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Well, that went well. NOT!

13 February 2017

Several thousand demonstrators turned out at the Angel of Independence today… a relatively small protest by Mexico City standards… for the much bally-hoed, and endlessly promoted “Vibra Mexico” march for “national unity”.  That meant, especially for the joint “México Unido” march, as much trying to prop up what little support remains for the Peña Nieto administration as it did repudiation of Donald Trump’s recent threats against Mexico, and Mexican emigres in the United States.

As it was, even though police managed to divert a counter-march (not pro-Trump, but anti-Peña Nieto) away from the official march, several thousand of the estimated 8 to 11,000 marchers were protesting as much against the Mexican administration as they were against the new guy in the White House.

The Guadalajra Informador (generally pro-government) said there were “hundreds” of marchers, though buried down a few paragraphs it claimed about 6000 people were at the march.  And that included a couple of mariachi bands.  For comparison, somewhere upwards of 10,000 turned out in July 2015 to protest against something that had very little effect on them… gay marriage.  There too, anti-Peña Nieto protesters had swelled the ranks.

In Puebla, the “Vibra Mexico” marchers were confronted by citizens representing “Puebla en Lucha”… who protested not only against the federal administration, but are demanding their former governor be tried for various crimes, and are not happy with their local federal representatives.

The Mexican people are not stupid.  While “Vibra Mexico” was announced (and publicized) as being backed by “70 civic organizations and intellectuals”, it was obvious — especially when the media provided helpful maps of where to assemble and even what clothing to wear — that this was hardly a populist protest.  Looking over the list of “civic organizations” and the lead organizers, there was a plethora of well-known conservative establishment figures.  Only two intellectuals of any note… conservative historian Enrique Krauze ,and UNAM rector Enrique Graue Wiechers… are among the organizers, and several of the “civic organization” leaders mentioned were those who for years have been apologists for the status quo, or have been working with PRI and PAN to push their own agenda… (Like Isabela Miranda de Wallace, demanding tougher anti-crime legislation, or Claudio X. Gonzales, who pushes teacher testing, and other failed US innovations for Mexican schools).  One suspects many of the protesters were there under some duress.

I must say, given the media coverage, I expected a mega-march of some sort… like the ones Televisa pushed during the Fox administration to protest crime in Mexico City (and to claim AMLO was a “do nothing” executive… though AMLO managed to high-jack the 500,000 or so protesters and turn it into a demand for more federal assistance in crime prevention), or the nation-wide protests back during Calderón’s administration for “peace”.  The latter supposedly had a few million people out in the streets.  Who, after all, is opposed to peace?  Shame the whole exercise was designed to show support not for giving peace a chance, but for giving the army a chance to kill a few thousand more people allegedly having ties to the “narco-trade”.

This isn’t to say that people are indifferent to Trump… they aren’t… but what people do north of the border isn’t much we can control, and in a weird way, Trump has opened up a real opportunity for Mexico to make the changes that will “vibra Mexico”… a serious discussion over the trade imbalance with the United States, the corruption in the political establishment, the deterioration of human rights, the need for higher wages, and a government that listens to its people.

 

Sources:

Jornada:  “Varios miles protestan contra Trump en CDMX

Informador: “Comienza marcha ‘Vibra México’ en Guadalajara

Proceso: “Se confrontan opositores al gasolinazo con Vibra México en Puebla

Mexico Daily News: “Anti-Trump marches to be held on Sunday

Background: Excelsior, La Razón, Televisa, Noroeste. riding my bike down to the Angel this afternoon.

¿Adios, Mojados Inversos?

10 February 2017

It’s no secret that there are illegal alien gringos among us… I was one, at one time.  But with the prospect of undocumented Mexicans being forcibly returned from the United States becoming a very real possibility, questions about the opposite situation… deporting illegal US residents is something to think about.

The question of “illegals” in Mexico, when written about at all, has usually been presented as an ironic situation, the numbers supposedly being relatively unimportant, or pointing out that those illegals really were no particular problem.  But… given the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Mexico, this may not be seen as humorously by the Mexicans as it has been in the foreign media.

