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domingo, junio 01, 2008

Mexico Week In Review: 05.26-06.01

Mexico Week In Review: 05.26-06.01
Published since 1994, 'Mexico Week In Review' is a service of the
Committee of Indigenous Solidarity (CIS). CIS is a Washington, D.C.
based activist group committed to the ongoing struggles of Indigenous
peoples in the Americas. CIS is actively supporting the struggles
of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico while simultaneously combating
related structures of oppression within our own communities.

To view newsletter archives, visit:

"Para Todos, Todo; Para Nosotros Nada"

The federal government opened mediated negotiations with the Popular
Revolutionary Army (EPR) this week over the release of Edmundo Reyes
and Gabriel Alberto Cruz, EPR members who disappeared on May 25,
2007. The EPR agreed to a ceasefire as long as negotiations proceed.
Federal officials claim no knowledge of the two disappeared EPR
members, but agreed to negotiations in hopes of reaching a permanent
ceasefire. The EPR caused US$600 million in damage and lost economic
activity after bombing Pemex pipelines on June 5, July 10 and
September 10, 2007, demanding the release of their colleagues.

Source: Mexico Solidarity Network Weekly News Summary: 05/19-25


Governors from both sides of the border are meeting in Mexico City to
push for more crime-fighting and border security amid unprecedented
violence in Mexico. The governors of California, Texas and New Mexico
planned to offer support to Mexican President Calderon on Thursday
for his crackdown against the drug trade, in which he has deployed
more than 20,000 federal troops across Mexico. Cartels have responded
with increasingly bold attacks against police and other security
officials. On Tuesday, seven federal officers were killed in a
shootout at a suspected drug safe house.

Beyond policy talks, it's not clear what the U.S. governors and the
governors of the six Mexican states will be able to accomplish,
because many of the actions they are seeking require congressional
approval. The coalition made a similar anti-crime appeal to President
Bush in February, but progress has been slow. Still, California Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration says the partnership and
continued pressure already have produced results. Federal Homeland
Security Director Michael Chertoff has boosted the number of workers
at key border crossings, reducing wait times, said Dan Dunmoyer,
Schwarzenegger's cabinet secretary. However, the wait at some border
crossings can drag on for hours - slowing trade and adding to
pollution as diesel trucks idle. Schwarzenegger is seeking a joint
agreement aimed at cutting wait times in half by 2013.

The coalition also seeks a six-month extension of Operation Jump
Start, Bush's initiative to place National Guard troops at the border
to help local and federal authorities with immigration enforcement.
The administration has been noncommittal about its plans for the
initiative, which began in mid-2006. Bush has used the wave of
violence in Mexico to further an anti-crime legislative package. He
is urging Congress to approve the first $500 million installment of a
proposed $1.4 billion law enforcement aid package known as the Merida
Initiative to combat drug crime in Mexico. Calderon has called on
U.S. lawmakers not to put further conditions on the funding.
Schwarzenegger wants to see some of the money go toward helping U.S.
states fight organized crime. Among the other issues the U.S.
governors hope to address are a joint plan to more quickly respond to
natural disasters along the border and environmental protection,
particularly in joint waterways.

Source: Associated Press: 05/29


Mexico's food is becoming more expensive because of higher costs for
oil and demand for crops to produce biofuels, Mexican President
Felipe Calderon said in a nationally televised address in which he
sought to ease concerns about higher costs for basics like tortillas
and rice. "Rest assured that my government will continue to take
actions and look for sensible solutions to help you live a better
life," Calderon said, a day after announcing he would eliminate
import tariffs on wheat, corn, rice and beans.

Mexico is facing the fastest rate of inflation in more than three
years as prices for commodities such as crude oil, corn wheat and
rice reach records. Countries around the world have cut import
tariffs and released stockpiles of grains to help mute inflation.
Consumer prices in Mexico rose 4.83 percent in the first half of May,
the most since December 2004. The cost of importing grains has soared
75 percent to $1.2 billion in the first three months of 2008 compared
with a year earlier, according to the National Statistical Agency.
Mexico imports a majority of the rice and wheat it consumes. The
government will also cut in half a tariff on powdered milk to help
lower food prices. Import taxes on sorghum and soy bean paste will be
eliminated. The government will spend 200 billion pesos ($19.3
billion) on energy subsidies this year, Calderon said.

Source: Bloomberg: 05/26


While poor Mexicans cross the border to take advantage of higher
wages and a social safety net, their wealthy countrymen are seizing
on the slowing U.S. economy to achieve their own American corporate
dream. Anyone unfamiliar with the U.S.-Mexico border region might
expect that private investment only flows from north to south. The
Mexican side of the border in south Texas is loaded with factories
that American companies have opened since NAFTA cleared the way for
them to take advantage of inexpensive labor. But between the two
countries, billions of dollars are moving in both directions each
year. In South Texas' Rio Grande Valley, Mexicans and their
corporations are pouring their money into real estate, businesses and
retail shopping on the U.S. side.

