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Anything not nailed down

7 December 2019

Cactus thieves in the news.

Ana Luisa Casas “Saquean extranjeros desierto coahuilense” (Zocalo, 2 December 2019):

Saltillo, Coah.- In the last month alone, Profepa (Mexico’s Environmental Protection Agency) and PGR (Federal Prosecutor’s Office) in Torreón seized 17 bonnetes (Jacaratia mexicana) and 25 noas (Agave victoriae-reginae) endemic plants in danger of extinction. 

Other plant species have been seized after being illegally extracted from the Coahuila desert, by people from Japan, Germany and the United States, as well as people searching for alternative medicines, and curanderos.

BOLO: Agave victoriae-reginae

Rubén Rojas, director of the Plant Curatorship at the Museo de Desierto (Mude), that such looting fractures the desert ecosystem, since each plant is a link in the environment..

According to the biologist, the majority of those robbing plants do so for reproduction in foreign countries and for medical use, although MUDE laboratories make tissues or seeds available for conservation or transfer and there is no need to extract plants from the field.

“If we lose that species in Coahuila, the intricate function of the ecosystem loses one more link.  Although there are plants with medicinal properties such as peyote, their looting is an unreported issue that needs to be regulated by the authorities, while the collection of some cacti needs to be eradicated, “Rojas Meléndez said.

Arturo González, director of the MUDE also lamented the “unfortunate looting.”

“Mexico has 70% of all the world’s cacti, incredible plants that have healing benefits, which generate very interesting chemistry that could mean important cures,” he said.

“It is not necessary to depopulate the deserts, but to go with an expert who says how you can get it, as we become the main predators of our own deserts,” he added.


Believe it… or not?

3 December 2019

The story of Alfredo N. … a 17 year old student, claiming he was abducted, taken to a secret camp in the mountains of Guerrero to “recruited” as a cartel hit-man... sounds like something out of a bad movie, although…

… gangsters have been known to kidnap people for a disposable labor force before, and forced levies are not unknown in Mexican history, although normally, it has been the government or political insurgents who resort to it.  Comparing gangsters to a FARC (the photo accompanying the story is from a story published in the Argentinian newpaper La Nacion back in September 2018, about FARC), just gives support to those who would prefer the Mexican gangsters be seen as “terrorists”, and not… as they should be… just as another mafia.  I expect Alfredo’s story will be appearing soon in the less reputable reaches of the English language media… The Daily Mail, Breitbart, etc.  Stay tuned.

However, if the story is true, in a way it gives hope that some missing and disappeared young people may yet be found alive (Alfredo claims to have seen groups like his, of 10 to 30 young adults in several camps, or rather, abandoned villages), And, if true, it might mean that the new government strategy of going after the gangsters’ financial resources is working, and the gangsters are unable to provide the incentives they once did to willing recruits, and have to rely on untrained, reluctant “draftees”.

Cartels, Lithium, and the Devil in the details

28 November 2019

“Never let a disaster go to waste” is the mantra of neo-liberal politicians.  That the murder of nine dual national US-Mexican citizens, never mind that they have always been considered “shady” and outsiders in both cultures, has been both an admitted disaster (by the Mexican authorities and by the presumed assailants) but given the location, and the timing, it would be impossible not to note the “advantages” some see in not letting this disaster go to waste.

Translated from Zosíma Camacho, “¿Cuál es el interés de los gringos en Sonora: el narco o el litio?, Contralinea, 27 November 2019.

Will the United States soon remain on the sidelines when the world’s largest lithium deposit in the world is just a few kilometers from its southern border, coincidentally close to where the LeBaron clan women and children were recently slaughtered?

The indescribable crime of November 4 generated a worldwide notic and opened a rift between the Mexican government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the US government of Donald Trump.

