Friday, May 31, 2013

As May ends, U.S. dollar stages powerful rebound

Greenbacks return to 2012 levels for the first time in five months, and peso nosedives - will it last?

*Updated June 21*
Guadalajara -
Pity the peso. Just three weeks ago the dollar hit a 21 month low against Mexico's currency, trading at a meager 11.98 when markets closed. But over the past week greenbacks have roared back, and today the exchange rate broke 13 pesos for the first time since the end of 2012. Dollar continues downhill slide against peso.

What happened? Economists have an explanation.

Minor collateral consequences of Shively - Fox dope plan

MGR's view -

Cancún, 2011, where a half dozen bloody cartels are duking it out to capture the tourist drug market and northbound cocaine routes. Marijuana is always a hot item, so Mexican traffickers will be thrilled to learn the U.S. may soon allow retail pot sales. Thank you, Mr. Shively, and former president Fox, for your $100 million investment in Mexico. Ex-Microsoft exec wants to "open pot trade with Mexico." These children thank you, too.

June 5 - Vicente Fox: "I'd raise marijuana, were it legal"

Chicago Sun-Times pink slips its entire photo staff

A good business decision? Of course, free labor is always better

The American press, reeling from consumers' continued abandonment of traditional format news delivery and rapidly shrinking advertising revenues, is desperately trying to reduce overhead by cutting staff and relying on cheap, if not free, content. In other cases printed editions have simply been jettisoned altogether A sign of the times, as another U.S. newspaper proves it can read the writing on the wall

Yesterday the Chicago Sun-Times sent out its own distress call, axing its entire 28 person, full time photography staff. The dismissals were without warning and were effective immediately.

A freed Yanira Maldonado not bitter over Mexican drug arrest

"I still love Mexico"

Guadalajara -
Goodyear, Arizona resident Yanira Maldonado, arrested last week on charges that she was trying to smuggle 12 lbs. of marijuana into the United States near the Nogales border crossing, was released late last night, according to media sources. Case of "Mormon mule" Yanira Maldonado is Mexico's latest embarrassment, and Peña Nieto's latest headache.

Prosecutors reviewed security tapes which showed that Yanira and her husband, Gary, had boarded a commercial bus in Sonora state with only blankets, water bottles and small hand items. They had traveled to Mexico to attend the funeral of Yanira's aunt. Authorities dropped the case based upon the tapes.

Yanira, 42, is Mexican by birth but a naturalized U.S. citizen. Her arrest raised an outcry in the U.S. and infuriated the American media.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Former president Vicente Fox and ex-Microsoft exec want to "open pot trade with Mexico"

Care for a Diego Pellicer?

Guadalajara -
A former Microsoft exec wants to create America's "first national brand of retail marijuana" and create a "cannabis trade with Mexico," reports the Seattle Times.

James Shively plans to hold a press conference today with Vicente Fox, who was Mexico's president from 2000-2006.

"We’re going to mint more millionaires than Microsoft with this business," the Times quoted Shively, who said he and Fox will offer a proposal for regulating marijuana commerce between the two countries.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Case of "Mormon mule" Yanira Maldonado is Mexico's latest embarrassment, and EPN's latest headache

MGR's view - No one is immune from the Mexican "bite"

*Updated May 31 - charges dropped against Yanira*
Guadalajara -
Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party president Enrique Peña Nieto is a busy man these days. Only six months into the job, he's had to put out fires on several fronts, each with the potential for further smearing Mexico's reputation abroad. As if it needed further smearing.

In February it was the case of six young Spanish women, robbed and repeatedly raped in their beach house while on vacation in Acapulco. Soon after, Madrid labeled Mexico a "zone of special danger." Such characterizations have a way of torpedoing tourism.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mucho trabajo, poco dinero

Mexican workers labor long hours in return for little compensation . . . but they're happier than most

Guadalajara -
In Paris today the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported that Mexicans work an average 2,250 hours annually, almost 500 hours more than the norm in the 34 member nation group (1,776). And they receive significantly less for their efforts than most workers in developed nations.

According to OECD, the average annual earnings for member state workers is $34,666 U.S. dollars. In Mexico it is $9,885.

Cuba will offer more internet access, but at a huge cost

Guadalajara -
Cuba announced today that beginning next week, public internet access will be greatly expanded throughout the island nation. But the price may be prohibitive for many.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mexican population is soaring, and most are young

12-29 year olds account for a third of the nation

Guadalajara -
Mexico's census bureau reported late last week that by July 1, the country will have an estimated 118.4 million citizens.

The National Council on Population (CONAPO) said 51% are women and 49% are men. The life expectancy for those born in 2013 is 74.5.