A rather alarming story making the rounds on some of the smaller on-line sites pegs the number of “estadounidenses indocumentados” at a half-million “non-productive” foreigners who “only create problems”.  The original story, on the business and investment site, Opportimes.com, attributes this estimate to Andrés Rozenthal, a private equity manager, former Mexican Ambassador to the United Kingdom and a Founding President of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations.  Not the kind of person from whom one would expect alarmist statistics or wildly exaggerated claims.

Rozenthal said that of the estimated million US citizens in Mexico who are not tourists, “more than half” are undocumented.  He adds:

We have American migration to Mexico, but we never talk about it.  More than half live here undocumented.  It’s not known, but it is so… it’s people who came on a tourist card and stayed to live.

Sort of what I did, originally.  Obviously, I’m in no position to judge anyone who has done the same thing later (and never regularized their situation), but I wouldn’t be surprised if … especially if the US Administration starts massively dumping long-time undocumented residents of their country in Mexico, that there could be problems for these people.

No idea if the woman in the photo is legal or not, but this is not how to "blend in" and stay under the radar.

No idea if the woman in the photo is legal or not, but this is not how to “blend in” and stay under the radar.

Besides those who just never bother with “the paperwork” or do something patently illegal like go to work while on a tourist/visitor visa (my original sin… mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa), there are the “border jumpers” who take advantage of the particularly generous time limit given almost automatically to visitors… 180 days being standard.  By leaving the country for a day, then returning, these are the people who claim to live here (and, in a sense, they do), while remaining, legally speaking, merely as visitors.  It’s an open secret, especially in “gringo ghettos” that many of these people have off-the-books small businesses here, or are working in the informal sector.

Considering that Mexico has a rather simple visa for “temporary residents” — but that the temporary resident either has to show familiar ties to a Mexican, be employed here, or have sufficient income to support themselves — there are those among the “border jumpers” who don’t qualify for legal residency, and may very well find themselves in danger of deportation.

Granted, most US deportees are fugitives, but it has happened in the past.  Francisco Madero, in a less inflammatory discussion of the phenomenon for Imagen Radio, points to the case of a New York woman whose “vacation” in Playa del Carmen ended in her deportation last year at the age of 70.

I don’t know the details of her deportation, but suspect she may just not have qualified for a Temporary Residency card, for income reasons.  Right now, the requirement is to show bank deposits of around US$1500 a month and a bank balance of US$25,000.  And even then, one is supposed to either take permanent residency after four years, or reapply.  And this is where it gets sticky for foreigners… since they have to apply for their residency visa BEFORE they enter the country, though a Mexican consulate.

“Too much paperwork” for some, and a “creative workaround” for others.  Expat websites and message boards have for years, suggested ways of getting around the income requirements… usually involving some way of artificially inflating bank statements:  making large monthly deposits for the year before one applies, and sometimes begging, borrowing, or otherwise acquiring the cash needed to show a larger savings fund than really exists.

If there is a “crack-down”, I expect the rather harmless retirees would be the last group to feel it, though it could happen.  How likely that is depends on the retiree communities themselves.  Rozenthal’s observation, may be over-estimating the numbers, but his interview with Opportimes.com  has been picked up by other outlets, with headlines like “En México vivan 500 mil estadounindenses indocumentatos, no son productivos solo generan problemas” (“500 thousand undocumented US citizens live in Mexico, non-productive and only causing problems“).

Contributing to Mexico is probably more than hanging out at one’s favorite restaurant, or even giving English classes (under the table), and one’s community is probably more than just one’s fellow “expats”… documented or otherwise.  Whether it is up to the expats to change the perception of the non-contributing, problem-causing gringo is something I can’t answer.

Everybody like AMLO…

9 February 2017

Via La Politica Online (my translation*)

Over the last few weeks, the questions international investors have been asking Mexican analysts and financial strategists have changed. Although it sounds crazy, the main issue is not the impact of the Donald Trump administration’s economic policies, but the standing of Andres Manuel López Obrador in the polls for the 2018 presidential election.