Photo: Mining Technology

The latter precipitously proposed a war of extermination against the Mexican cartels. The Mexican government did not accept such a proposal, although it had to, while careful to reiterate its national sovereignty, accept United States participation in the investigation. It is necessary to remember that the members of the Mormon community to which the LeBarón belong have dual nationality: Mexican and American.

Thus, on Monday, November 11, a caravan of 50 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) SUVs, with an undetermined number of agents, arrived in Sonora to investigate the bloody attack. The Mexican government has stated that all procedures are carried out in the presence of, and with the consent of, the Mexican authorities. They also indicated that the FBI agents cannot carry weapons in Mexico.

Meanwhile, LeBarón family members went to Washington to speak with the US president. In an open letter, they have asked the United States to designate the Mexican drug cartels as “terrorists”. There are already proposals by Republicans in Congress to approve such a measure, and Trump himself announced that he is also cosidering such a move.

It should be noted that US legislation justifies the action of troops and agents, open and undercover, wherever there are terrorist organizations. And it does not consider it necessary to have the agreement of the governments of those countries.

On the other hand, lithium has become one of the most coveted minerals in the world. It is already the cause of one of the biggest disputes between the various economic (and military) powers. As is known, lithium is the main element for the manufacture of batteries and other cell phone accessories, computers, electric cars, airplanes, spacecraft, submarines … needed for a variety of scientific, technological, and military developments.

Whoever ensures the supply of this mineral will also ensure the victory of an arms, economic, scientific, and technological race between five main competitors: the United States and China at the top and in a second block near Russia, Israel and the United Kingdom.

The coup in Bolivia, where the world’s largest untapped reserves are likely to be, may be the result of this dispute, as the deposed president, Evo Morales has said.

On August 30, the powerful Mining Technology group revealed which are the 10 largest lithium mines in the world . In first place is the Sonora lithium project, a joint venture between of Bacanora Minerals (30%) and Cadence Minerals (70%) .

The mine is estimated to hold proven and probable reserves of 243.8Mt, containing 4.5Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). The bankable feasibility study for the project has been completed, which estimates a mine life of 19 years.

Sonora is proposed to be an open-pit operation being developed in two stages with the first stage having a production capacity of 17,500 tonnes per annum (tpa) of lithium carbonate. Stage two will double the production capacity to 35,000tpa.

The other nine lithium deposits in operation are in Thacker Pass (Humboldt, Nevada, United States), with proven and probable reserves of 179.4 million tons; Wodgina (Port Hedland, Western Australia), with 151.94; Pilgangoora (Pilbara, Western Australia), with 108.2; Earl Gray (Greenstone, Forestania, Holland, Western Australia), with 94.5; Greenbushes (Western Australia), with 86.4; Whabouchi (James Bay, Quebec, Canada), with 36.6 tons; Pilgangoora (Pilbara, Western Australia), with 34.2; Goulamina (Bougouni, Mali), with 31.2, and Arcadia (Harare, Zimbabwe), with 29.8 million tons.

The Mexican project is already well underway, having received concessions during the Peña Neito administration. Exploitation set to begin in 2020. But who will exploit it? As we said, the Sonora Lithium is located in the municipality of Bacadéhuachi, in the high mountains of Sonora, in the same region where the LeBarón were attacked and where drug traffickers have operated for decades. The region is largely controlled by the armed “Gente Nueva” gang’s “Los Salazar” faction, tied to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Bacanora Minerals, which will operate the mine is based in Canada, listed on the London Stock Exchange, its capital coming from the governments of Oman and China. This company has no other business or presence in any other part of the world.

On October 15, the Chinese company Ganfeng Lithium bought 29.99 percent of Bacanora Minerals’ shares and Wang Xiaoshen, vice president of Ganfeng, was immediately appointed director of the company.

It is estimated that the Sonora Lithium project, with 100,000 hectares, has a value of 1.253 bullion US dollars.

On the QT, and right under Uncle Sam’s nose, the Chinese are preparing to exploit the most important open-pit lithium deposit in the world. The massacre gives a pretext to Donald Trump to set foot in Sonoran territory. By declaring the cartels “terrorists” he can do both.