The nation's three most populous states are the Federal District, with 8.9 million; the State of Mexico, known as Edomex, with 16.4 million; and Veracruz, with 7.9 million. Together Edomex and the Federal District comprise the largest metroplex in the nation.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Los Zetas gunman pleads guilty to 2011 execution of U.S. ICE agent, and wounding of another

Brutal highway assault in northern Mexico proved no one is immune from cartel vengeance

Guadalajara -
A former executioner for the Los Zetas drug cartel pleaded guilty yesterday to charges that he led an attack two years ago which left a U.S. federal agent dead and gravely wounded another.

Julián Espinoza waived a jury trial and entered the pleas to murder, assault on a federal officer and other offenses during a Thursday appearance before Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Retired Canadian police officer murdered in Riviera Maya

Victim was former RCMP officer, Mexican press reports

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo-
The body of a 60 year old Canadian woman was found inside her home in this Riviera Maya beach town yesterday morning (May 22). Authorities said she was murdered.

Lynn Rachel Earle had been stabbed four times in the chest and once in the neck, according to preliminary reports. Her remains were discovered 10:30 a.m. Wednesday after a property manager where Earle lived, also a Canadian, contacted the police. Earle had been dead for several days or more.

Fiasco in Michoacán suggests little has changed under new government; security prognosis remains poor

MGR News Analysis -
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

*Jan. 14, 2014 - Michoacán security accord more of the same old song*
Guadalajara -
Seventy-seven months ago, on Dec. 11, 2006, former president Felipe Calderón sent federal troops marching into Michoacán state, and wrote the first chapter of what has become known as Mexico's drug war. More than six years later he remains vilified both at home and abroad for his controversial decision to use military forces as street cops.

This week Calderón's successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, repeated the performance - out of desperation. There is plenty of reason to argue that nothing has changed. There is plenty of reason to believe that things are far from getting better, not only in Michoacán but in neighboring Guerrero, which has been on the verge of civil meltdown this spring. Oaxaca and other states could go down the same road.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Passing the hat on Sunday night

Guadalajara -
Street performers from neighboring Michoacán state travel to Guadalajara on weekends, hoping to earn a few pesos in the city's main square. There is no work at home, and worse still, increasing lawlessness and civil disorder. At least four drug cartels are fighting for control of Michoacán, local police have disappeared in many communities and have been replaced by citizen militias (some armed by cartel bosses, according to the government), and as if all that were not enough, thousands of school teachers remain on strike, demanding higher pay and the revocation of modern educational reforms which Mexico's congress approved in December. The itinerant entertainers earned but a few dollars from passersby this Sunday evening, far less than their lodging, food and transportation costs.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cancún bars push deadly drinks, alleges Q.R. newspaper

Booze on the rocks served with ether laced ice, claims Por Esto

Cancún, Quintana Roo -
In less than a month three foreign tourists have died along Mexico's famed Riviera Maya, including a 40 year old American tourist from Los Angeles, a 21 year old Canadian woman on vacation with a girlfriend and a 44 year old man visiting Playa del Carmen with family.

MGR reported the deaths May 9 in Body of Canadian tourist remains unclaimed in Cancún.

Mexican military still at vanguard of the drug war, with 3,500 arrests in Enrique Peña Nieto's first six months

"We're not doing anything different" - General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, SEDENA secretary

Guadalajara -
Mexico's Dept. of Defense reported yesterday that although somewhat less visible than in the previous administration, military operations against organized crime remain "intense," with high ranking drug cartel operatives frequently the targets.

Between Dec. 1 and May 15, almost 3,500 persons were arrested in what SEDENA officials called "precision strikes."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mexico drops another notch in gross tourism receipts

Guadalajara -
Two months ago secretary of tourism Claudia Ruiz Massieu warned that Mexico's rankings as a travel destination would likely fall a place or two in the soon to be released 2012 numbers. This week they did.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) gathers and reports visitor statistics for member nations annually.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Drug cartels behind three recent Guadalajara attacks

Four arrested in Mar. 9 murder of tourism secretary; another in Mar. 31 bar attacks which killed eight

Guadalajara -
The Jalisco state prosecutor's office announced late last night the arrest of five men in connection with three high profile attacks in Guadalajara since Mar. 1. A total of nine persons died in two of the attacks. All of the men are linked to regional organized crime groups.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Insurance broker announces "narco policy" for Mexico

Guadalajara -
Marsh Brockman and Schuh, which advertises itself a global leader in insurance brokering and risk management, will offer a new policy "designed specially" for the challenges of doing business in Mexico, it said last week.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spanish businessmen executed in Sinaloa

Guadalajara -
Two Spanish nationals visiting Mexico's northwest Pacific coast were found dead today near Culiacán, the Sinaloa capital.