“On a recent visit to New York and London all customers wanted more details on AMLO’s personality and economic thinking, said one important banker interviewed at the Secretaría de Hacienda y Credito Publico (the Mexican Treasury
Department).

From the heart of Wall Street, comes the strongest indication of growing interest. In a memo sent to clients following an analysis in Mexico, Goldman Sachs wrote:

“In recent weeks AMLO has moderated his public stance, approached various businessmen and instead of trying to take advantage of the complicated moment facing the Enrique Peña Nieto administration in light of the threats from Donald Trump to gain political dividends, [AMLO] has taken a statesman-like stand, supporting the president.”

Goldman Sachs is the most important political player among financial institutions at the moment. Former executives hold key positions in the Trump Government. In fact, Goldman Sachs’ previous president, Gary Cohen, is chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump and Director of the United States National Economic Council.

Now wanting to anticipate the political climate in Mexico, Goldman Sachs is even preparing a summit in New York for the middle of this year, to discuss with the Tabascan and his team their economic agenda. Alfonso Romo, the Monterrey biotech and banking magnate, who recently joined AMLO’s team, is expected to be a key figure in any meeting.

A former supporter of Vicente Fox, Romo said he is not surprised that Goldman Sachs would like to speak with him, given his role as on the External Advisory Board for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Before Trump’s electoral victory, financial markets feared a potential AMLO triumph over the weakening PRI. There was talk of “AMLO insurance” by somoe investors, and advisors to mitigate the potential financial and stock market consequences for a possible triumph of Morena’s leader.

“López Obrador is no longer a danger for Mexico, today thanks to the change of attitude. With recognition of his greater chances of success many are approaching AMLO, seeing him as a winner and wanting more details on his plans and strategy,” said the Goldman analysts.

I know some would disagree with me, and I expect many on the Mexican left will be… and are… seeing Alfonso Romo’s support for AMLO as some sort of “sell-out” to capitalism… I don’t see any real change in AMLO’s long-stated economic policies here.  His spat with bankers back during his time running the Federal District had more to do with building codes than anything else (he didn’t want banks to close up shop… he wanted them to put in bullet proof glass and better security systems.  Seeing the Federal District paid for the police who stand around banks, it was quite a reasonable request) and I don’t see that he’s opposed to the existence of banking or foreign investment, per se… just that his program has always called for more internal market development, more control over resource development,  and expanded social spending.  Nothing that should scare off savvy investors.

 

* Not having seen the Goldman Sachs memo, and going by a Spanish-language report, I can’t vouch for the exact wording of the direct quotes. I added a few details about both Alfonso Romo and Gary Cohen to clarify their positions.

The peso’s back, and you’re gonna be sorry…

4 February 2017

Via Ignacio Fariza in El País (my quick and dirty translation):

It’s a paradox for the currency market. If any currency was in the spotlight following the arrival of Donald Trump [in the White House], it was the Mexican peso. However, against all expectations, the Latin American currency has managed to overcome the worst omens, becoming the world’s best-performing currency since the new president of the United States arrived at the White House on January 20. In two weeks, the peso recovered 5% of its value after having fallen to its historical minimum coinciding with the Republican victory. That is the turning point.

imageAccording to Jan Dehn, head analyst for the Ashmore Group, currency traders should be optimistic. Bill Gross, one of the most important players in the global bond market, emphasized the “concern” generated by such a strong dollar for the future of the US economy and said the peso is “undervalued”. A stronger currency causes an artificial loss of competitiveness of the exports and reinforces the sale of imported products, to the detriment of the national ones.

