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Inside La Nueva Viga, the world's second largest fish market

           By Kim Honan / Rural

It’s the second largest fish market in the world, following Tokyo's famous Tsukiji Market.

But unlike Japan's fish market, and others like the Sydney Fish Market, La Nueva Viga is located hundreds of kilometres from the coast. The market is in Iztapalapa in Mexico's capital.

Trucks arrive daily from the coast to Mexico City loaded with fresh fish, shellfish, octopus, and shark.

An average of 700 to 1,500 tons of seafood is sold daily to the thousands of visitors the market attracts.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-17/mexico-fish-market/5675602

Kidnappings in Mexico surge to highest level on record as criminals seize new targets

By Joshua Partlow

The Washington Post

The first time, after the men with police badges had lashed Adriana Carrillo’s wrists and ankles with tape, and she had spent 37 hours in the back of a Nissan, her father tossed the $12,000 ransom in a black satchel over a graffiti-strewn brick wall and brought her nightmare to its conclusion. 

She took three days off and then went back to work. “I don’t want to live as a victim,” she said.

Carrillo returned to the cash register of the family store, where she had worked since she was 8 with her parents and six sisters. Their business — cash-based, working class, on the outskirts of Mexico City — happened to put them squarely into the demographic most vulnerable to Mexico’s kidnapping epidemic. 

Less than two years later, a white sedan pulled up alongside Carrillo’s car as she drove home late from the market. When she saw the guns she covered her face with her hands. “No, not again, no,” she remembered saying. “No. No. No. No.”

In Mexico, with its history of drug-war violence and corrupt police, kidnapping is an old story. In the past, the crime tended to target the rich. Now it has become more egalitarian. Victims these days are often shopkeepers, taxi drivers, service employees, parking attendants and taco vendors who often work in cash or in Mexico’s “informal” economy. 

Targets also tend to be young — students, with parents willing to pay ransoms, are commonly targeted.

“The phenomenon has changed. Now it’s the workers, the people in the informal economy, because they are the ones who have access to money quickly,” said Isabel Miranda de Wallace, an anti-kidnapping activist in Mexico. “We have never seen as many kidnappings as we are seeing now.”

http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/08/16/kidnappings-in-mexico-surge-to-the-highest-number-on-record

President Pena Nieto turns to cementing Mexico's overhaul; "We have a lot to do"

By David Luhnow 

Wall Street Journal

President Enrique Peña Nieto, in his first 18 months in power, ended years of gridlock by passing ambitious proposals many in Mexico thought impossible, capped by this week's signing of new laws that open Mexico's closed energy sector to private firms for the first time since 1938. 

But now he faces the equally daunting task of ensuring the changes deliver for ordinary Mexicans, raising incomes in a country where presidential promises of prosperity have largely fallen flat for decades.

"The most important thing we can do is make sure the benefits we've talked about…are visible and tangible to the people…and make this happen in as short a time as possible," he said in an interview, saying this would be the top priority for the rest of his six-year term.

The 48-year-old former governor said that the period of big legislative changes in his administration was over, and that his team would focus on executing the overhauls and the more "ordinary" job of governing.

"We have a lot to do, this doesn't mean we stop," he said.

Beyond implementing the raft of reforms, he said, were tasks like boosting productivity in agriculture and carrying out a $590 billion infrastructure program that includes new airports, doubling the country's port capacity and building new train lines, including a high-speed train between Mexico City and Queretaro.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/mexico-president-turns-to-cementing-overhauls-1408049685

Mexico's minimum wage: Stingy by any measure

           The Economist

Basilio Gonzalez is an unusually well-paid Mexican public servant. The 70-year-old’s total pay this year will be 2.8m pesos ($213,000). That is ironic, considering that for 23 years he has been president of the National Minimum Salary Commission. 

During that time the minimum wage has dropped by 43 percent after accounting for inflation. It varies by region but currently averages 66 pesos a day. At that rate, a recipient would have to work every day for 116 years to earn what Mr González will make this year.

Does González deserve his generous haul? Judging by the length of his tenure, Mexican authorities appear to think so. Even before he took office, wage suppression had been an essential part of Mexico’s successful anti-inflation drive. Since 1991, annual inflation has fallen from more than 22 percent to less than 4 percent.

http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21612255-name-curbing-inflation-government-hurting-workers-stingy-any

The many challenges to Mexico's energy reform

           By Will Grant / BBC News

There is a point inside the Tula refinery, the main oil processing plant servicing Mexico City, that seems to perfectly capture the changing landscape of the Mexican energy industry.

Standing atop a short metal staircase, you are flanked on one side by vast, rusting containers, capable of holding tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil. A team of men from Pemex is soldering the aging tanks, part of the increasingly obsolete stock that is dotted around the complex.

On the other side is what the government hopes is the company's future.

A huge modernization project to build a new processing plant is under way. The green and yellow pipes of the new infrastructure stand out like a facelift on the 40-year-old refinery.