Factors at work in the money streaming north include valuable real
estate at reasonable prices, a desire to access American consumers,
opportunities created by a cooling economy and weaker dollar, as well
as amenities such as shopping, South Padre Island and putting
distance between their businesses and the kidnappings and drug cartel
violence. "They prefer to purchase land in the U.S. because they
consider it good as gold," said Gilberto Salinas, a spokesman for the
Brownsville Economic Development Council. "There's money there (in
Mexico). We're the ones going to them." There is no regional data on
how much Mexicans are investing in South Texas, but Keith Patridge,
president and chief executive of the McAllen Economic Development
Corporation, said "the No. 1 misconception is that there's no money
in Mexico."
Patridge said he senses "a marked increase in investment moving north
from Mexico."

In 2006, Mexican companies' investment in the U.S. grew by 60 percent
to $6.1 billion. U.S. companies' investment in Mexico is far larger,
but grew only 13 percent to $84.7 billion during the same year,
according to preliminary figures from the U.S. Department of
Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 1999, Mexican companies'
direct investment in the U.S. was $1.7 billion. In Texas, Mexican
companies' affiliates held $1.6 billion in property, plant and
equipment in 2005, the most recent year for which state-level data is
available from the Commerce Department. That was up from $1.4 billion
in 2002, putting Texas second only to California in Mexican direct
investment. Mexican companies operating in the U.S. also account for
4 percent of the jobs attributed to foreign direct investment in
Texas, compared to 1 percent for the country overall. An article
published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in November
attributed that to "Mexico's proximity to Texas and the market
opening under the North American Free Trade Agreement."

Here are just a few recent investments in the Rio Grande Valley: In
January, Monterrey, Mexico-based Grupo Famsa announced the $16
million purchase of century-old Edelstein's Better Furniture chain,
which has nine stores in the Rio Grande Valley. This summer, PIASA, a
Monterrey company that sells spices and other seasonings, plans to
break ground on a $6 million plant in Brownsville. This month, Ciudad
Victoria developer Grupo Mianca announced an 80-unit luxury
condominium project in McAllen.

Economic development officials, real estate consultants and bankers
in the Valley say the U.S. is simply a better place to invest. "The
appreciation is three to four times that in Mexico," said David
Allex, of Allex International Properties, a commercial and industrial
real estate broker on both sides of the border. Allex, who sees the
Texas-Mexico border created by the Rio Grande as "a street with water
in it," rather than an obstacle, recently leased a 100,000-square
foot warehouse for Famsa in the Valley. Salinas, of the Brownsville
EDC, said his office has been working with a Monterrey, Mexico
investor who wants to develop 1,400 acres he owns on the edge of the
city that would become the "new front door of Brownsvillle."

Two years ago, Monterrey-based Banorte paid $259 million for a 70
percent stake in Inter National Bank, which has branches all across
the 1,200-mile Texas border region, hoping to tap the U.S. Hispanic
market and sell cross-border mortgages. "With the downturn in the
U.S. economy, we get calls every day from Mexican nationals wanting
to know where the opportunities (for investment) are," said Carlos
Garza, Inter National's president and chief executive. With a weaker
dollar and the Valley's relatively stable real estate market, "we're
seeing tremendous interest from Mexico."

Besides Mexicans buying first and second homes in the area, Garza
sees growth in "average-size" investments of $1 million to $5
million. Familiarity with attractions on the U.S. side of the border
is a factor, too, whether it's shopping in McAllen or vacationing on
South Padre Island. "I think there's been a trend over the last
several years of Mexican nationals purchasing second homes, vacation
homes, in the Valley," said Fred Rusteberg, president and chief
executive of International Bank of Commerce-Brownsville. Monterrey
residents visit their condos on South Padre Island several times a
year and "people from Mexico City are looking for safe environments
for their families to relax," he said.

Some say the security situation in Mexico - federal troops coming to
the border area to confront drug cartels and the kidnappings in the
major cities - has played a role in an investment bump perceived more
recently. An investment of $1 million - or $500,000 in some targeted
employment areas - and creating 10 jobs is enough to get visas for an
investor's family. In 2007, the U.S. approved 806 investor visas -
that included investors from around the world and their family
members - according to the Department of Homeland Security's Yearbook
of Immigration Statistics. That was a marked increase from the 64
investor visas approved five years earlier, but still a miniscule
number. Data on how many were for investments made in Texas were not
available. "Citizens of Mexico who can afford to, are saying, 'I'm
going to move my family out,'" said Patridge of the McAllen EDC.

Source: Associated Press: 05/27


Antonio Martinez used to pay smugglers thousands of dollars each year
to sneak him into the United States to manage farm crews. Now, the
work comes to him. Supervising lettuce pickers in central Mexico,
Martinez earns just half of the $1,100 a week he made in the U.S. But
the job has its advantages, including working without fear of
immigration raids. Martinez, now a legal employee of U.S.-owned
VegPacker de Mexico, is exactly the kind of worker more American farm
companies are seeking. Many have moved their fields to Mexico, where
they can find qualified people, often with U.S. experience, who can't
be deported. "Because I never moved my family to the U.S., I was
always alone there," said Martinez, 45, who could never get a work
permit, even after 16 years in agriculture in California and Arizona.
"When I got the opportunity to be close to my family, doing similar
work, I didn't even have to think about it."

