Mexico anti-poverty fund draws line at 3 children

May 6, 2014

shopping in super marketMiami Herald, 5/5/14

The head of Mexico’s anti-poverty program drew criticism Monday after she warned Indian mothers that government aid programs would help support only their first three children. Activists said the warning by Social Development Secretary Rosario Robles appeared insulting and aimed at punishing women who have more children.

Robles’ department said the three-child rule has actually been in place since July 2012, before current President Enrique Pena Nieto took office. The Associated Press found a reference to a similar guideline in government documents dating back to 2011, when the change appears to have first been made. Her office said the rules apply to Indians and non-Indians alike.

Robles said she was just stating longstanding policy in a speech last week to Huichol and Cora Indian women in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit. She was talking about a series of government food aid, scholarships and health assistance programs known broadly as Oportunidades (“Opportunities”) that provide a maximum of about $210 a month to poor families. But the tone, timing and audience may not have been the best, and Robles made it sound like the rule was new.

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UN: Torture remains widespread in treatment of detainees in Mexico

May 5, 2014

prison - open doorThe Globe and Mail, 5/2/14

The torture of detainees in Mexico continues to be widespread and occurs between the time of arrest and when suspects appear before a judge, a United Nations official said Friday after a two-week probe of issue. U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez said that signs of torture are found on people arrested by all levels of authority, from the military down to local and state police.

Mendez spoke in a press conference at the end of his visit to Mexico, where he met with officials, activists and victims of torture. He said practices reported include beatings with fists, feet and sticks, asphyxiating with plastics bags and electric shock to the genitals. “I wish I could say that torture is isolated in Mexico,” said Mendez, who was invited by the Mexican government to do the study. “But I have an obligation to tell the government and society of Mexico that it’s the kind of problem that needs to be corrected.”

He will prepare a report with recommendations for the government that will eventually go to the U.N. Human Rights Council, where it will become public. The Mexican Foreign Ministry said the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto has made it a priority to eradicate torture and is committed to completing the recommendations.

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Even With Obamacare, Many Latinos Still Seek Treatment In Mexico

May 5, 2014

latino-healthKaiser Health News, 5/5/14

Irma Montalvo signed up for a health plan through California’s new insurance exchange last month, getting coverage for the first time in eight years.

But when she needed treatment for a painful skin rash, Montalvo didn’t go to a doctor near her home in Chula Vista. Instead she drove to Mexico, about 16 miles south. Her doctor, Cecilia Espinoza, diagnosed her with shingles and prescribed medication to relieve pain and head off complications.

Montalvo, 64, said she comes to Tijuana in part because it costs just $15 to see the doctor. She can’t use her insurance for care outside California but it’s still cheaper because she doesn’t have to worry about a deductible. More important, she said, is that she feels comfortable with Espinoza.

“She listens to me,” said Montalvo, a U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico, said in Spanish. “I come here feeling really bad, and three days later I am better.” Mexican immigrants living in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico have long sought health care in border cities like Tijuana, Mexicali and Nogales. The Affordable Care Act won’t change that, experts said, even though it has expanded coverage to millions of people, including many Latinos.

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Mexican Government Boosts Infrastructure Investment Plan

April 30, 2014

drawing bar chartThe Wall Street Journal, 4/28/14

Mexico’s government expects public and private investment in infrastructure to reach 7.75 trillion pesos ($590 billion) over the next five years in an effort to raise the country’s economic growth capacity, officials said Monday.

The 2014-2018 national infrastructure plan includes 743 projects in areas such as energy, communications and transport. The amount is a marked increase over the $340 billion outlined by the government a year ago, with the addition of projects in housing and urban development, health and tourism.

President Enrique Peña Nieto said at an event to unveil the plan that despite having the world’s 14th largest economy, Mexico is lagging in infrastructure, placing 64th of 148 countries in the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index.

The energy sector is likely to take up the lion’s share of the investment, with 3.9 trillion pesos over the next five years as Mexico opens the state-run oil and electricity sectors to private investment and competition for the first time in decades. Investment in communications and transport, including highways, railways, ports, and broadband networks, is expected to exceed 1.3 trillion pesos.

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Mexico’s Anti-Market Antitrust Law

April 29, 2014

barbed wireThe Wall Street Journal, 4/27/14

Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party President Enrique Peña Nieto has never claimed to be a policy wonk. He is an able politician with a vision of the future, and leaves the questions of how to get there to the skilled technocrats he hires.

Finance Minister Luis Videgaray, who has a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, leads the Peña Nieto team of reformers. Such strong academic credentials ought to inspire confidence. But over 16 months Mr. Videgaray has gradually revealed a deep-seated mistrust of markets that threatens the faster growth his boss has promised.

The latest manifestation is a new antitrust law, initiated in the executive branch and expected to pass in Congress this week. It increases the discretionary power of regulators to penalize companies with a dominant market share even if there is no evidence of anticompetitive practices.