For Mexico, the rise in the peso’s exchange rate against the greenback – the currency in which commodities and other financial assets are listed — is good news. Although it reduces the advantage Mexican exporters enjoyed over its competitors, and US remittances are worth less, depreciation undercut the whole of its economy. This despite rising concern over the potential effects of economic policy shifts by its northern neighbor in an economy in which seven out of every 10 pesos depend on exports. There are also fears that inflation is on the rise. In a country with wide-open markets, while worrisome for exporters and importers, the rising peso reduces some of the tension. And, best of all, the highly dollarized public debt, which amounted to 12% of GDP in 2014 — more than a fifth of its total public leverage — fell in the last two weeks by five percent.

Helguera, in today’s La Jornada

3 February 2017

helguera

A GIANT step for the auto industry

3 February 2017

How are Carlos Slim, Bimbo bread, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, and a Chinese truck company have to do with air pollution in Mexico City? And with “YUUUUUGE” potential positive changes in the Mexican economy?

A small item in yesterday’s El Financiero tells part of the story. Carlos Slim, through his family-owned bank, Inbursa, has become the majority owner of Giant Motors… a new company set up to manufacture Chinese designed JAC autos from a plant in Sahagún, Hidalgo. The Chinese firm has actually been here for some time now, although its FAW trucks are not a huge part of the automotive market either here, or in the rest of North America.

Ok, a new auto company, and a replacement for one (or maybe more) of the US brands that have been bullied into not expanding, or cancelling plans to manufacture here. Not really unexpected that Mexico would go shopping for some substitute investors in the automotive industry.

BUT… as reported in Forbes Mexico edition, there’s a lot more to the story.

The Sahugún plant is owned by Grupo Bimbo… best know for bread and other foodstuffs, but through a subsidiary, Moldex also builds electric delivery vans. Moldex, working with technicians and researchers from ITESM, are reconfiguring JAC autos as a production model of electric taxis, with the huge Mexico City market as its primary customer.

Mexico City has more taxis than any other city on the planet. Right now, our taxis are a mixed bag of aging Tsurus, various VW models, Aveos and Sentras. But, traditionally, there was a standard auto used as taxis, and it was Mexico City’s decision to use VW sedans as our standard taxi that kept the “bug” in production here until 2005, making what we call “Vochos” the most popular auto in the country, if not most of the Americas. Same with the Nissan Tsuru… now being retired, both for safety reasons and because of changing emissions standards… the Tsuru was THE Mexican family auto, as well as the taxi one found not just in the Capital, but in just about every village in the country.

Now… with the local government having already made a decision to go towards electric or at least hybrid fuel taxis (we have a fleet of Leafs, but they’re only starting to show up on the streets), perhaps the GIANT (under I’m sure some catchy name) looks to be our ride… making rich Mexicans richer, no doubt, but clearing the air for all of us.

And, again, as the political left has been preaching for years, turning to Mexican firms to strengthen the internal market, and to reduce our dependence on foreign products.

Touchy, touchy…

3 February 2017

From Sin Embargo:

US immigration authorities canceled the visa for a woman traveling to the United States with a meme of President Donald Trump on her cell phones.

On Denisse Maerker’s radio program on Grupo Fórmula, Rocío Galván reported on the case: “They took her visa because they checked his cell phone, they found a mocking message about Donald Trump.

Ve have vays of checking your cell-phone...

Ve have vays of checking your cell-phone…

According to the Texas-based reporter, border agents are authorized to review cell phones and tablets of persons entering the United States to verify that they are not working illegalin the in the country. However, she explained that immigration agents are also given discretionary powers regarding how they conduct these searches.

For the woman’s safety, no further information was given, however, Maerker urged the reporter to interview the affected woman by changing her voice to hide her identity.

US immigration authorities have tightened controls that allowed Mexican citizens to renew a visa after Donald Trump took office on January 20.

Until last year, entry visas could be renewed without a consular interview, if they had expired less than 48 months previously. New regulations establish that this will only be possible if the document has expired within the last 12 months.

In the past, people who were denied a visa could request it again and be subject to the decision of some other immigration authority. Currently that is no longer valid, without omitting that the Visas Section reserves the right to interview any person.

The US embassy and consulates in Mexico award around two million applications in more than 20 different visa categories each year, according to information posted on its website.