Maybe it’s not “poisonous oil” with which we receive messages from the devil, as the poet Ramón López Velarde* had it. Lithium may be attracting attracting a host of new demons.


El Niño Dios te escrituró un establo
y los veneros del petróleo el diablo.

The Son of God wrote from a stable,
with the devil’s poisonous oil.

From “La suave patria”At the time of its publication, 1921, the Mexican Revolution was just consolidating although the United States and Great Britain, both having major corporate investments in Mexican oil (Mexico being the second largest producer in the world at the time), were threatening interventions, and demanding special economic rights in the county. The oil fields until the 1930s, were being protected FROM the Mexican government by a mercenary army.

Terrorists? Sound and fury, signifying nothing

28 November 2019

Donald Trump’s “plan” to designate Mexican “cartels” as terrorists seems to have more to do with his own country’s domestic politics than with any imminent drone attacks on wedding parties back in the hills of Sinaloa.  Although, you can’t blame people here for starting to keep one eye on the sky… just in case.

First of all, Mr. Trump’s statement (on Bill O’Reilly’s “No Spin News”… a radio podcast program) suggested he’d been working with Mexico “for the last 90 days” on a plan to send drones.  But somehow no one heard of these discussions, including the Mexican government, until a few members of the extended LeBaron community, made a statement calling the gangsters who apparently killed some members of their family, mistaking them for rival gangsters, in a widely disseminated (and endlessly facebook posted) letter, referred to the killers as “terrorists”… about a week ago, not three months ago.  Somehow… while I wouldn’t be surprised that the United States Army has some plans on a back shelf to invading Mexico (and probably has since the botched “Punitive Expedition of 1916”) … I doubt this was much on the mind (does he even have a mind) of Mr. Trump 90 days ago, let 90 minutes before the LeBaron massacre made the Mormon separatists into all American victims.

But as to the “terrorist” designation. It seems like Manifest Destiny that the United States can decide what other countries should or shouldn’t do about groups in their own country that the United States “designates” as a threat, but let that pass. That the terrorist label allows the United States to forbid contact with the so designated group, and can prosecute those doing business with them is the same thing it does when it comes to criminal organizations now.  The only difference is that “terrorists” are pursued by the Department of Defense, whereas the Department of Justice goes after “criminals”.   What this suggests is less that the Trump Administration is looking to stop drug dealers than it is looking to continue militarizing law enforcement, perhaps beefing up paramilitary units like the Border Patrol and using Defense Department funds for “hardening the border”… popular to his domestic supporters, but not of much use when it comes to either stopping the flow of narcotics to willing US consumers, or, for that matter, the slaughter of Mexicans who get crosswise with the gangsters.

And, it’s not like the US doesn’t already find legally plausible excuses when it invades Mexico (as in 1876, 1892, 1914, 1916), or that the US hasn’t had “embedded” agents here before… notably during Calderón’s “war on kingpins” that accomplished nothing except drove the homicide rate sky high.  But rather, those incursions have gone spectacularly wrong.  The incursions of 1876 and 1892 were small affairs, supposedly to hunt “bandits” (although really to pursue would-be rebels against Porfirio Diaz) or to “help” Mexico (as in the 1914 invasion of Veracruz to stop the shipment of arms to the Huerta dictatorship).  And, given the last two military incursions, in 1914 and 1916, the US could expect resistance… not from those it sought to destroy so much as from, well, everyone.

In 1914, the German ship carrying weapons to supply Huerta’s federal army simply unloaded down the coast, while in Veracruz ordinary citizens, the Federal Army, the Naval cadets, armed convicts released from prison fought the invaders, and once the US Marines had captured the port, they found their presumed beneficiaries, the Constitutionalists led by Venustiano Carranza, were hardly grateful, publicly announcing they would ally themselves with Huerta to drive out the invaders.  In 1916, again under the claim of hunting bandits (Pancho Villa, having fallen from the grace of the Wilson Administration, being conveniently re-dubbed a “bandit”). the US Army did little other than split the Mormon community, beat and torture some campesinos, and rather embarrassingly lose the only battle they ended up fighting… not with the “bandits” but with the Mexican Army, their putative ally, in the small town of Carrizal, Chihuahua.

