What's Going On In This Country?

September 6, 2016 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Another mining spill. Mexicans nearly suffered a collective heart attack when it was suggested that foreign owned oil companies assist Pemex employees harvest and refine their oil. They claim that oil is their national patrimony. Why then, do they shrug off all the foreign mining companies packing up the ore and taking it back, mostly to Canada? Mexico loses this national patrimony, and they get nothing for it but a handful of jobs.

Mexican regulators have finally woken up and are examining whether Canadian mining company Goldcorp broke any regulations in its handling of a long-running leak of contaminated water at Mexico’s biggest gold mine. Until this week, the accident was not disclosed to the public.

The company did report a rise in selenium levels in groundwater to the Mexican government in October 2014, after which the contamination near its mine waste facility intensified, according to internal company documents and interviews with government officials. Two weeks ago, the company told Mexican regulators that contaminated water had also been found in other areas of its property.

There is no evidence that the leaks at the mine have endangered public health or caused environmental damage, Goldcorp and regulators say. Goldcorp said it has not informed villagers living near the mine because its tests showed the leak had not affected groundwater beyond its property line or contaminated the local drinking water. The company was not legally required to tell the community, Mexican regulators said.

Restrictions on flights between the U.S. and Mexico have been lifted, which is expected to bring more options and possibly lower prices.

American, Delta and Southwest have already announced they will offer new flights across the border later this year. United is watching the demand for flights and will respond accordingly, a spokesman said.

The United States and Mexico agreed in December to open their aviation markets to each other's carriers. Rules that had generally limited two or three airlines from each country to a particular route will go away.

Airlines on both sides of the border will be able to fly whatever routes they want as often as they want and set their own prices. "This will help reduce airfares for sure," said George Hobica, founder of the travel site airfarewatchdog.com.

"You cannot work with a crazy guy," So says former president Vicente Fox, who has urged the current Mexican government to make it clear that a Donald Trump presidency would be unacceptable to Mexico.

During a visit to the White House last month, President Enrique Peña Nieto denied he had ever compared the candidate to Hitler and Mussolini — something which he had done in March.

"I can't agree with some of things he has said, but I will be absolutely respectful and will seek to work with whomever becomes the next president of the United States," Peña Nieto said in an interview on Televisa The president also said he would be happy to meet with Trump any time.

In an interview at his ranch-turned-presidential library in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, Fox added that reasons of "political correctness" were not enough to persuade him of the need to "accept as my neighbor country's president a crazy guy."

Mexican medal count. At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, Mexico5 total medals, with 0 gold medals, 3 silver medals, and 2 bronze medals.

The problem is Mexico’s athletes have been the victim of a power play between the country’s federal sports agency (CONADE) and the individual federations that oversee each sport. Determined to cut corruption in each branch, CONADE chief Alfredo Castillo cut funding to many of the sports, including boxing. As a result, boxers like Misael Rodriguez had to board buses and beg for change to raise money to travel to Rio. Rodriguez also had to buy his own uniform. on credit.

The strategy hasn’t cleaned Mexico’s undeniably flawed sports system. Instead, it’s resulting in one of Mexico’s most embarrassing Olympic performances in years. And that’s not just because of the dearth of medals.

Weightlifter Bredni Roque had to compete in his regular workout gear, with tape covering its non-sanctioned brands, because the official uniform he received was too big. “I came out with the shame that all of Mexico would see me full of patches,” he wrote on Facebook.

Mexico’s Olympic golfer, Rodolfo Cazaubón, told ESPN he was covering his own expenses and didn’t get any help to chase after his golf clubs when they didn’t arrive with his luggage. “Without equipment, it’s complicated to compete,” he said.

So who’s to blame for all this? Social media is piling the blame on Castillo for holding back the money. There’s a Change.org petition for Castillo’s that currently has over 17,000 signatures.

Psst! Wanna buy a gun? Legally owning a gun in Mexico is tough but not impossible. There is just one office in all of Mexico where you can get it done, and that’s tucked away in an anonymous building on an army base staffed by soldiers in Mexico City. In fact, most of Mexico’s 120 million inhabitants probably don’t even know about the Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales

However, Mexico’s constitution guarantees citizens’ right to own a handgun and hunting rifles for self-defense and sport.

According to Army records, the store sold 549 guns in 2000. For 2015, sales had risen to 10,115, an increase reflecting the rise in concern about personal safety during a surge in violent deaths in Mexico. Many people aren’t confident about authorities’ ability to provide security.

