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Pemex quietly resumes light crude sales to the U.S. West Coast


Mexico's Pemex has quietly begun shipping light Isthmus crude to a variety of West Coast refiners this year, according to U.S. and Reuters data, resuming such sales after a six-year hiatus.

The state-run oil company, which exported only about 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Isthmus last year, shipped about 340,000 barrels of the crude to Valero Energy Corp at Benicia, California, in January and February, according to U.S. government data.

It sent another 350,000 barrels (48,000 tons) to Tesoro Corp in San Francisco in March, according to Eikon's trade flow database based on PIERS data. Pemex then exported another 150,000 barrels to Shell Trading at Anacortes, Washington, in May from the Salina Cruz terminal.

Isthmus is typically shipped to Gulf Coast and East Coast ports including Beaumont and Corpus Christi, Texas and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The move is the latest in a series of new export contracts that Pemex has announced, aimed at diversifying the company's base of clients. Pemex said it began shipping Olmeca crude to Europe in January, and last month said it started shipments of Isthmus to Hawaii.

Cemex taps insiders for chairman, chief executive roles to replace Lorenzo Zambrano

By Christine Murray and Gabriela Lopez


Mexico's Cemex , one of the world's leading cement makers, on Thursday promoted Chief Financial Officer Fernando Gonzalez to chief executive, signaling continuity after the sudden death of Lorenzo Zambrano earlier this week.

Rogelio Zambrano Lozano, 57, board member since 1987 and a cousin of the late CEO, will take over as chairman of the board, Cemex added in a statement, as the company separates the dual roles that Lorenzo Zambrano held.

"Excellent decisions," a top-20 shareholder in Cemex, who asked not to be identified, said on Thursday. "Gonzalez is very good and Zambrano is an excellent board member who will represent the shareholders well."

Questions had swirled this week after Lorenzo Zambrano, who ran the company for three decades, died of natural causes at age 70 in Madrid on Monday, leaving no public succession plan.

He transformed Cemex into a modern multinational and one of Mexico's biggest listed companies with a presence on five continents.


But the company has struggled with large debts and cost-cutting since Zambrano's ill-timed $16 billion takeover of Australian rival Rinker in 2007, when the U.S. housing market was already months into a downturn.

Prehistoric skeleton said to link native Americans to Siberia

           By Sindya N. Bhanoo / New York Times

Most geneticists agree that Native Americans are descended from Siberians who crossed into America 26,000 to 18,000 years ago via a land bridge over the Bering Strait. But while genetic analysis of modern Native Americans lends support to this idea, strong fossil evidence has been lacking.

Now a nearly complete skeleton of a prehistoric teenage girl, newly discovered in an underwater cave in the Yucatán Peninsula, establishes a clear link between the ancient and modern peoples, scientists say.

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers report that they analyzed mitochondrial DNA — genetic material passed down through the mother — that was extracted from the skeleton’s wisdom tooth by divers. The analysis reveals that the girl, who lived at least 12,000 years ago, belonged to an Asian-derived genetic lineage seen only in Native Americans.

Mexico is waging war against American apples

           By Bridget Huber / Public Radio International

After 50 years in the apple business, Vicente Robles from the Mexican state of Chihuahua is cutting down most of his orchards. The trees are still productive, but no longer profitable.

This year, Mexican growers produced a record harvest.

“We were very happy,” said Robles. “The harvest was coming well after two years of not having one.”

But their bumper crop came after a year of record imports of American apples. By the time the Mexican growers were ready to sell their fruit, markets were already filled with apples from up north.

How Citi stumbled in Mexico: Bank fires 11 employees amid alleged fraud; missed warning signs?

By Amy Guthrie, Christina Rexrode and Laurence Iliff

Wall Street Journal

Citigroup Inc.'s Mexican unit showered loans on a troubled oil-services company as other banks were pulling back, according to people familiar with the matter, setting the stage for a loss of about $400 million that has sparked fraud probes in the U.S. and Mexico.

Citigroup Chief Executive Michael Corbat said in a memo Wednesday that the third-largest U.S. bank by assets had fired 11 employees in its Banamex unit in connection with the loan losses from Mexico's Oceanografía SA de CV that the bank has blamed on fraud.

The firings highlight the widening scope of the internal investigation at Citigroup following a loss that raised questions about the bank's ability to manage risk across its sprawling international operations. 

Long before Banamex ramped up its lending to Oceanografía, several other major banks had cut or reduced ties to the company over concerns about the health of its business, according to interviews with executives of major Mexican lenders, along with Oceanografía's own financial disclosures.

Signs of trouble at Banamex's Oceanografía account appeared on Feb. 11, when bank executives learned the Mexican government had barred Oceanografía from receiving more contracts from Pemex, the Mexican state-owned oil company, for nearly two years. The reason: Oceanografía failed to post adequate financial guarantees in the event it couldn't fulfill its contract obligations.

The move cut off Oceanografía's main source of revenue, worrying top Banamex officials that the money they had lent was at risk, according to people familiar with the account.

Study finds U.S. aid to Mexico's federal police wasted as corruption soars

More than $1 billion in U.S. aid has done nothing to stem the rampant corruption and human rights By within Mexican law enforcement, and U.S. lawmakers ought to rethink the flow of another $900 million in taxpayer dollars earmarked for south of the border, according to a new report from a Washington nonprofit.