We’re already seeing a hint of what might be coming should the US even make noises about an incursion with hugely popular demands floating around the internet to strip the LeBaron colony of their citizenship and expel them from the country for their “treason” in appealing to the United States President for assistance, and serious questions being asked about the loyalties of those PAN governors in the border states who remain friendly with US law enforcement officials.

Of course, the United States has tanks, and drones, and.. hell,… NUKES… at its disposal, but   if they were serious about “fighting the cartels” they’d release their said to be incorruptible police forces… the FBI; the DEA, the IRS, the ATF… on their allies of the cartels in the United States.  Sure, they can lock up all the drug dealers they want, but until they go after the money and the weapons, more incidents like those that befell the LeBarons are going to happen, with or without US drone attacks.

Food fight… sorta

25 November 2019

The Museo de Arte Moderno indeed does forbid bringing in food or drink to their exhibit halls, but what’s a baby to do?  What’s a mother to do?

When security removed a patron the other day for feeding her baby in the exhibit hall, it sent some titters through the mom-and-baby community, leading to civil disobedience by forty babies and their mothers.

Just keeping you abreast of the latest demonstration here in Mexico City.

Photo: Carlos Paul for La Jornada

” Potosí: The Silver City That Changed the World”, by Kris Lane — IKN

25 November 2019

One of the most interesting places in all the continent* and a must visit for anyone connected to mining, the town of Potosí in Bolivia has a history like no other. A new book is out on the story and kind reader GB put this link to the NY Review of Books critique of author…

via ” Potosí: The Silver City That Changed the World”, by Kris Lane — IKN

A government for, of, and by, morality?

22 November 2019

Rebecca West, writing of the Conquest, famously said, “This is not a moral universe”, which has never stopped anyone from dreaming of the possibility of … if not universal morality, a moral society at least.

Alfonso Reyes, the son of the general originally tapped to replace Don Porfirio (and killed in the opening salvo of the “Ten Tragic Days”… the street battle that raged in 1913 when Huerta staged a coup against the democratically elected president Franciso Madero) who, despite his anti-revolutionary antecedents, went on to a distinguished career serving the Revolutionary republic as a diplomat, although he was primarily a philosopher.

Having witnessed, and as a survivor, of the fratricidal Revolution, and the violence that swept the country during and after, as well as, from his diplomatic posts, the horrors of the Second World War, he turned his attention to the problem of creating a just, equitable, and peaceful society, able to live with itself, and with humanity.

He presented his thoughts in a short (about 7500 words) document of 14 chapters, in the “Moral Primer”… Cartilla Moral… published in 1944.  Although clearly influenced by his own devotion to Roman Catholicism, he attempted in the first 12 chapters to outline a universal code for all peoples, at all times, everywhere.  The last two are a summary… the bullet points of his presentation (my translation below).

Next week López Obrador’s plan to work towards, if not a moral universe, or even a moral society, is being released next week.

Already a “best seller” (I already ordered my copy), Hacia una Economía Moral, looks to trying to work towards Reyes’ “The good” by way of, among others Marx and Engels.  Echoing Engels’ eulogy at Marx’s funeral, AMLO notes that until one’s need for food, clothing, shelter, and transportation are met, one cannot aspire to more cultural, ethical, educational development.  How then, to meet the economic needs that will allow for creating a moral society, one that, as Reyes hoped, led to a peaceful, just, and happy society?

