Mexican Peso Falls to Record, Leads Drop Among Major Currencies

2/11/16 Bloomberg Business

pesosThe Mexican peso fell to a new record low as $800 million in dollar sales by the central bank this week was overshadowed by speculation that global growth will falter.

The peso fell 1.5 percent as of 11:31 a.m. in Mexico City, leading losses among the world’s most-traded currencies, as emerging-market assets were swept up in a global selloff of all but the safest securities. Global equities tumbled toward a bear market as investors lost faith in central banks’ ability to support the worldwide economy.

The peso has dropped 10 percent this year, almost four times as much as the next-worst performer among a basket of 16 major currencies, as investors sell off the most liquid and easily tradeable emerging-market assets. The central bank sold $400 million in auctions Thursday to support the currency, after selling $400 million on Feb. 8, when bank Governor Agustin Carstens said that peso weakness isn’t justified by the country’s economic fundamentals.

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Mexico prison riot: at least 52 people killed and 12 injured in Monterrey

2/11/2016 The Guardian 

hands in handcuffsA riot at a prison in the Mexican city of Monterrey involving inmates belonging to rival drug cartels has left at least 52 dead and 12 injured, just days before Pope Francis is due to visit another prison in northern Mexico.

Jaime Rodríguez, the governor of Nuevo León state, which encompasses Monterrey, confirmed the death toll on Friday morning and told reporters that the riot at the Topo Chico prison had begun shortly before midnight.

“During the clash several prisoners set fire to the food storage and sleeping areas,” Rodríguez said. It was not immediately clear how the victims died but the governor said there had been no gunfire.

Rodríguez said that one of the factions involved in the violence was led by a leader of the Zetas cartel, Juan Pedro Saldivar-Farías, known as “Z-27”. The leader of the other group, Jorge Iván Hernández, “El Credo”, was identified by Mexican media as a leader of the Gulf Cartel.

Los Zetas, founded by a group of former special forces soldiers, were originally the Gulf Cartel’s enforcement wing, but turned on their former masters in 2010,triggering a vicious war for territory which has wrought havoc across north-eastern Mexico.

A snapshot of Catholics in Mexico, Pope Francis’ next stop

2/10/2016 Pew Research Center

POPE
© Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

When Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, arrives in Mexico this week, he will be visiting a country that is home to not only the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, but one of the biggest Catholic populations, too. Indeed, Mexico has the globe’s second-largest number of Catholics, and a larger majority of Mexicans have remained tied to their Catholic faith compared with people in many other Latin American countries.

Across Latin America, the portion of people who identify as Catholic has declined considerably in recent decades, from at least 90% in the 1960s to 69% in 2014. This decline is largely due to widespread conversion to Protestant (and especially evangelical) denominations, as well as some people leaving organized religion altogether. But the trend away from Catholicism has been less pronounced in Mexico, where 81% of adults identify as Catholic today, compared with 90% who say they were raised Catholic, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report.

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El Chapo Could Be Tried in Brooklyn Court for Drug Trafficking, Official Says

2/11/2016 New York Times 

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán
Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán

If Mexico agrees to extradite the notorious drug trafficker known as El Chapo to the United States, he would be tried in federal court in Brooklyn, a law enforcement official said on Wednesday.

The drug kingpin, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, has been indicted in Brooklyn as well as Chicago, Manhattan, Miami and other cities where his cocaine ring is said to have extended in the United States.

WPIX-TV in New York City reported on Wednesday that Brooklyn would be the likely location for Mr. Guzmán’s trial.

A 2014 indictment filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn charged that Mr. Guzmán, who was recaptured in January after a daring escape from prison last summer that embarrassed the Mexican authorities, helped run the world’s largest drug-trafficking organization, called the Sinaloa cartel.

The majority of the drugs trafficked by the cartel were imported into the United States, according to the indictment, which also charged another of its suspected leaders, Ismael Zambada García. The authorities have said that they believe the cartel may have been the largest supplier of cocaine to the New York City area for years.

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HSBC Sued by Families of Victims in Drug Money Laundering Case

2/10/2016 New York Times

HSBC(Reuters) – HSBC has been sued by the families of U.S. citizens murdered by drug gangs in Mexico, claiming the bank let cartels launder billions of dollars to operate their business.

The lawsuit alleges that by participating in the money laundering scheme of the cartels, HSBC knowingly contributed directly to the international drug and trafficking trade, including the “brutal acts” that accompanied it, during the period of 2010 to 2011.

The London-based bank, which was already being monitored for its involvement in money laundering schemes, had paid nearly $2 billion in penalties in December 2012 to resolve charges that it failed to stop hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money from flowing through the bank from Mexico, and it promised to fix the problems.

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Oaxaca’s Native Maize Embraced by Top Chefs in U.S. and Europe

2/11/2016  New York Times

CorncobsANTA ANA ZEGACHE, Mexico — In the birthplace of maize, nobody seemed to need Juan Velasco’s crop.

For a few years, he was unable to sell half of the nutty, orange-colored cobs that he harvested. There is no farmers’ market in this dirt-road village in the central plains of Oaxaca, and middlemen offered such low prices that it made more sense to feed the corn to his sheep.

So two years ago, Mr. Velasco, 46, sold half his land, cutting his holdings to eight acres.

“It was a lot of work, and for what?” he said, tearing maize, or corn, from ragged stems growing between rows of pumpkins one winter afternoon. “You invest, and you don’t make money.”

Now, though, Mr. Velasco says he plans to expand to meet demand from an unexpected source. In New York, Los Angeles and beyond, a taste for high-quality Mexican food and its earthy centerpiece, the handmade tortilla, has created a small but growing market for the native, or landrace, corn that is central to life in these plains and to Mexican identity.

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Decrying graft, Pope to tour poor, violent corners of Mexico

7/11/2016 Reuters

pope-francis-707390_640Pope Francis will visit some of the poorest and most violent corners of Mexico on his first visit as pontiff, and will also head to the northern border to address the plight of migrants trying to reach the United States.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug wars over the last decade and its reputation was battered by the case of 43 students abducted and apparently massacred in 2014.

President Enrique Pena Nieto´s government botched the investigation, and relatives of the victims are looking to Francis for help in getting to the truth.

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