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The a-Biden lure of imperialism

20 January 2022

When it comes to US-Mexican relations, it doesn’t much matter whether the president at the time is considered a liberal, a progressive, a conservative, or a right-wing lunatic… what they all have in common has been a sense that — whatever the issue — they know what is best for Mexico, and that Mexican economic reforms can only go as far as they… the US administration… permits.

The present adminstration being of the Democratic Party, Democratic Senators — supposedly of the “progessive” bent — are sticking to the imperialist tradition, insisting that when US President Joe Biden meets with Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, Biden defend US energy interests and policy against reforms proposed here.

Senators Bob Menendez, Jeff Merkley, Tim Kaine, and Brian Schatz are claiming that the reforms — which would give the Mexican state electric utility (CFE) majority control of generating capacity in the country (and be designed to meet Mexican energy needs first) will lead to more fossil fuel usage, and worse stifle “competition”, especially since the reforms include state control over lithium deposits.

The US Senators are making the same assumptions those opposing the Mexican administration’s proposals — i.e. the foreign energy companies most likely to be affected (mostly Spanish, but some US as well) — that because several CFE generating plants depend on fossil fuel (or imported gas from Texas), they will stay on line, and that the energy produced by private and alterantive sources will simply shut down. As far as Mexfiles can determine, while there may be some short-term increase in fossil fuel usage, it is only as the alternatives are incorporated into the CFE system, and as the energy now exported (mostly solar power to California and Arizona, which produce on this side of the border simply because the land is cheaper).

MAYBE, just maybe, the US Senators have a argument (though not a good one) when it comes to oil production… a part of the reform (or rather, a related reform)… being the decision by PEMEX to get out of the oil export business in favor of domestic use… less a matter of more fossil fuel usage, than of meeting Mexico’s own demands domestically. Building refineries and not buying gasoline (while exporting oil) doesn’t mean more fossil fuel use, so much as just changing suppliers.

As to the Lithium deposits, “competition” looks to be a code word for the right to exploit yet another natural resource not for the benefit of the producing country, but for US consumers. And… given that the Mexican lithium would be used by the Mexican energy sector … for things like car batteries… fossil fuel usage is likely to drop given the reforms, not increase.

While Biden was probably a better selection for the US electorate than the bufoon he replaced (who’s only virtue for Mexico was that he was so toxic that even the most pro-US politicians here had to distance themselves from any hint of US support for their positions, allowing the present government to …. for once… carve out domestic policies without interference) these US Senators demonstrate that when it comes to Mexican relations (and relations with Latin America in general), nothing has changed since the days of Woodrow “we will teach them to elect good men” Wilson.

Ricardo Salinas Pliego’ very bad day

20 January 2022

The rich cry, too.

Ricardo Salinas Pliego owns… about everything Carlos Slim doesn’t, it seems. The CEO of Grupo Electra, Banco Azteca, Azteca TV, Totalplay internet services, Italika motorbikes, the Mazatlan Futbol Club… etc. etc. etc. and noted COVID skeptic, has been hit with a 2,3636,000,000 peso (about 130 million US dollar) tax bill for… wait for it… his 2006 income taxes.

While he claims the Supreme Court, by turning down his demand for an amparo– injunction — agains the tax lien is a violation of his human rights and he can take the case to some yet higher court is unlikely to go anywhere.

On top of that… having insulted just about every journalist who has reporte on his dubious record of tax payments… coupled with his tendency to deny COVD is any sort of problem… 500 of his favorite “bots” were shut down, and he was banned by Twitter.

What’s this world coming to when billionaires have to pay taxes?

Oh… and Jorge Hank Rhon, the biggest casino owner in the country, just got dinged by the tax office too… though that’s a mere 1,187,000.000 million pesos (58 million US dollars).