Mexican energy is on the brink of a revolution.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28785506

Mexico outlines plans to open its oil fields to private companies

By Laurence Iliff and Juan Montes

Wall Street Journal

Mexico on Wednesday set aside the bulk of its currently active oil fields for Petróleos Mexicanos but said private companies will be allowed to bid on four-fifths of prospective resources as the government ends the national oil firm's seven-decade monopoly.

Officials hope that the bidding, starting as soon as next year, will spark an energy boom.

Pemex's chief executive said the new competition will help the company, making it more efficient. 

"Pemex has been waiting for these changes for decades," CEO Emilio Lozoya said in an interview. "We're committed to making sure that Pemex continues to be not only the largest company in Mexico, but to regain the largest spot in Latin America and be also one of the leaders worldwide."

Such heady talk might seem misplaced coming from a company that is widely regarded as overstaffed, riddled with corruption and has seen its production slide by nearly a million barrels a day over the past decade to a current 2.5 million.

But Lozoya, a 39-year-old former investment banker, said Pemex has plenty of reason to be optimistic. He said Pemex has already talked to hundreds of oil companies about prospective joint ventures and hoped to open the first bids for such tie-ups by the first quarter of next year.

"Pemex and its management team are thrilled and very energized," he said.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/mexico-outlines-plan-to-open-some-oil-reserves-to-foreign-companies-1407957987

Official says Mexico's oil output is bloated by water barrels

           By Adam Williams and Carlos Manuel Rodriguez / Bloomberg

Petroleos Mexicanos, facing a 10th straight year of production declines, is including water in its oil output and may revise previously reported data, according to a company official briefed on the matter.

A record gap this year between reported output and what the state-owned company processes is partly explained by measuring systems at older fields that are unable to differentiate water-heavy oil from actual crude, the official said, asking not to be named as Pemex debates reducing figures for the past three years or more. Last month, the company cut its 2014 output forecast to 2.44 million barrels a day.

Pemex was probably “setting goals they weren’t achieving and postponing the moment to correct the information,” Adrian Lajous, the oil company’s chief executive from 1994 through 1999, said in a phone interview from Mexico City.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-13/mexico-oil-output-bloated-by-water-barrels-official-says.html

Mexico awards Pemex 83% of proven, probable oil reserves but 21% of possible reserves

BBC

The Mexican government has granted national oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) the rights to 83 percent of the country's proven and probable oil reserves, as part of a broad overhaul.

But Pemex will only get 21 percent of possible reserves, less than it had requested.

Those are the areas where oil has not yet been discovered and which will require a greater degree of investment and exploration to fully exploit.

Mexico enacted new rules this week to open up the country's energy sector.

Private oil companies are now allowed to operate in the country for the first time in 76 years.

The next round of bidding will see private oil firms vie for the remaining 7 percent of possible reserves.

The announcement is good news for the likes of Exxon Mobil from the United States, the Anglo-Dutch multinational Royal Dutch Shell and the Russian firm Lukoil, which are all said to be interested in the auction of Mexican oil contracts due to be completed by June 2015.

Pemex Director Emilio Lozoya said the company intended to set up 10 different joint ventures with the private firms, among them plans for deep-water drilling.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28776695

Official says Mexico's oil output is bloated by water barrels

By Adam Williams and Carlos Manuel Rodriguez

Bloomberg

Petroleos Mexicanos, facing a 10th straight year of production declines, is including water in its oil output and might revise previously reported data, according to a company official briefed on the matter.

A record gap this year between reported output and what the state-owned company processes is partly explained by measuring systems at older fields that are unable to differentiate water-heavy oil from actual crude, the official said, asking not to be named as Pemex debates reducing figures for the past three years or more. 

Last month, the company cut its 2014 output forecast to 2.44 million barrels a day.

Pemex, which is preparing to form partnerships with private producers for the first time in seven decades, produced 2.48 million barrels a day through June, while its distribution system processed 2.32 million barrels a day, according to the National Hydrocarbons Commission. 

The commission didn’t give a reason for the 6.5 percent gap. In an e-mail, company press officials attributed the difference to evaporation, statistical variations and storage, without commenting on the inclusion of water.

Pemex was probably “setting goals they weren’t achieving and postponing the moment to correct the information,” Adrian Lajous, the oil company’s chief executive from 1994 through 1999, said in a phone interview from Mexico City.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-13/mexico-oil-output-bloated-by-water-barrels-official-says.html

Mexico hastens energy overhaul

            By Anthony Harrup and Laurence Iliff / WSJ

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, overseeing a sluggish economy that has dented his approval ratings, said he would speed up implementation of the country's opening of its oil and gas industry.

Peña Nieto, who signed new laws Monday that will guide the opening of the energy market to the private sector for the first time in 76 years, said his government would speed up the creation of a new power-grid operator independent of the state electric utility. It will also speed up the creation of a new natural gas-pipeline system administrator and the rules and regulations needed to apply the new energy laws.

The president also said the government would decide this week which fields would be available for bidding by private and foreign companies when bidding rules are published in early 2015. 

"This is the moment to put the energy reform into action," Peña Nieto said at an event in which he signed nine new laws and changes to 12 others that govern the oil and electricity sectors.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/mexico-hastens-energy-overhaul-1407803143

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