The aid is part of the 2007 Merida Initiative, which promised Mexico's federal police force funds for equipment and training, but tied the money to efforts to curtail corruption and abuse within the vast department. 

But the Washington Office on Latin America found complaints to Mexico's Human Rights Commission have exploded over the same time, rising to 802 in 2012 from 146 six years earlier. Although the authors recognize Mexico’s attempts to improve its dysfunctional criminal justice system, they found it has failed to root out corruption and human rights violations among its police officers.

“As it determines with the Mexican government how to allocate the remaining $900 million in funds through the Merida Initiative [in the current fiscal year], the report recommends that the U.S. government prioritize efforts to strengthen accountability mechanisms for Mexico’s police,” wrote Maureen Meyer, the report's author.

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., proposed a bill restricting a portion of aid to Mexico pending certification from the State Department regarding improved transparency and accountability of police forces at all levels.


Lowey’s office declined comment but the Obama administration is reportedly requesting a 40 percent cut in the remaining Merida Initiative funding for fiscal 2015.

Cemex CEO Lorenzo Zambrano dies in Madrid at age 70

           By Anthony Harrup and Jose de Cordoba

Wall Street Journal

Lorenzo Zambrano, who became Mexico's poster boy for globalization by turning global cement giant Cemex into the country's first true multinational, died unexpectedly Monday in Spain, the company said.

The death of Zambrano, who just turned 70 in April, leaves Cemex without the man who led it since 1985. The company, based in Monterrey, Mexico, didn't give the cause of death.

"Mexico has lost an extraordinary businessman and a great Mexican," Mexican Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said through his official Twitter account. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called him "an industrial pioneer."


Unlike some of Mexico's big, family-dominated firms, Zambrano wasn't a big shareholder in Cemex and there is no clear successor, said Gerardo Copca, director of market-analysis firm Metanalisis. Zambrano never married and had no children.

Mexico opts for stability with its World Cup roster

            By Kyle McCarthy / Fox Soccer News

For the first time in quite a while, Mexico passed through a pivotal moment on the road to the World Cup with its expectations firmly in place.

There were no crises to handle, no surprises to sidestep before the unveiling of the World Cup roster on Friday afternoon. Miguel Herrera just needed to confirm the names everyone expected and proceed onwards with the business of molding a unit capable of succeeding in Brazil.

Herrera fulfilled his brief by revealing a 23-man squad with few, if any, surprises. He made no dramatic, last-minute changes to upend his plans. He instead plumped for the sort of pragmatic security required to lay the necessary groundwork and meet the quarterfinal objective he subsequently laid out.


“It was very difficult to make the list,” Herrera said during his press conference in Mexico City. “There were many hours of good discussions, but the decision and the responsibility is ultimately mine.”

Mexico vigilantes register weapons, agree to disband

By Tracy Wilkinson

Los Angeles Times

The scent of limes in the air, Papa Pitufo shouted orders to his men and consulted by cellphone with his far-flung forces.

The gray-bearded farmer has emerged as the senior leader of the vigilante movement that has taken over a large swath of wealthy Michoacan state, one of the world's top producers of avocados and limes but dominated for nearly a decade by ruthless drug cartels.

For the first time in modern Mexican history, an armed civilian band has ejected a drug cartel from its environs. For now, members of the so-called Knights Templar are lying low, challenged by rebelling citizens — including some who have returned to their families' homes from California — finally fed up with unrelenting extortion, kidnapping, arson, rapes and killings.

"Where we have a presence, [the Knights Templar] no longer have influence. They are gone," said Papa Pitufo, holding court at the main lime market in ApatzinganBut the vigilantes have also proved a major challenge to the young government of President Enrique Peña Nieto — making it clear that official security forces had been unable to protect their own people. Initially, federal forces tried to cooperate with the vigilantes. Now fearing a Frankenstein-like scenario, authorities are trying to rein them in.

Saturday was the federally imposed deadline in Michoacan for thousands of "self-defense" forces, as they call themselves, to register their weapons and formally disband. They are being allowed to keep their handguns and assault weapons (but no rocket launchers or bazookas) and will be invited to join a new rural police force. As of the weekend, at least 3,316 people had signed up and more than 6,000 weapons were registered.


That too is unprecedented; no other Mexican state allows ordinary citizens to legally retain AK-47s and other military-style assault weapons.

Happy hour is happier as Mexico lime prices plummet

           By Nacha Cattan / Bloomberg

Falling lime prices in Mexico earlier in the year pushed up the cost of margaritas in bars from Mexico City to New York.

“Margarita drinkers should relax now and order a second round,” Marco Oviedo, chief Mexico economist at Barclays, said by telephone from Mexico City. Limes “provided a strong push to maintain the downward trend in inflation.”

The price of the fruit plunged 39 percent in April from March, accounting for more than half of the monthly drop in national consumer prices and helping annual inflation slow to 3.5 percent.


Mexico, which supplies about 97 percent of the fruit in the U.S., saw lime prices surge after disease and heavy rains limited supply and some growers banded together to keep rates high, sparking a government probe into price fixing.

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