Mexico’s Season of Scandal and Violence

December 12, 2014

12/11/2014 Bloomberg Businessweek

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP - Getty Images

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP – Getty Images

Mexico has been engulfed in protests since the disappearance and alleged murder of 43 college students by a drug gang. While he contends with the unrest, President Enrique Peña Nieto also faces a big challenge to his economic agenda because of a scandal involving his wife, former soap opera star Angélica Rivera, and Grupo Higa, a government contractor.

On Nov. 3, the Peña Nieto administration awarded a $4.3 billion contract to build a high-speed railway to a group led by China Railway Construction (601186:CH). Three days later the government canceled the deal, citing general “doubts and concerns.” On Nov. 9, reporters led by prominent journalist Carmen Aristegui revealed that Rivera had agreed in 2012 to purchase an opulent property—called the White House because of its color—from a unit of Higa, a partner in the winning China-led bid. Aristegui’s team further revealed that the Higa unit still held the deed to the house. In response, the first lady said on YouTube that she’d paid 14.3 million pesos ($995,000) of the 54 million-peso purchase price. So the first lady’s mansion is owned by a construction company that has bid successfully for government contracts.

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Mexico: Violent Protests Hit Acapulco’s Tourism

November 13, 2014

11/12/14 New York Times 

Mexicana PlaneMexico’s president has tried to keep the issue of violence issue separate from his focus on the economy, but the two are converging as violent protests over 43 disappeared students squelch tourism in Acapulco just before a major holiday weekend. As Mexico prepares to commemorate its 1910 revolution Monday, hotels in the Pacific resort city have seen a wave of cancellations after demonstrators temporarily shut down the airport, blocked highways and attacked government and political offices in the southern state of Guerrero. Acapulco hotel occupancy rates are currently at 20 percent, well short of the 85 percent expected for this long weekend when Mexicans typically flock to the beaches, Joaquin Badillo, president of the Employers’ Association for Guerrero state, said Wednesday. More cancellations have been registered for Christmas week, the busiest time of the year for Acapulco tourism, and Badillo said one company that operates 10 hotels has cut about 200 temporary jobs in recent weeks.

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Latin America consumers switch to budget bands

September 24, 2014

09/23/14 Financial Times 

money laundering -- dollar billsFrom Pampers to Panasonic, Latin America’s consumers have gorged on big-name global brands for more than a decade. Spurred on by rising prosperity, easier access to credit, and the emergence of glitzy shopping malls, the good times have rolled. And they have continued to roll even as economies have cooled. Spending in shops across the region topped $1tn last year – up 11 per cent on the year before, according to Euromonitor, the research company. The squeeze on spending power, especially in Brazil and Mexico, barely registered.

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Mexico economy could pick up in second half of 2014 – central bank’s Sanchez

July 22, 2014

07/21/14 Reuters UK

faucet gold coinMexico’s economy likely picked up speed in the second quarter, helped by signs of improving domestic consumption, and growth could be stronger in the second half of the year, a Central Bank deputy governor said on Monday.

Manuel Sanchez, one of five governors on the Bank of Mexico’s board, told Reuters in an interview that the economy appeared to have grown slightly more than expected in the second quarter.

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Mexican Economy Sees Glimpse of Recovery

June 26, 2014

06/25/14 The Wall Street Journal

financeAfter many months of dreary economic news from Mexico, upbeat April data buoyed hopes that the economy is finally on the path toward improved growth.

The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto and some economists welcomed the broad 1.3% expansion in the global index of economic activity in April, which marked the best monthly performance since November 2012, bolstered by growth in services, construction and industry.

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Mexico manufacturing surge hides low-wage drag on economy

June 3, 2014

Export Or Import DirectionsReuters, 06/03/14

Abundant cheap labor has helped Mexico lure billions of dollars in foreign investment in recent years and spur a manufacturing sector so dynamic it has been likened to China.

But the same low wages that help make manufacturers competitive are a long-term drag on the economy. Millions of people working off the books for paltry sums holds back private consumption, crucial for sustained growth.

The government has slashed its growth forecast for 2014 after the economy expanded by just 0.3 percent in the first quarter, well short of expectations.

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Mexican Home Builder Geo Files for Bankruptcy

March 21, 2014

Mexican engineersThe Wall Street Journal, 03/21/14

Mexican home builder Corporación Geo SAB said Thursday it has filed for bankruptcy protection in Mexico with a prearranged restructuring plan it hopes will get the struggling company building again. In a statement, Geo said several bank creditors and bondholders signed off on the plan.

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