Parents lead protest of probe into missing 43 students in Mexico

4/27/16 Reuters

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Thousands of protesters gathered in Mexico City on Tuesday, angered by the government’s handling of an investigation into 43 students who apparently were massacred in 2014 and the government’s alleged treatment of international experts who have cast doubt on the official account.

The case of the 43 trainee teachers, who were abducted in September 2014 in the violent southwestern state of Guerrero, has tarnished the reputation of President Enrique Pena Nieto and highlighted the scale of human rights abuses in Mexico.

The parents and relatives of the abducted students led what appeared to be more than 2,000 protesters along the main thoroughfare of the Mexican capital, Paseo de la Reforma, carrying small torches along with large black and white photographs of the missing students.

Blanca Luz, the mother of one of the 43, said she wants to meet with Pena Nieto to discuss the investigation, a request frequently echoed by the parents.

“My heart can’t take anymore,” she said, standing near the main building of Mexico’s attorney general’s office. “I want my son back by my side.”

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Weaker Peso Fails to Boost Mexican Exports

4/26/16 Wall Street Journal

peso by Guanatos GwynMEXICO CITY—The steep slide of the Mexican peso has failed to boost the country’s manufacturing exports, primarily because of a sluggish U.S. industrial sector coupled with close integration of supply chains across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Economists say the peso’s 24% depreciation against the U.S. dollar in the past 18 months should make Mexican-made goods more competitive. But the reaction has been slow because of close synchronization of U.S. and Mexican business cycles.

Exports of manufactured goods, which account for 90% of Mexico’s total exports, fell 6.5% in March from the year-earlier month, the government statistics institute said Tuesday. The drop was led by a 10% fall in auto industry exports.

Imports of intermediate goods, equipment and machinery—all key components for manufacturing exports—also fell in March, contributing to a $155 million trade surplus for the month.

Despite Mexico’s free-trade agreements with 46 countries, including the European Union and Japan, about 80% of its $380 billion annual exports go to the U.S.

A recent Bank of Mexico analysis showed that demand for Mexican components in the U.S. export sector has more of a short-term impact on Mexican exports than changes in the peso-dollar exchange rate.

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Torture of ordinary Mexicans may be shocking, but it’s not surprising Daniel Peña

4/19/16 The Guardian

Mezcala_(or_Balsas)_River_in_Guerrero,_MexicoThe now-infamous video of Mexican soldiers helping a federal police officer torture and interrogate a female suspect in Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero, this past February seems to be another confirmation that there are two classes of Mexicans. There are those who are exempt from consequences (politicians and the wealthy, including Mexico’s military elite) who operate with impunity in Mexico. And then there are the rest of us, regularly policed by force with the active participation of Mexico’s military and federal police in intimidation tactics and the violation of human rights.

The world might rightly be shocked by the way the woman in the video was asphyxiated with plastic bags, by the way she screamed as the muzzle of a gun was pressed to her skull, but every Mexican knows that this single story of torture is part of a pattern.

Just last week, Mexico’s Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos confirmedthe involvement of two Mexican federal police in the disappearance of the 43 students in Ayotzinapa. In the 2014 Tlatlaya massacre, Mexican soldiers were allegedly ordered by senior officers to murder 22 civilians who had already surrendered to Mexican forces. Also that year, National Autonomous University of Mexico student and poet Sandino Bucio was arrested by plainclothes federal police, presumably for having participated in the 20 November march in Mexico City in support of the then recently disappeared Ayotzinapa students.

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Drug cartels have turned social-media sites like Facebook into one of their most potent weapons

4/13/16 Business Insider

facebookDrug trafficking has been the primary focus of Mexican cartels, providing most of their obscene profits and motivating much of the bloodshed they’ve caused.

But as cartels have expanded into other areas of operations, and as law-enforcement efforts have forced them to seek new moneymaking ventures, those cartels have started kidnapping and extorting Mexicans with more frequency.

And social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been a boon to these new criminal endeavors.

“Well, the extortion business is a profitable one for organized crime. And in countries like Mexico, it’s sadly pretty common that people get these threats,” Tom Wainwright, the author of “Narconomics” and the Economist’s former reporter in Mexico City, told Business Insider.

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Mexico Ready to Ship More Sugar to U.S. as Buyers Snub Beets

4/12/16 Bloomberg

Cut_sugarcaneMexico’s sugar chamber says the domestic industry has enough of the sweetener made from cane to ship to the U.S., as more American buyers shift away from supplies made from beets.

“The U.S. government is evaluating, and we are waiting” official supply estimates to see if the nation is “going to have bigger sugar requirements,” Juan Cortina, president of the chamber, said Monday in a telephone interview from Mexico City. U.S. industrial buyers are seeking more cane sugar because of fear of public backlash over genetically modified beets, used to make the bulk of domestically produced refined sweetener.

Prices for U.S. sugar made from cane have climbed 6.8 percent in 2016 as demand drops for the beet supplies. By contrast, world prices have slumped 5.6 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will update its crop forecasts for production, imports and use on Tuesday.

While Mexico has no interest in renegotiating so-called suspension agreements signed in 2014 that set price limits and volume quotas, it has told U.S. authorities that it has between 300,000 and 500,000 metric tons of additional supply available should the country require it, Cortina said. The country is currently set to ship 1.2 million tons of sugar this season to the U.S. A Reuters report this month said that U.S. refiners were seeking to rework agreements settled in late 2014.

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Polluted days in Mexico City lead to expensive Uber rides

4/8/16 The Washington Post 

uber2Uber surge prices soared as Mexico City doubled down on its car ban Monday in an attempt to quell rising pollution rates. Uber prices rose as high as 10 times the typical price, in reaction to restrictions that require that 20 to 40 percent of the area’s cars be off the roads during high pollution days. The surge in pricing is also compounded by commuters who chose ride-sharing services in lieu of walking or waiting for the bus to avoid the intense smog.

Many Mexico City residents have taken to Twitter to voice their concerns, according to Quartz, which picked up the story from Spanish news source Plano Informativo. One such Twitter complaint came from soccer star Alex Diaz Liceaga, who said he paid 1,400 pesos, roughly equivalent to $79, for a single ride.

Some demanded that the company apply a pricing cap for bad pollution days, but Uber responded in a statement that the surge-pricing mechanism ensures that the supply of drivers grows to meet demand. It argued that it was responsible for about 100,000 people getting more rides during a high pollution period last month. It also encouraged people to use UberPool, the company’s carpool service, for cheaper rides and reaching a larger population of customers.

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Leaking pipes mean Mexico City, flush with water, has to truck it in

Los Angeles Times 3/31/2016

gas pipeline in green fieldThe cinder block homes lining the hillsides on the edge of this metropolis are connected to the municipal network of water pipes.

But the water doesn’t arrive that way. It comes on tanker trucks.

Black exhaust and the groans of diesel engines fill the air as an aging fleet makes its deliveries.

Marisol Reyes Jimenez waited patiently as a truck pulled up. The driver unrolled a hose and filled her cistern with enough water to cook meals, wash dishes, do laundry and take showers, at least for the next few days.

Water is one of those things you don’t miss until it’s not there, and here in Iztapalapa, one of the poorest sections of Mexico City, it’s often not. “You have to care for it,” said Jimenez, a 46-year-old homemaker.

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