Give the (old) Devil his due

18 January 2022

Holed up for the last several years in his San Angel home, centinarian Luis Echeverría Álvarez, has been dubbed the “Ogre in the Castle”. The sobriquet is well-deserved, given his role in the Tlatelolco massacre and the crack-down on political dissent here in Mexico both during his tenure as Interior Minister from 1963 to 1969, and as President from 1970 to 1976. The Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968, the Halconazo (“Corpus Christi Massacre”… best known to foreigners from its portrayal in the film “Roma”) in 1971 and the “dirty war” — the largely clandestine (and US backed) campaign of military persecution, extra-judicial murder and “disappearances” of (mostly rural) dissenters — are not forgotten.

Left: 1972, Right: last known photo (courtesty La Jornada)

In his quest to restore not only his unsavory reputation among intellectuals and his attempt to legitimize his preferred role as would be leader of the “third world”, what was bally-hood in the media — besides spectacular economic growth (over 6% during his tenure) — was massive investments in cultural institutions (and state employment for would be intellectual opponents) and foreign policy decisions clearly meant to break with the pro-US “Cold War” restraints, including opening diplomatic relations with both the People’s Republic of China and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, providing political asylum for leftist dissidents from Chile and Spain, and… just as Franciso Franco was on his death-bed, attempting to hurry along the end of Spanish Fascism, pushing to have the country expelled from the United Nations…. and later openly campaigned to become its Secretary-General (allegedly calling on the then “untouchable” Mother Theresa to lobby for him!).

None of which moved Mexico towards a more equitable and just society, the benefits of the growth mostly concentrated among the “usual suspects”, the populist policies largely forgotten by subsequent adminstrations, and his remembered accomplishments being best summed up by slightly misquoting Lady Macbeth:

Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood ON him?

The latest… uh… dope

17 January 2022

When back at the end of 2018, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that smoking marijuana was constitutionally protected (under the rubric of the “free development of personality”… one of several rights specifically mentioned in the expansive (in theory, not always in practice) “Magna Carta”. While there was a lot of smoke (especially in the US media) about the coming “legalization”, it has yet to happen.

For two important reasons: First off, with Canada and several larger US states having already legalized, or decriminalized use, the market value has dropped, and Mexican smugglers have turned to more lucrative products like heroin and meth, or taken up other criminal activities (gasoline theft, shaking down avocado producers, etc.) that offer a better return on their investment.

The second reason is… and much to the disappointment of at least some “expats”, Canadian marketers (all set to begin operations here) and US consumers… is that there really isn’t all that much support, or objections, to what is seen as a relatively unimportant issue.

The “drug war” (allegedly ended in the US by Barack Obama, though it lasted through the Peña Nieto administration here) aside, the marijuana industry WAS important at one time. According to Benjamin T. Smith’s The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade (W.W. Norton, 2021), even though Mexico was supposedly “fighting drugs”, it was a relatively reliable revenue source for the state. Call it corruption, but as Smith noted, it was more a “shake-down” by state (and later federal) authorities… an informal export duty that — for all the memes and fictional stories about corrupt officials getting rich — surprisingly was, for the most part, well invested by governments and seen as a way of keeping down the rates for more honest businesses and ordinary taxpayers. It’s been said (though I don’t think by Smith) that “taxes” on marijuna paid for the University of Baja California campus… a worthy investment, to be sure.

One might assume (and one might be right) that informal taxation on the more profitable meth and heroin (and, lately, fentanyl) exports may still be informally taxed, although it appears that there is less toleration for the “informal taxation” system, as well as personal corruption. Combined with the present government’s push for better accounting and auditing, as well as tighter controls on law enforcement agencies, such methods are just not worth the trouble, especially when it comes to lower value illegal exports, like marijuana.

Add to that, when the Senate, back in December 2020, sent its “Ley Federal para la Regularización de Cannabis” to the Chamber of Deputies, what emerged was a substantially changed bill that, in the opinion of Senate leaders, instead of just legalizing personal use, actually created harsher penalties. For example, the original Senate bill legalized possession up to 28 grams, with relatively mild sanctions for quantities up to 200 grams. The Chamber bill called for anything over 28 grams… even 29 grams.. to face up to four years in prison (as opposed to the present three years), and large fines for failure to obtain a proposed certificate allowing one to possess marijuana in the first place. And, other changes from the initial proposal — which favored small growers (i.e., campesinos) over corporate growers and foreign investors.

