Oil Drillers Face an Angry Mob in Mexico’s Guerrilla Country

3/28/2017 Bloomberg

energy- oil pumps 2When an angry mob torched City Hall in the southern Mexican town of Tecpatan last month, it sent a warning flare across a country already thrown into turmoil by Donald Trump.

The outrage was over oil, specifically the government’s plan to auction off a swath of land around their farming community to private drillers. The locals say they weren’t informed that a date—July 12—had been set. When they found out, they set fire to the two-story town hall, which now sits charred and abandoned, its windows smashed and the iron gate chained shut. The clock on its tower stopped at 10:55.

In some ways, the unrest set clocks all the way back to the 1990s, when Zapatista rebels were roaming the region and declaring war on Nafta. But the fact that today’s target is the government’s energy policy could spell trouble ahead. President Enrique Pena Nieto is trying to revive Mexico’s struggling oil industry by bringing in foreign capital—that’s why the land around Tecpatan is up for grabs. The frontrunner in next year’s presidential election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is vowing to roll back the changes.

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Mexican Fishermen Burn Boat, Demand Environmentalists Out

3/27/2017 New York Times

Vaquita4_Olson_NOAAMEXICO CITY — Dozens of fishermen have burned a boat as part of a threat to force out a ship operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Mexico’s Gulf of California.

Sea Shepherd has been removing illegal and abandoned nets that endanger the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise. Illegal fishing for the totoaba, another species, has reduced the number of vaquitas to fewer than 30.

Fishermen in the town of San Felipe painted the name of the Sea Shepherd on an empty, open fishing boat they burned Sunday. They threatened to remove the conservationists’ ship themselves if the government doesn’t.

“Just as they are judging us fishermen, we will judge all the environmentalists,” said Sunshine Rodriguez, a leader of the local fishing cooperative in San Felipe, Baja California. “We aren’t going to just sit around.”

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Illegal Wildlife Trade Booming Across U.S.-Mexico Border

3/14/2017 National Geographic

parrotTraffickers from Latin America are desperate to get their product into the United States—so desperate they’ll risk the dangers of swimming across the Rio Grande with their contraband. But it’s not meth and it’s not cocaine. In one case, according to a special agent, it was about 25 parrots destined to be sold as pets. Smugglers used tire inner tubes to keep the box of birds afloat during the river crossing.

The southern border of the U.S. is a hot zone for wildlife smuggling, and while President Trump has vowed to stop illegal immigration from Mexico, it’s unclear what he intends to do to thwart the flow of illicit wildlife.

Of the nearly 50,000 illegal shipments of wildlife and wildlife products seized at ports of entry from 2005 through 2014, more than a quarter originated in Latin America, according to a 2016 fact sheet from Defenders of Wildlife, a Washington, D.C.-based conservation organization. This included nearly 55,000 live animals and three million pounds of wildlife products.

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A massive Mexico-US raw sewage spill is under investigation

3/6/2017 CNN
border-fenceWith millions of gallons of raw sewage spilled into the Pacific Ocean surface and onto the shores of southern California, officials in the United States and Mexico have launched a bi-national investigation into the spill that apparently originated in Mexico.

The spill was first spotted in early February along the beaches of San Diego, California down through Tijuana, Mexico, according to the International Boundary and Water Commission. The IBWC is a joint government agency responsible for brokering water treaties between the two countries.

Agency commissioners agreed to investigate the matter after receiving reports about sewage originating in Mexico that affected the Tijuana River, Tijuana River Estuary, and coastal waters at Imperial Beach, California.

“This is the worst spill we’ve had in over a decade,” Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina told CNN affiliate KSWB. “More than 143 million gallons of raw sewage were discharged into the Tijuana River, which flowed through south San Diego, into Imperial Beach (causing) closed beaches from the border all the way to Coronado.”

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Boll Weevil: A Scourge That America and Mexico Fight Together

3/1/2017 New York Times

weevilRÍO BRAVO, Mexico — It has bedeviled the United States for more than a century, becoming a bane of the American South, causing widespread job losses and setting off countless debates about stopping migration from Latin America.

This is a wave that even the biggest, most expensive wall might never hold back.

We’re talking about the boll weevil.

It is just one of the many issues that rely on bilateral cooperation between the United States and Mexico, and it embodies, in microcosm, many of the essential qualities of the broader relationship between the two countries: an alliance bordering on codependence despite economic, political and cultural differences.

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Before Vaquitas Vanish, a Desperate Bid to Save Them

2/27/2017 New York Times

vaquita-2
SEMARNAT

SAN FELIPE, Mexico — In the shallow sea waters of the Gulf of California swims a porpoise that few have seen, its numbers dwindling so fast that its very existence is now in peril.

Known mostly by its Spanish name, the snub-nosed vaquita is the world’s smallest cetacean, a miniature porpoise with a cartoonlike features and dark smudges around its eyes. The species lives only in the fertile waters of the gulf’s northern corner.

The size of its population has always been precarious, but now voracious demand in China for a fish that shares the vaquita’s only habitat has pushed the tiny porpoise to the brink of extinction.

No more than 30 vaquitas are left, according to a November estimate based on monitoring of their echolocation clicks. Half of the vaquitas counted a year earlier have disappeared.

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Large Sewage Spill in Tijuana, Mexico, Flows North of Border

2/25/2017 New York Times

Map_Downtown_Tijuana_Northern_Baja_California_MexicoLOS ANGELES — Officials in Southern California are crying foul after more than 140 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into the Tijuana River in Mexico and flowed north of the border for more than two weeks, according to a report.

The spill was caused Feb. 2 during rehabilitation of a sewage collector pipe and wasn’t contained until Thursday, the International Boundary and Water Commission said in its report released Friday. The river drains into the Pacific Ocean on the U.S. side.

Serge Dedina, the mayor of Imperial Beach, California, said residents of his city and other coastal communities just north of the border have complained about a growing stench.

Dedina criticized federal officials in the U.S. and Mexico for not alerting people to the spill.

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