What's Going On In This Country?

March 4, 2019 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

You started it, you finish it. A group representing maquiladora factory owners is calling on President Lopez Obrador to help with a rash of strikes that followed his decision to double minimum wages at the U.S. border. Looks like he awakened a sleeping giant who’s feeling the power.

Index, as the group is known, published full-page newspaper ads and took to Twitter after workers at the maquiladoras — foreign-owned factories at the U.S.-Mexico border — demanded a 20% raise and a $1,662 bonus and walked off their jobs in January in the border city of Matamoros. The first dozen companies who were struck, quickly capitulated, emboldening more workers.

Electric bills. Mexican President Lopez Obrador announced that contracts private companies have with the government-run electricity utility called CFE should be reworked to keep electricity prices low. Of course this sent CFE shares tumbling right into the toilet.

The president, a leftist who took office in December, pledged during the campaign to avoid electricity price hikes during his term. But now he’s weaseling out, saying there are sweetheart deals already on the books and there’s nothing he can do about those.

“The government is committed to not increasing electricity prices, but we want private companies to help,” he said. Let private companies that had legitimate contracts take the hit.

We’ll take one of those tickets. The Utah Public Employee Health Plan has a voluntaryTourism Program. For certain PEHP members who useof 13prescription medications, the insurer will foot the bill to fly the patient and a companion to San Diego, then drive them to a hospital in Tijuana to pick up a 90-day supply of medicine.

The average cost of an eligible drug in the U.S. is over $4,500 per month and is 40-60% less in Mexico

Mexican Grand Prix. So it’s out with gas-guzzling Formula One cars and in with zero-emission trains after the Mexican government announced it will pull funding for the country’s Grand Prix to bankroll a new tourist railway.

The government subsidizes the car race to the tune of about $20 million U.S. and tickets to VIP seats are traditionally gobbled up by politicians. According to our new President, that money is needed for his tourist train through the jungle near Cancun. Conservationists have major concerns about the environmental impact of the railway, which is set to run through a biosphere reserve, the second largest expanse of tropical forest in the Americas. Estimates suggest a third of the railway will cut through wildlife-rich jungle, which would have to be cleared.

Mexico is home to an estimated 12 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, but its forests and mangroves are being cleared at an alarming rate. Well, alarming for conservationists who claim the railway would exacerbate deforestation, heaping more pressure on species such as jaguars, which are classed as “near” threatened.

The railway, which will use hydrogen-powered trains, will also cut across land belonging to indigenous communities. However, according to Mexican law, those communities will have to give prior consent before the estimated $8 billion project can go ahead, and these communities are not looking kindly on it. Not one to be bothered with small details, the President is pushing ahead with his pet project, moving dirt already.

Union grief. Mexicans work longer hours for less pay than citizens of any other OECD member country, according to stats from the intergovernmental economic organization. Mexico also has high rates of forced and child labor.

Proposed reforms will prevent employers from signing so-called“protection contracts” with unions behind workers’ backs, with money often exchanging hands. New laws will also seek to eliminate the common union practice of appointing leaders to long-term roles via non-existent elections or opaque processes.

Thedaily minimum wage is 88.36 pesos(U.S. $4.50), seven pesos below the threshold set by the federal government as the poverty level.

Not scholarship programs! Scholarship funds have been embezzled by the National Council of Science and Technology in a massive government corruption scheme that was exposed by two newspapers.

Published under the titleThe Master Fraud, the papers uncoveredscheme in which 11agencies diverted or misused $395 million at today’s exchange rate, between 2013 and 2014. Well, better late than never, but good luck getting that money back.

TheCouncil of Science and Technology has also been in the spotlight recently due to theof two deputy directorswere not obviously qualified for their roles.

Both 28 year old fashion designerEdith Arrieta Meza and communications student David Alexir have nowforced into resignations.

Hey, get off the tracks! A teachers’ union in the state of Michoacan said the state had agreed to pay bonuses and other money they wanted, so they will pack up their tents and skedaddle off the train tracks. The union leader made it clear that the teachers’ fight would not be over until the previous federal government’s education reform was abolished, a central demand by the union since it was introduced in 2013. That reform requires teachers to take a competency test and stop selling their jobs to unqualified people.

The train blockade is estimated to have cost $1.55 billion U.S. and stolen four weeks of education from more than 10,000 students.

Get a clue, taxistas. Taxi drivers claim ride sharing apps like Uber have taken 50% of their earnings since they arrived in Mexico. They want the ride-hailing services banned from Mexico.

More than 200 taxi drivers from Mexico City and México state protested against the “disproportionate growth” of companies like Uber and Cabify. Well, just maybe that’s because the ride hailing apps offer better service at a better price? The Mexican supreme court has ruled they are legal. Our local politicians are stalling their blessing on them, although Uber and Adalante are here, wink, wink. Regulations of them have not been agreed upon yet.

Speeding, drinking, and overloaded. What could go wrong? Six people are dead and at least 38 injured after a grisly bus accident in Campeche.

The 26 year old driver was seen drinking shortly before the bus left the station full. But he took on more passengers as the miles went by, probably taking cash from them.

The driver lost control of the bus, which rolled over. There were 42 seated passengers and 20 more standing. The bus’s speed repeatedly triggered the speed limit alarm, which sounds at about 55 miles an hour. The accident is being treated as a homicide.

In related stupidity. At least two people are dead and four injured after a tanker truck carrying gasoline was struck by a freight train in Aguascalientes. The gasoline truck was attempting to beat the train to a crossing. The driver of the tanker and a passenger died trapped in the truck’s cab after it exploded and caught on fire.

The world is watching. The United Nations will provide Mexico with an extra set of eyes on federal contracts and projects through an agreement just signed.

The UN will provide supervision and tracking of federal contracts, projects and tenders as well as oversight on big projects such as the sale of government vehicles and aircraft, economic proposals for the Maya train and the purchase of medications.

The Mexican government asked for this help.

In related corruption. Nine former public officials, including ex-president Felipe Calderón, awarded energy contracts to private companies they would later work at or hold shares in.

All of the ex-officials now work as consultants at energy firms.

Calderón, who has already engaged intesty tit-for-tat with President López Obradorclaims of corruption, said in a radio interview that he had done nothing wrong by accepting a board position withUnited States subsidiary of.

“If they have a single piece of proof that shows that I benefited illegally from any company, they should present it. If not, they should shut up,” he said.