When the Chamber bill was returned to the Senate in April 2021, there were more pressing issues. Like Covid, like the Federal Budget, like Lithium, like democratic reforms, like…

So…MAYBE in Frbruary, the Senate will again pass an amended, amended bill, pared down to the most basic of issues… legalizing the use (though they’re fighting over whether this means persons 18 and over, 21 and over, or 25 and over) and revisiting what are perhaps more important things… the comercial hemp trade, quality control, distribution and taxation… sometime later.

Or not.

Becerril, Andrea. “Va Senado por despenalización de la mota con nueva iniciativa”, La Jornada, 17 January 2022, page 4.

Busby, Mattha, “Mexico has a new marijuana legalization bill. Here’s what’s in it“, Leafly, 2 December 2021.

Smith, Benjamin T. The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade (W.W. Norton, 2021)

Loud and clear!

16 January 2022

Guadalajara’s TeleDiario news presenter Leonardo Schwebel has a few words to say to people who won’t get vaccinated and won’t wear masks. Not that you need to understand Spanish to get his point.

To see ourselves as others see us: long-stay tourists

11 January 2022

This are for the americas complaining about your 180 days, from the side of a Mexican citizenI do not get why people have an issue with saying more than 180 days in Mexico as a tourist is not allowed. Did you know a Canadian as a tourist, is not allowed to spend more than 6 months in the US? And, the count includes the day you set foot on U.S. soil as one day, and the day you leave as another—even if they’re only partial days. Most U.S. border officials now apply the six-month or 182-day quota over any consecutive 12-month period.For a Mexican to step foot in the US, they need to apply on-line for an appointment which will take up to a year. We pay a non-refundable $160. I am in San Miguel and I need to travel to Mexico City and stay over night more costs. I need to prove I have work to return to and funds in my bank account. My appointment is next week. Did you know, if a Mexican overstays their 180 days in the US by more than a year they are barred from entering for 10 years. So why should Mexico be different? At least it is a lot easier for an expat to live in Mexico, full time than it is for me to live in the US full time. Why the lack of respect for Mexico. I do not get it!!

Charly Sandoval, posting on Facebooks’s “Foreigners in Mexico City”.

Many thanks to Mr. Sandoval for his permission to reprint his ripost to a series of posts on “expat” pages around the internet, complaining about recent changes in Mexico’s migration policies (not any major change in the law, simply in its enforcement: a 180 day stay has always been the maximum number of days given to a visitor, as in other North American countries (and several others: in the Shengen region [Western and Central Europe] foreigners are given 90 days within any six month period; the United Kingdom, like Mexico, MAY give a tourist permit for UP TO 180 days, but then again, may not. For that matter, so does Guatemala,

Mexico’s policy is no different from that of Colombia, which CAN also give up to 180 days, although they are (for now) more lax on “permanent tourists”, who can “renew” their visa any number of times by leaving the country for a short period, but then again, there are fewer permanent tourists in Colombia than in Mexico.

Let us now praise famous women

5 January 2022

Josefa Ortiz, Gertrudis Bocanegra, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz y Margarita Maza

Recently added to the series of monuments to famous Mexicans along Reforma.

Ortiz was a leader in the “conspiracion”… the 1810 uprising that marked the beginning of the War of Independence. Something like Paul Revere in US revolutionary mythology, she was the one who warned Padre Hidalgo that the Spanish were coming!, the Spanish were coming!.

Bocanegra was an propagandist and spy for the Independence fighter, tortured and executed by the Spanish in 1817.

Sor Juana, the “tenth muse of the Americas” was a feminist, poet, musician, scientist and philospher.