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US Rules Against Mexico, Turkey in Steel Dispute

April 22, 2014

sparks while workingABC News, 4/21/14

President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday sided with American steel producers in a politically charged international trade dispute, ruling that imported steel reinforcing bar from Mexico and Turkey unfairly undercuts U.S. prices.

The preliminary decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce means companies in Mexico and Turkey will be subject to immediate duties. Within a week, the U.S. government will stop distribution at the nation’s borders of the imported steel reinforcing bar, which is known as steel rebar and is used to reinforce concrete, until a cash bond or deposit is posted in the amount of the newly imposed duties. U.S. Customs and Border Protection may impose retroactive duties for up to 90 days before the ruling due to the seriousness of the violations, Commerce said.

The amount of duties ranges from 10 percent to 66 percent for Mexican companies. For Turkish companies, the duties were roughly 2 percent.

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All Eyes On Mexico: Energy Reform Creating Opportunities Across Oil And Gas Supply Chain

April 18, 2014

energy - oil pumpsForbes, 4/17/14

In the next two weeks, Mexico’s lawmakers are expected to release a series of laws, known as the secondary laws, that should begin to delineate how the revolutionary energy reforms approved last December will be implemented.

Prior to the reforms, Mexico had the most closed energy regime of any country in the world, save North Korea, some have quipped. This Latin perestroika is not going unnoticed in the US and abroad. It has become de rigeur at nearly every oil and gas conference to have at least one panel to discuss the changes, and with good reason.

Not only is Mexico close, the opportunity is huge. The country is prospective for 54.6 billion barrels of oil  equivalent in conventional resources, and 60.2 billion in unconventional, according to PEMEX figures. And don’t forget NAFTA.  Although Mexico’s energy industry had been excluded under Chapter 6 of NAFTA, that exclusion may no longer apply given the reforms, said Dallas Parker, a partner with Mayer Brown, during a presentation at Mergermarket’s 6th Annual Energy Forum last week in Houston.

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Mexico Reports Record First-Quarter Auto Production

April 8, 2014

iStock_000008876270MediumThe Wall Street Journal, 4/7/14

Mexico produced a record number of cars and light trucks in the first quarter of the year, with exports rising to an all-time high thanks to a recovery in U.S. demand after a harsh winter, an industry trade group said Monday. The Mexican Auto Industry Association, or AMIA, said Mexico produced 774,731 light vehicles in the first three months of the year, a 6.5% increase from the same period of 2013. March output rose 16% from the year-earlier month.

The unprecedented first-quarter output follows four consecutive years of record production in cars and light trucks, which reached almost three million units in 2013. Auto exports also set a record in the first quarter, rising 8.6% to 606,204 vehicles, with March shipments up 13% from a year before. Exports to the U.S., Canada and Latin America rose, while exports to Europe and Africa fell, according to the industry group.

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Mexico becoming a driving force in auto production

February 25, 2014

iStock_000008876270MediumLA Times, 2/24/14

The first Honda Fit rolled off the assembly line Friday at a new $800-million factory near Celaya, Mexico, a symbol of the growing might of the country’s auto industry.Honda’s U.S. factories spit out hundreds of thousands of Accords and Civics each year. But when the automaker redesigned the Fit for North America, it turned to Mexico for an increasingly skilled workforce and favorable export rules.

Mexico already accounts for about 18% of North American auto production, but that’s expected to jump to 25% by 2020 as automakers pour billion of dollars into factories, said Joe Langley, an analyst at IHS Automotive. The nation has joined Germany, Japan and the U.S as one of the heavyweights of auto production, he said.

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US Energy Companies Poised to Benefit from Mexico Energy Reform

February 4, 2014

energy - oil barrelsRigzone, 1/30/14

Mexico’s energy reforms will create “abundant opportunities” for U.S. energy companies and shrink the socioeconomic disparities between Texas’ booming metro areas and its border cities, according to the latest BBVA Compass research. “The 2013 reform promises to create abundant opportunities for private companies that have the technology and expertise to revive Mexico’s hydrocarbons and electricity industries,” BBVA Compass economist Marcial Nava wrote in his report on the reforms.

Under the reform, the state would retain ownership of hydrocarbons beneath the surface and Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) and Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) would not be privatized. However, the new legal framework would allow the ownership of hydrocarbons at the wellhead through profit-sharing, production sharing and license sharing contracts. BBVA Compass estimates that the reform could increase private direct investment inflows into Mexico by $20 billion to $30 billion per year, or 1.5 to 2.3 percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product. While secondary laws are still needed to translate the reforms into a workable framework and legal processes, U.S. oilfield services, shale gas and infrastructure companies, among others, stand to benefit from the reforms, Nava said in the Jan. 22 report.

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