27 brands are on offer, from the American Colt, Austria’s Glock and Italy’s Beretta to the locally made Mendoza and Trejo.

At least six separate documents are required to buy a gun: a birth certificate, a letter confirming employment, proof of a clean criminal record from the attorney general’s office in the applicant’s home state, a utility bill with current address, a copy of a government-issued ID and a federal social security number.

So, do you think the drunk on the next bar stool over from you is carrying a concealed weapon? Unlikely, since it’s nearly impossible to secure a concealed carry permit.

Like we don’t have enough druggies. A Chinese-Mexican businessman accused of drug trafficking could be handed over by U.S. authorities to Mexican authorities as early as next week as he has nearly exhausted his legal options, ending a years-long extradition battle.

Zhenli Ye Gon was arrested for importing chemicals used in cooking up methamphetamine. Then he pissed off American officials by laundering his ill-gotten gains through the United States.

Can’t these drug guys get on the same page? El Chapo is fighting extradition to the U.S. with everything he’s got, and now this Chinaman is fighting moving from the slammer in the U.S. to a slammer in Mexico. Maybe which stony lonesome one likes best comes down to a personal preference.

God bless CFE. In a country where the daily minimum wage is about U.S. $4, landing a job at state companies Pemex and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has meant hitting the jackpot for almost 150,000 retired workers who now earn pensions worth up to $860 per day.

One former CFE worker, union leader José Luis Lupercio Pérez, has a monthly pension of about $26,000. That’s more in his retirement than the president of Mexico earns, whose monthly stipend is $10,400. During his stint at the CFE, Lupercio served as the leader of the national Union of Electrical Workers. Since 2002, he has been the target of corruption and illicit enrichment. But he still gets his pension

Other former CFE employees are receiving monthly pensions that range from $13,600 to $17,000, including seven former employees who all have Lupercio as their surname. Meanwhile, here in Cabo employees are sent out to claim CFE customers’ bills have risen up to 1000% in the month after a new meter was installed. Of course nobody can go back and check the usage, since nobody kept the old meters. Some locals are hiring lawyers and fighting it.  

Drink your milk! In an attempt to reduce obesity, (and raise revenue), Mexico may double down on its tax on sugary beverages. Mexico shook the global soft drinks industry three years ago when it placed a 10% surcharge on sugary beverages in an attempt to combat an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. But today Mexican health advocates and a group of senators are lobbying for the tax to be doubled after fizzy drink sales largely recovered following an initial drop.

Mexico’s sugar tax has raised more than $2.5bn in revenue, more than expected. The soft drink industry’s resilient sales mean it can withstand a higher tax burden, says Jorge Terrazas, the head of the Mexican soft drink producers’ association, which represents Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottlers.

"It is indisputable that this tax has taken in money well," says Terrazas. "But it is also clear that it has not had any impact on consumption."

The volume of soft drinks sold in Mexico rose 0.5% in 2015 after a 1.9% drop in 2014.

Coca Cola calls such taxes regressive, as they disproportionately hit poor consumers. But Armando Rios Piter, a Mexican senator who argues the higher tax could fund better provision of drinkable water, says: "What you do not want, if you are defending the interests of the poorest and the most marginalized, is for them to consume something that ends their lives. We need to give them an alternative."

According to the International Diabetes Federation, 15% of Mexicans over the age of 20 have Type 2 diabetes, and adult Mexicans are twice as likely to live with diabetes as the world average.

More than 70% of Mexican adults and 30% of children are overweight or obese.

The fizzy drinks industry argues it should not be singled out for causing obesity. Yet many governments now see the appeal of simultaneously raising revenue and possibly reducing public health problems and

Euromonitor data show the average Mexican drank 34.8 gallons of fizzy drinks in 2015.Although bottled water sales are growing in Mexico, plenty of Mexicans say they still rely almost exclusively on carbonated drinks for hydration.

Edgar Leyva, a factory supervisor, is one of them. He guzzles half to three quarters of a gallon a day. "When I have breakfast in the house, I’m already drinking Coca-Cola," he says.

Leyva, says he has heard that drinking that much might be harmful. But aside from gaining a few extra kilograms, he claims to be in good health, while spending almost as much on fizzy drinks each month as he does on groceries for his family of four.

Leyva says that maybe if prices doubled — just maybe — he would consider cutting back.