Margarita Maza, in addition to caring for the 17 children (only 12 of whom survived to adulthood), of her and her husband, Benito Juarez, she was a close advisor to the president, entrusted with raising funds and public support for the Republic during the war agains the French occupation, and unofficially the Republic’s diplomatic reprentative in New York.

Mea Culpa?

5 January 2022

How much responsiblity Mexfiles… and other Mexican-based “private media”… bears for the present confusion foreigners have about their permission to stay in the country isn’t clear. Some, perhaps quite a bit.

For years, with the visitors permit (the FMM…Forma Migratoria Múltiple) would — almost without exception — give the holder UP TO 180 days to stay in Mexico. When it was first introduced, it was meant to replace a plethora of different forms for different types of visitors: business travelers going to meetings, academics on sabbatical, students, and — of course — tourists. We (in the Mex-media biz) — given the generous time given even to casual visitors spending a week in Cancun, or a couple days in Mexico City … got into the bad habit of referring to the form as the “tourist visa” … undertandable, but highly misleading.

An FMM assumes the holder had no ties or committment to the country (one reason over the years, I’ve read about so many FMM holders who just can’t understand why when they’re arrested, there is no question of any sort of “bail” or bond they can post… they’re a flight risk). Or, why they are denied re-entry after holding themselves out as residents, and expecting the same rights of entry as a resident. A VISA implies the state has decided the person is worthy of a longer stay… temporarily, or permantly (depending on the situation), has some legitimate reason to live full-time (or nearly full time) in the country, and is unlikely to become a public charge.

The worst of the last year… not COVID

3 January 2022

in Mexico’s avocado-growing region told me that drug cartels had moved in, evicting – and in many cases killing – landowners to take control of production. It was horrifying. Every time I went to pick an avocado I would think of all of the innocent people who have died in the trade, driving an industry that is worth billions of dollars to drug traffickers.

Mexican Irish emigre Lily Ramirez-Foran, in the Irish Times last November:

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

21 December 2021

or… (apologies to the Beverly Hillbillies) “Californie is the place they wanna be… so they loaded up a Merc, to outrun the CPB”…

While US media continues to report on various Central and South American would be migrants coming through Mexico, not much has been said about the (admittedly not that many) Russians suddely showing up at the Tecate/San Ysidrio crossing.

This previous week alone, seven Russians … who apparently were undocumented migrants in Mexico… attempted to run the border, four on Sunday, and another three on Monday. Both times led to nothing more than a short closure of the check-point while the Russians were being hustled off. However, the previous Sunday (12 December) 20 Russians, in a Mercedes and a pickup truck, attempted to run the border, leading to a short car chase, with shots fired at the Mercedes, but hitting the truck… all while a third vehicle… taking advantage of the chaos… also ran the border, but like the other two vehicles was stopped, carrying five more Russian wouldbe migrants.

No word on if they applied for asylum, either in Mexico or the United States… or, for that matter, how they got to Mexico (and why) in the first place. My own sense, having lived in Santa Maria de la Ribera, the adhoc Russian emigre neighborhood, that if Russians are immigrating to Mexico for a better life, the US obsession over possible economic and political rivalry from Russia is just stupid.

Source: “Rusos intentan cruzar a EU desde Baja California“, Proceso, 20 Dec 2021

A round-up of unusual sources

21 December 2021

Breitbart, the far-far-far right-wing propaganda rag is not a source used by Mexfiles… until now. Like Hell, we’ll provide a link to that toxic waste site, but I have to admit Ildefonso Ortiz does a decent job with his “just the facts” coverage of US border region crime, though one suspect publication there is just rationale for comments mostly to do with the almost forgotten “Fast and Furious” scandal (in which the US Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives knowingly allowed a cache of firearms to be smuggled to Mexican gangsters — a normal operation meant to track smuggling routes — that became a cause celebre for the US right, when at least one of those arms was used to kill a US agent working in Mexico) or the same old boring “Build the wall!!!” riffs.

Anyway, with the same information being published 16 December in the McAllen Progress Times (another not usual source), the story… interesting in iitself… could indicate a changing attitude in the US towards taking a more proactive role in their own smuggling problem.

