arms control and cut dependence on foreign manufacturers that sometimes take up to a year to supply requests from the Mexican government.

There might be some real benefits to this… besides reducing dependence on foreign imports. Mexico had a munitions industry up into the 1970s and was known for innovative and particular lethal arms: the “automatic rifle” (grand-daddy of the AK-47 and M-16) are just variants on the Mondragon 1910 gas-powered rifle that saw use from the First World War up through its use by some units of the Viet Cong in the 1970s); the Obregon rotating pistol; the Trejo pistol (Trejo is still in business, making tricycles and farm machinery) taken out of production because it was too good.

So it’s not like the technical ability isn’t here, and like it or not (and no one does) there is going to be a need for some people to have some firearms.

But controlling the manufacturing might have some advantages. Mexico¡s lawsuit against US arms manufacturers seems to have dropped off the radar, and might not go anywhere. HOWEVER, if Mexico’s legitimate market is limited to those manufactured by the state, there is no reason to allow the import of ANY foreign weaponry, one assumes, “legitimate” imports being diverted accounts for at least a percentage of the illegal weaponry floating around. And, there would be nothing to making the only legitimate weapons in Mexico incompatible with foreign weapons (I donno… different sized ammunition?) could make it more difficult for those with “off-the-books” weaponry to use them.

It might be worth the risk.

Inventing “race”

17 May 2022

In the Americas, we’re forced… or rather in the habit… of thinking of “race” in broad terms, “white”, “black”, “indigenous american”, “asian”… though for most of the hemisphere, it’s a mix and match. A very different interpretation… and catagorization… of who was what “race” when what we call “white people” first appeared in this part of the world. For them, being a Castilian, or Norman, or English, was a different “race” than being a Basque, or a Gascon, or Irish. While the various colonial states (Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, Dutch) might lump their migrant class together (and expand the definition when it suited them), and lump the indigenous people into a single “race” as “Indians”, to justify not including those “migrants” who came against their will required a new way of thinking of people, new categories of (mis)understanding.

“Bad Empanada” (an Australian? in Argentina) is not my favorite commentator on Latin America, but his lecture on the “invention” of the white (and black) “races”… and “race” is well argued, and worth considering:

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