By Jean Guerrero / Wall Street Journal
An influx of mining investments throughout Latin America is bringing badly needed investment, but is also causing tensions in some communities, pitting those who see mines as job creators against those who view them as predatory, in some cases threatening scarce resources like water.
In the Ocotlán valley in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, two outspoken opponents of a subterranean mine run by a small Canadian firm, Fortuna Silver Mines Inc., were killed in separate incidents in the past year. Dozens were beaten or threatened. Two local government officials who approved the mine, including the then-mayor, were killed by an anti-mining mob.
From 2006 to 2011, mining exploration investment in the region jumped 150 percent to $4.55 billion, top in the world and equal to one in every four dollars, according to the mining industry information company Metals Economics Group.
The investments are creating jobs, roads and other benefits in some of the most neglected corners of the developing world. But it is also creating tensions in a region with a long and complicated history with mining.
By Mark Stevenson / Associated Press
The farm state of Michoacan is burning. A drug cartel that takes its name from an ancient monastic order has set fire to lumber yards, packing plants and passenger buses in a medieval-like reign of terror.
The Knights Templar cartel is extorting protection payments from cattlemen, lime growers and businesses such as butchers, prompting some communities to fight back, taking up arms in vigilante patrols.
Help finally arrived Sunday when thousands of soldiers rolled in to restore order. The government of President Enrique Pena Nieto says troops will stay in Michoacan until every citizen lives in peace. But the offensive looks a lot like failed operations launched previously by former President Felipe Calderon, who was trying to stop drug cartels from morphing into mafias controlling all segments of society.
But that's exactly what has happened, as they maintain country roads, control the local economy and mete out justice for common crimes.
By Nick Miroff
Villagers in Mexico’s troubled western state of Michoacan lined the highways this week to cheer the arrival of soldiers sent by President Enrique Peña Nieto to reoccupy their towns. But the scenes have underscored the seeming intractability of the country’s security problems.
Peña Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderón, launched an offensive against Mexico’s drug cartels in 2006, at the outset of his term, by ordering thousands of troops into the same state, at the time in the grips of a vicious trafficking syndicate known as La Familia.
Six years later, the Mexican government and its U.S. advisers have all but wiped out La Familia. But as federal forces receded, an equally powerful cartel, the Knights Templar, took its place, squeezing extortion payments from entire towns, torching businesses and killing anyone who challenged its rule.
By Jonathan Levin / Bloomberg
Mexico’s attempt to solve the country’s housing shortage by constructing millions of new homes far from city centers has crippled the nation’s homebuilders and fueled record foreclosures. But for Antonio Diaz, a former investment banker with Banco Santander, it’s an opportunity.
Diaz’s company, backed by a venture-capital firm whose funders include JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Soros Economic Development Fund, is buying foreclosed homes for as little as 60 percent of face value, refurbishing them and then selling them for up to 90 percent of a new home price.
Abandoned homes are in part a result of a government policy that helped back mortgages and provide subsidies for low-income homes on cheap land sometimes hours outside the nation’s cities. During the last six-year administration ended in 2012, the National Workers’ Housing Fund Institute, or Infonavit, gave out a record 3 million mortgages and housing credits.
For Diaz, 53, it’s not just about making money. It’s an attempt to repopulate towns that face an exodus and plunging property values after the government subsidized developments that sprawled too far from cities and led to unattended buildings that lured criminals and illegal tenants.
The Associated Press
Mexicans often feel that billionaire Carlos Slim owns everything in their country, from telephone and Internet companies to banks and chain stores, but his latest acquisitive foray is meeting resistance after touching a national passion: soccer.
Slim recently bought part of two of Mexico’s first division soccer teams, setting up another showdown with television giants Televisa and TV Azteca, major players in the soccer field that are in turn trying to push their way into Slim’s telecommunications and Internet markets.
The owners of the 18 Mexican first division clubs are scheduled to meet today, Monday, to decide whether one person or one company can own more than one first-division soccer team, and many see Slim as the target.
