What's Going On In This Country?

June 11, 2018 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Nobody Pushes Mexico Around. Mexico has hit back on U.S. tariffs that President Trump imposed on steel and aluminum, targeting products from congressional districts that the Republican party is fighting to retain in the November elections.

Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said the tit-for-tat measures would hurt NAFTA talks but had to be done. Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs are targeting pork, apples, grapes and cheese, as well as steel – products from the U.S. heartland states that supported Trump in the 2016 election. So there.

It’s baaack….. Uber is back in Quintana Roo, and so are protesting taxi drivers. Think Cancun when you think that state, and that state Congress approved a law effectively allowing services like Uber to operate freely, a move that triggered protests and blockades by taxi drivers who have never been accused of being good sports. Drivers in Cancún blocked traffic in the city’s hotel zone and downtown. Just try and get a cab while all that was going on.

Representatives of the 17 cab driver unions sent up a hissy fit, saying Congress had “stabbed them in the back” and did not take into consideration the 33,000 families that depend on taxi drivers’ income.

Ride-hailing services stopped operating late last year after physical conflicts with taxistas, although the Quintana Roo chapter of the business group Coparmex presented survey results showing 90 per cent of respondents said they specifically wanted to see Uber continue operating in the state. The other 10% would be those 33,000 families. Pointing out that there will be 33,000 families that will be happy their head of household has an Uber job would just be too easy. And are you thinking you don’t want to see Mr. Uber get any richer? Well, who do you think makes the profit on the taxi ride you over paid for, the driver? No. Rich guys who control the industry and the unions.

Big Election coming. The National Electoral Institute (INE) has started distributing the 282 million ballots that will be used in the largest election in Mexico’s history. The Presidency of Mexico and 3,400 other public offices will be decided on July 1.This is a biggie, folks.

More than 89 million Mexicans will be  qualified to vote. There are 300 electoral districts with 156,974 polling stations operated by 1.4 million citizens, 40% of whom didn’t show up on the morning of the last election. Might be a little bit of a line-up if that happens again.

Pop quiz! How many states are there in Mexico?

There are 31 states plus the federal district. What, you thought we were going to make you look that up? We know you weren’t going to bother.

Batten down the hatches. Whatever that means. The National Water Commission (Conagua) is predicting 32 tropical cyclones will visit Mexico this hurricane season, four more than the average recorded in recent years.

18 of them are forecast for the eastern Pacific Ocean and 14 for the Atlantic. We’re on the eastern Pacific, Bunky.

Of the Pacific weather events, eight are expected to be tropical storms, four are predicted to be category 1 or 2 hurricanes, and six are forecast to be hurricanes reaching an intensity of category 3 or above. That’s batten down the hatches time. (Batten down the hatches comes from the way sailors made old ships watertight during storms.)

In the Atlantic…. Oh never mind, who cares about the Atlantic storms, we’ve got our own hatches to batten.

Guns drawn. The only gun shop in all of Mexico is behind a fortress-like wall on a heavily guarded military base. To enter the Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales, customers must undergo months of background checks — six documents are required — and then be frisked by uniformed soldiers who might be looking for those six documents.

The army-run store on the outskirts of Mexico City embodies the country's cautious approach to firearms, and a visit to the gun store illustrates the dramatically different ways two neighboring countries view guns, legally and culturally.

Like the 2nd Amendment in the United States, Mexico's Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but it also stipulates that federal law "will determine the cases, conditions, requirements and places" of gun ownership. For many Mexicans, even those who love guns, the thought of an unfettered right to owning one is perplexing. And there is no political machine called the NRA,

Each day the army gun store sells on average38 firearms to civilians, while an estimated 580 weapons are smuggled into Mexico from the United States on that same day.

American firearms are directly driving the current violence we see in Mexico, although the US appetite for drugs and rampant corruption among Mexican officials also play a role. About 70% of guns recovered by Mexican law enforcement officials from 2011 to 2016 were originally purchased from legal gun dealers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Most trafficked guns are purchased in the U.S. from one of the country's more than 67,000 licensed gun dealers or at gun shows, which, unlike stores, often do not require buyers to present identification or submit to background checks.

Good news or bad new? You decide. A Canadian-owned mine in Chihuahua has closed,  Leaving its more than 1,800 employees without work. That’s the bad news. More bad news is the owners have closed it down because neither the police nor the Army can keep the workers safe from organized crime who kidnap, rob, and extort the mine workers.

The attorney general claims nobody ever told him there was a problem. However, the company’s decision came as no surprise to municipal authorities who admit they were well aware of the problems.

The attorney general said he would work with security forces to determine how they could all have done a better job, and gosh, he hopes the mining operation comes back.

The good news? Most mines in Mexico are horrible polluters, paying no attention to rules and regulations, and anyway the profits all leave the country.