American companies now farm more than 45,000 acres of land in three
Mexican states, employing about 11,000 people, a 2007 survey by the
U.S. farm group Western Growers shows.

There were no earlier studies to document how much the acreage has
grown. But U.S. direct investment in Mexican agriculture, which
includes both American companies moving their operations to Mexico
and setting up Mexican partnerships, has swelled sevenfold to $60
million since 2000, Mexico's Economy Department told The Associated
Press. Major corporations such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. and
Bunge have invested across Latin America for decades, particularly in
countries like Brazil, where agribusiness is booming. Some small
farmers have cultivated parts of Mexico for much longer, seeking to
secure year-round supplies of fruits and vegetables, while taking
advantage of cheap labor and proximity to the U.S. But the latest
move south has been fueled by something new, farmers say: a way to
continue to deliver cheap, fresh farm goods amid the current U.S.
political standoff over an estimated 12 million undocumented
immigrants, the majority from Mexico.

Recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids have targeted major
agricultural producers, including Del Monte Fresh Produce in
Portland, Oregon, and several large packing plants across the nation
- scaring away immigrants and persuading many agricultural employers
to clean up their hiring practices. "Employers can't find legal
workers to replace this huge number of illegal workers," said James
Holt, an agricultural labor economist and independent consultant
based in Washington. "Their only option is to go where the workers
are." Many of the growers, once based in California's Salinas Valley,
are also heading south to escape high land prices and water
shortages. Mexico is closer to eastern U.S. markets than California,
they say. Shipping times to Atlanta are a day shorter from Mexico's
central Guanajuato state.

Not everyone in Mexico has welcomed U.S. companies. Mexican farmers
complain that they have driven up land rental prices. Many local
growers worry they can't compete against big, foreign firms, said
Felipe Sanchez, president of a farmers group in Guanajuato state.
"How can a ranch that farms 70 acres compete with a company that came
to farm 10,000 acres?" Sanchez said. "We'll become laborers on our
own ranches. Farm workers at U.S. companies in Mexico make two or
three times Mexico's minimum wage of $4.80 a day. But they still earn
far less than the average $9.60 an hour that field workers in the
United States made in January 2008, according to the U.S. Department
of Agriculture. Juan Antonio Linarez, 19, makes a tenth of his U.S.
roofing income at Taylor Farms de Mexico's vegetable cooling plant in
Guanajuato. But he has health insurance and can live nearby with his
family - without the dangerous and expensive trek across the border.

Some experts argue that farmers simply refuse to raise U.S. wages to
compete with other industries, something they say would help ease the
labor crunch. As the United States heads into a recession, more
native-born workers might consider agricultural work if wages were
high enough, said Harley Shaiken, director of the University of
California at Berkeley's Center for Latin American Studies. "Labor
shortage always is a question of at what pay rate," Shaiken said.
"Very often, if the wages are artificially low, it will be very
difficult to find a work force."

But Steve Scaroni said he did offer higher wages and still couldn't
find a steady work force in the U.S. Scaroni owns VegPacker, a
California and Guanajuato-based company that grows lettuce, celery,
cauliflower and other vegetables. VegPacker has struggled after
forking out millions of dollars to launch its Mexico division two
years ago. The problem is that cheaper labor in Mexico often is
offset by lower productivity and high training costs, especially when
it comes to enforcing U.S. food-safety standards. "The only thing
that's cheaper down here is diesel fuel and the labor per day,"
Scaroni said. "My productivity is down 40 percent" from U.S. levels.

Source: Associated Press: 05/27


On May 21 Jose Leopoldo Gonzalez, secretary general of the Conference
of Mexican Bishops (CEM), said the Catholic bishops had voted
unanimously to call for the government to make former president
Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) testify again about the killing
of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo and six people in a bloody
shootout at Guadalajara's airport on May 24, 1993. Gonzalez said
Salinas' previous testimony, on Aug. 2, 2006, was "full of omissions."

The official account is that Posadas Ocampo was shot because the
killers mistook him for someone else when he happened to be present
during a fight between the Tijuana and Sinaloa drug cartels. The
director of Mexico's Forensic Medical Service at the time, Mario
Rivas Souza, said the cardinal was shot directly 14 times, which
casts doubt on the official explanation. On the occasion of the 15th
anniversary of the killing, the Guadalajara archdiocese has issued a
book entitled: The Truth Will Set You Free. Don't Be Afraid. And the
Homicide of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo. The book suggests
that the killing was organized by a high official in the government's
"war on drugs" to make sure Posadas wouldn't reveal evidence of links
between Salinas and drug trafficking networks.

The book reportedly also entertains a conspiracy theory involving the
Freemasons. Independent journalist John Ross reports that some people
think Posadas was targeted because he himself had drug trafficking

Source: Weekly News Update- Nicaragua Solidarity Network Of Greater
New York: 05/25

The above articles were originally published and copyrighted by the
listed sources. These articles are offered for educational purposes
which CIS maintains is 'fair use' of copyrighted material as
provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

end: Mexico Week In Review: 05.26-06.01

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