Slim ventured into soccer in September, when he bought 30 per cent of the shares in the Leon and Pachuca teams through his telecommunications company America Movil. In December, he bought all the shares of the second division team Estudiantes Tecos.
Following the acquisitions, team owners in February decided to discuss the issue of multi-ownership.
By Dudley Althaus / Global Post
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto vows big changes with the economic reforms he's pushing and they've already taken more than a little change from the pockets of mega-mogul Carlos Slim.
With stock in his flagship phone company America Movil slipping because of telecommunications reforms about to become law, Slim lost the title of world's richest man Thursday to Microsoft founder Bill Gates for the first time in six years.
Peña Nieto seems on a roll with his campaign to shift the chatter about his country from drug war violence to economic possibility.
Since taking office in December, he has worked with political opponents to push constitutional fixes aimed at breaking the choke hold interest groups have around Mexico's economy.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has fired a senior official over an incident caused by his daughter at an exclusive restaurant last month.
Humberto Benitez Trevino's daughter caused outrage by using his influence to try to close down the bistro after it did not give her a table she wanted.
The episode sparked a discussion about abuse of power in the country. The sacking suggests that Mexico has grown more sensitive to the issue, correspondents say.
The episode became a trending topic on Twitter under the hashtag #ladyprofeco, after her father's agency.
Benitez, the attorney-general for consumer protection, and his daughter both apologized, but this did little to appease public anger.
On Wednesday, President Pena Nieto ordered his dismissal.
Living next to an active volcano must suck in plenty of ways: bed-shaking rumbling at night, ash in the morning's scrambled eggs and, always, the threat of an immediate and messy evacuation.
But for people who marvel at the awesome power of nature, there's nothing keener for the eyes than a quaking, smoke-belching giant looming right over the city skyline. Just look at the titanic blowhole of hell-vapors that is Popocatépetl, the second-highest volcano in North America that squats about 50 miles southeast of Mexico City.
Popocatépetl's crater used to harbor a warm lake of crystal-turquoise water, but repeated eruptions in the past couple of decades cleared that out.
For the past two weeks the volcano has been fuming and booming more than usual, prompting government work crews to prep for cleaning ash from reservoirs and distributing thousands of surgical masks. Popocatépetl has actually calmed down since Monday, when the National Center for Disaster Prevention warned about the "possibility of a medium- to high-level explosion on the volcano."
By Carrie Khan / NPR
On her daily route delivering laundry in her working-class neighborhood in southern Mexico City, Maria Carlotta Santa Maria, or Mari, as she is known, seems to know everyone: the mailman, the woman on the corner selling salty nuts, and her favorite greetings are for the guys at the corner gas station.
Mari is the kind of person that can make this inhospitable and overwhelming megacity seem almost small and friendly. But as a single mother, she says raising her 10-year-old daughter Jimena alone hasn't been easy.
More unmarried women than ever in Mexico are having children. Nationally, one-fourth of all households in Mexico are headed by a single mother. In big urban centers like Mexico City, it's as high as 35 percent.
With so many women heading up households, the stigma once associated with having children out of wedlock is fading and single mothers are no longer hidden away or spoken about in whispers or as social outcasts.
By Pallavi Ail and Karl Plume / Reuters
Opengate Capital Group filed a lawsuit last Friday alleging that laboratory equipment maker Thermo Fisher Scientific sold it a Mexican plant last year without revealing that a drug cartel was operating there.
The private equity firm claimed that the Reynosa manufacturing facility, which it acquired as part of a larger deal from Thermo Fisher, had been regularly infiltrated by gangs from the Gulf Cartel since at least 2011, according to a copy of the complaint seen by Reuters.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleged that Thermo Fisher had acted in bad faith by withholding documents and directing employees to conceal the drug gang's presence at the facility.
Opengate said gang members brandished weapons to intimidate employees at the facility and parked their cars and "tractor-trailers filled with unknown cargo" there.
It also said employees sought help from Thermo Fisher to address the cartel activity, but that security upgrade proposals were not implemented.