Reyes was a theorist, not a policy maker.  That the president, elected on a promise to change government and radically redirect the state, is presenting an economic plan in the form of a moral text is, in itself, possibly unique.  Certainly, policy makers present their plans as being more ethical, or.. if you will… moral, than other plans, but usually just as an additional rationale to pursue policy X as opposed to policy Y.  Not as the most basic reason for the electorate to back what looks to be a much deeper and long-reaching change to a post neo-liberal economic and social system.

One expects the book will be endlessly reviewed in the Mexican media and parsed by both economists and the intellectuals.  I assume also, there will be discussion among both the foreigners here, and those with an interest in alternatives to the present political/economic systems.  AMLO’s several books have all been relatively short works, usually under 150 pages, but there is no way I can translate it myself.  If there is interest in “crowd-sourcing” a translation, we could have a PDF or e-book translation out within about two weeks of original publication. 

Cartilla Moral (Resumen)

SUMMARY: PART ONE (Chapter 13)

Man is superior to the animals because he has a conscience.

Good should not be confused with what suits our taste or is to our benefit. To the good we must sacrifice everything.

If men were not capable of the good there would be no human person, no family, no country, no society.

The good is the set of our moral duties. These duties are the obligation of all men and all peoples. Disregard for these duties is evil.

Evil carries its its own punishment in shame itself and in the dismissal of our fellow men. When the evil is serious, it is additionally punishable by laws with penalties ranging from compensation to death, through fines and imprisonment.

The satisfaction of doing well is the most firm and true happiness. That is why we speak of the “dream of the righteous.” He who has a clear conscience sleeps well.

In addition, he lives happy with himself who asks little of others.

Society is founded on the good. It is easier to live according to the laws than outside the laws. It is better business to be good than to be bad.

But society to function well, there is a sacrifice which we cannot avoid. For personal happiness, one must consider the common happiness of humanity in achieving the good.

The good forces us to act righteously, to tell the truth, to conduct ourselves with right intention. But it also forces us to be neat and decent, courteous and benevolent, industrious and accomplished at work, respectful of others, solicitous in the help we can give. The good also obliges us to be discreet, well mannered and educated as much as possible.

The best guide for the good is natural goodness. We all have the instinct for goodness. But this instinct must be completed with moral education and with the culture and acquisition of knowledge. Good intentions are not enough.

SUMMARY: PART TWO (Chapter 14)

Human morality is the code of the good. Morality forces us to a series of respects. These respects are contained within others. They range from respect to those closest to those furthest from us.

First, respect for our person, body and soul. Respect for our body teaches us to be clean and moderate in natural appetites. Respect for our soul summarizes all the virtues of spiritual order.

Second, respect for the family. This respect goes from the son to the father and from youngest to eldest. The child needs help and advice from the father and the elder. But also the father must respect the son, giving him only worthy examples. And the same must be done by the eldest with the youngest.

Third, respect for human society in general, and the particular society in which we live. This implies, of course, obedience to customs considered necessary. Do not be extravagant. You don’t have to do everything the other way around just because you want to annoy people.

Fourth, respect for the country. This does not need explanations. Patriotic love is not contrary to the feeling of solidarity among all peoples. It is the field of action in which our love for all humanity works. The ideal is to reach peace and harmony among all peoples. For this, we must fight against the imperialist and conquering peoples until they are defeated forever.

Fifth, respect for the humanity. Each person is like us. Let’s not do to others what we don’t want them to do to us. The highest manifestation of man is his work. We must respect the products of work. Breaking glass, dirtying walls, destroying gardens, throwing away things that are still usable are acts of savagery or evil. These acts also indicate stupidity and lack of imagination. Every object produced by man implies a series of respectable efforts.

Sixth, respect for the nature that surrounds us. Inanimate things, plants and animals deserve our intelligent attention. The earth and everything in it form the house of man. The sky, its clouds and its stars form our roof. We must observe all these things. We must try to understand them, and study for that purpose. We must take care of things, plants, pets. All this is the natural heritage of the human species. Learning to love and study it, we learn in passing to be happier and wiser.