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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Book review: The Jaguar’s Children, by John Vaillant

There is a minor tradition wherein English-language novels are set in Mexico. It’s a spotty canon*, due in large part to the challenges faced by foreign authors wanting to write of Mexico while also feeling a need – or more fairly, a requirement – to explain the country to their readers. Good news: the celebrated non-fiction writer John Vaillant has now raised the standard with The Jaguar’s Children, his first published novel.

Our protagonist is Héctor, a young Zapotec from Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca, trapped with 14 others in a water truck en route to the United States. Abandoned by his smuggler, Héctor reaches out to an unresponsive American contact on his friend César’s phone, one “AnniMac”, first texting then recording his dire predicament. This is how the novel is told, in “first-person Zapotec.” It’s a conceit that gives us access to Héctor’s world – his personal history, his hopes, and his desperate situation.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Bob Hall hopes his $1,000 Liberal Party nomination appeal is money well spent

After former Peterborough mayoral candidate Maryam Monsef won the federal Liberal nomination by less than 20 votes, runner-up Bob Hall decided to fork over $1,000 for a recount. But first the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) has to decide whether the situation warrants it.
And the winner is... 

“I would have a hard time accepting that they won’t do a recount,” Hall says. “I’ll hear in two weeks what the Appeals Committee decides.”

Hall, a former Peterborough city councilor, notes that other federal parties have an automatic recount for contests that fall within 50 votes. From his perspective, having to pay to participate in what might otherwise be an automatic process is less than ideal.

“The $1,000 is a little hard to swallow,” he says, noting that he is a regular middle class Canadian. “I’m not overly impressed by that.”

Monday, 13 April 2015

Strange clarification from McEwen Mining, and tone deafness in Canada

The Canadian team at McEwen 

The comments were front page news in Mexico – and still are. They also received coverage in leading English-language outlets around the world. The startling admission was covered by the Associated Press. Outlets that picked up the story included ABC, CNBC, and the Daily Mail.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Doing business the Canadian way: McEwen Mining has a “good relationship” with Mexican cartel

In a recent interview on Business News Network, the CEO of McEwen Mining, Rob McEwen, made some revealing statements as to how his mining company conducts business in Mexico.
Rob McEwen on BNN

Discussing the circumstances surrounding the theft of $8.5 million worth of gold concentrate from his company’s mine in Sinaloa, Mexico, Mr. McEwen said, “The cartels are active down there…Generally, we’ve had a good relationship with them.”

What does it mean for a Canadian mining company to have a “good relationship” with a drug cartel?

In the interview, McEwen said: “If we want to go somewhere, we ask them. And they say ‘No, come back in a couple of weeks when we have finished what we are doing.'"

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Passport of former Calderón official recovered from Venezuela drug crash

Norberto Miranda Pérez, 51, a former area director for the Mexican Attorney General’s (PGR) Air Services Directorate (Dirección General de Servicios Aéreos, or “DGSA”), appears to have died when the drug trafficking plane he was piloting crashed in Venezuela.
Cocaine packages recovered from the wreckage

Venezuelan officials say that the crash occurred on April 2. When they went to the crash site in Cañaote, within the Girardot municipality of Cojedes state, they recovered about a ton of cocaine (999 kilos) from the wreckage. All four crew and passengers had died.

Canadian-owned mine knocked off for $8.5 million in gold concentrate

As the CJNG cartel battles it out with local, state, and federal authorities in Jalisco, the criminal element in Sinaloa is pulling off gold heists: on Tuesday, April 7, Canada's McEwen Mining Inc. reported that armed robbers walked off with an estimated 900 kilograms of gold-bearing concentrate, containing approximately 7,000 ounces of gold, from its El Gallo 1 mine in western Mexico.
McEwen's operations in western Mexico (Source: McEwen Mining Inc.)

But this isn’t the same as knocking off Fort Knox.

“No mines in Mexico have gold,” says David Robillard, a Mexico City-based advisor on business and reputational risk. “It takes a lot of technology and work to refine it into what we call gold.”

How much work? Robillard says that to refine the concentrate, otherwise known as “doré”, would require another $100 million investment.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Heating up the plaza in Jalisco

It’s been dubbed the worst attack in recent years against any arm of the Mexican state: on Monday, April 6, at least 15 of Jalisco’s elite State police (Fuerza Única Jalisco) were killed and five others wounded in an ambush. On the same day, the chief of police in Zacoalco de Torres, just west of Lake Chapala, was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered.
Burnt out truck after ambush

The location of the ambush was the Soyatán region, not far from Puerto Vallarta. The police were apparently traveling from Vallarta to the state capital, Guadalajara. None of the attackers died.

This has all of the hallmarks of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, or CJNG), though the government has not confirmed their participation. The CJNG made a name for itself taking on the ultra-violent Zetas cartel in Jalisco, cleaning up the “plaza” for the dominant Sinaloa Cartel.