From the two (and the indictment in the federal district court for south Texas, dated 14 December 2021) we learn that Daniel Gallegos, a part owner of Danny’s Pawn Shop and the Point Blank Shooting Range is accused of selling “thousands of rounds of ammunition to ‘an alien illegally and unlawfully in the United States’,” between March and May of last year: five different purchases to, what one assumes, was the same individual.

The comments on the story, both in Breitbart and the McAllen paper, generally are supportive of Gallegos, and question how, or why, he would have been expected to know the purchaser was in the country “illegally and unlawfully” in the country, and ineligible to purchase ammunition… and, for the Breitbart crowd, to take a break from their usual “deport em all!” attitude to defend the right to buy ammunition without any oversight or limit.

It might be that oversight and call for limitations that may be behind this all too rare prosecution.

Mr. Gallegos, having “retired” from the arms business, and … it seems… relatively cooperative with the prosecution, probably will get off with a fine or some other nominal punishment. But considering how rare it has been to see a US gun dealer even prosecuted, there may be more going on. Specifically, pressure from Mexico.

With Mexico presently suing several arms manufacturers in the United States… probably not expecting to either get to trial, but rather to harass the arms manufactures and tie them up in depositions and hearings and other time-and-money consuming activities long enough to wrangle consessions from them (discontinuing marketing campaigns and gun designs specifically for the Mexican market, and perhaps forcing them to requiring retails to more closely scrutinize customers before making a sale, and… at the outside… US law prohibiting its citizens from holding arms manufacturers civilly or criminally liable for the use of their products, but not foreign governments… just maybe driving the companies out of the arms business, or at least putting a sizable dent in their businesses.

Given that the “Merida Plan” … which was sold as “assistance” to Mexico to fight a “War on Drugs” and did nothing other than result in a few 100,000 needless deaths and disappearces, other than distract the public from the dubious “election” of the Calderón presidency… has become a dead letter, and the present Mexican government both less willing to just accept US “assistance” without looking at the fine print, and less concerned with narcotics flowing north than with its domestic economic and social issues, it has been willing to twist the arms (quietly) of the United States in return for allowing even a minimum of US involvement in dealing with cross-border illegal traffic. Narcotics going north… of course… but only if the US deals with firearms and money coming south.

Wisely, I think, when it comes to fighting organized crime, this government has been putting its efforts into fighting money laundering, rather than just catching so-called cartel leaders (not that they don’t, but unlike during the Calderón era, they are taking them alive, and seizing their assets). It’s indicative of the change in tactics that, with the US offering a “bounty” of five million dollars a head for “Chapo Guzmán’s five sons, the President made it clear that the five are Mexican citizens, and if they are charged with crimes in Mexico, it’s Mexico’s justice system that will deal with them… and that bounty hunting is not legal in this country, nor would Mexico allow foreign agents to join in some hunt for them.

IN short… it appears that, after years of cross-border crime prevention being seen as a purely Mexican problem, that narcotics smuggling requires both buyers and sellers, and that… given the unpalatable alternative of a war on its own people — especially when its become obvious that narcotics use is not just a minority issue, but one shared by middle-class “white” people. — the alternative is to accept that the “drug trade”, just like any other major business, requires give and take, that if the consumers cannot be controlled, then the goods and services provided to the suppliers has to be cut off. Now… if the US would just crack down on the bankers and “LLCs” and financial institutions that pay for those guns and “thousands of rounds of ammunition” coming from Texas, we might get somewhere.

Send in the envoy…

20 December 2021

For Salazar, the ambassadorship represents a golden opportunity to further refine a shtick he’s spent his career perfecting: paying lip service to renewable energy while filling the coffers of the fossil fuel sector.

For Salazar, the ambassadorship represents a golden opportunity to further refine a shtick he’s spent his career perfectin

Kurt Hackworth in Jacobin, on the latest US Ambassador to stick his nose into Mexico domestic policy.

More later…

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