The men were in the backseat of a car which had been driven or pushed into a local canal. When the water level descended the vehicle was spotted by passersby, who summoned police.

The victims were identified by the Sinaloa state prosecutor as José Montoya Lozada, 58, and Fernando Carmona Romero, 57. Initial reports claimed the men were professional chefs who were interested in regional cuisine. Later accounts said they were clothing merchants who had lived in Guadalajara for several months. One man was from Madrid. Their remains are being repatriated by family members.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mexico says drug war deaths are plummeting

*Updated May 27*
Guadalajara -
In its latest drug war analysis, Mexico's Department of Government (SEGOB) today reported that during the first five months of the new PRI administration, homicides connected to organized crime activity dropped 18% compared to the last five months of the previous government.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Body of Canadian tourist remains unclaimed in Cancún

Hotel zone records two alcohol related deaths of foreign tourists in recent days

*Updated May 15*
Guadalajara -
Early Monday morning Canadian national Sidney Nicole Taylor, 22, was drinking with friends at the Dady'O, a well known watering hole along touristy Kukulcán Boulevard in the heart of Cancún's hotel zone. She and a friend, Natalie Jane Archibald, 21, were registered guests at the Gran Caribe, just a few doors away.

Taylor and Archibald left the Daddy 'O about 2:45 a.m., according to the latter, who went to bed as soon as the young women returned to their rooms.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Timothy Hallett Tracy is "neither a photographer nor a film maker," says Venezuelan justice minister

"His intent was to create chaos in the streets"

*Updated June 5 - Tracy deported after all charges are dropped*
Guadalajara -
In an television interview broadcast yesterday in Caracas which cannot portend well for U.S. national Timothy Hallett Tracy, Venezuela's justice minister claimed the accused American is neither a photographer nor a documentary film maker.

Those claims are "just a facade," minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres told Televen on Sunday, referring to recent statements by Tracy's family and supporters in the United States. "We've seized hundreds of videotapes and email which show otherwise," said Rodríguez, "and they will be presented in court."

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Enrique Peña Nieto commemorates Battle of Puebla

But M. François Hollande does not

Guadalajara -
In Puebla this morning, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and top cabinet officers presided over ceremonies in honor of the Battle of Puebla, fought 151 years ago today.

Commonly known as Cinco de Mayo north of the border, and often more widely celebrated there than in this country, the event is not to be confused with Mexico's independence day, which is Sept. 16.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Attacks on Mexican journalists on the rise in 2013

No reduction in violence during EPN's first 120 days, reports London-based press advocacy group

*Updated July 1*
Guadalajara -
Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day, but there was little to celebrate in Mexico.

In London the human rights organization Article 19, which focuses on freedom of information and expression issues, reported this week that attacks against journalists in Mexico rose 20% between January and March, compared to the same period a year ago. President Enrique Peña Nieto took office on Dec. 1, advertising a domestic security strategy focused on "reducing the violence" in Mexico.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Miami Five member René González may stay in Cuba if he renounces U.S. citizenship

U.S. dangles a tiny carrot in Havana, but it will be too little and too late to extricate Alan Gross

René González of the Miami Five, at far right

*Updated May 31*
Guadalajara -
A federal court in Florida today granted all but unconditional freedom to René González, 56, one of the members of the Miami Five arrested in 1998 and sentenced to a long prison term for espionage.

González was in Cuba when he received the news.

Obama tells Mexico: "drug legalization not the answer"

"Tu eres el sueño. You are the dream" - Barack Obama, Mexico City, May 3

*Updated May 24*
Guadalajara -
In a mid-morning speech before young people at Mexico City's Museum of Anthropology, president Barack Obama again bluntly acknowledged U.S. responsibility for this country's domestic security challenges. He ruled out drug legalization as the solution:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

President Obama arrives in Mexico

"Stemming the southbound flow of guns and cash is critical" - Barack Obama, Mexico City, May 2

Guadalajara -
President Barack Obama arrived in Mexico City this afternoon, his fourth visit to the country since taking office in 2009.

A joint press conference conducted by Mr. Obama and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto is underway at this hour at the National Palace.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bolivian president Morales expels "subversive" USAID

Cold War era development agency remains in harsh Latin American spotlight

Guadalajara -
On International Workers' Day in La Paz, Bolivian president Evo Morales announced that he will expel the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), alleging that it has engaged in unspecified conspiracies against his nation.

Today was not the first time Morales has complained about American officials and activities in his country (Morales threatens to close U.S. embassy in Bolivia). During public festivities in honor of workers worldwide, the president mentioned with annoyance new U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, who, according to Morales, has referred to Latin America as "the back patio of the United States."