Tuesday 22 December 2015

Canadian Bruce Vigfusson dies in custody in Mexico

Canadian Bruce Vigfusson, 45, who has been in jail in Mexico since September, 2012, died at 6 pm on Monday, December 21, at the General Hospital in the northern city of Hermosillo, Sonora. He had been admitted to the hospital in Hermosillo on Sunday, December 20, at 2 pm.
Bruce Vigfusson

Mr. Vigfusson was serving a four and half year sentence for assault. He had lost one appeal, and was waiting on another.

On approximately August 28, 2012, in Hermosillo, Mr. Vigfusson was the victim of a home invasion by five men. He claimed from the beginning that the assault, which resulted in one of the assailants allegedly sustaining serious head injuries, was a matter of self-defense.

Mr. Vigfusson passed a note to his Mexican wife, Celia Valenzuela Amado, on Thursday, December 17, in which he complained that he was “feeling very bad”, that he was “very sick, can’t breathe”, and that “I think they are killing me.”

In the letter Mr. Vigfusson wrote that officials had been giving him injections, but that he wasn’t getting better, he was getting worse. He added that “they are not poisoning me so that I die,” but that “they are doing it to make me weak so that I can’t fight back.”

Mr. Vigfusson also expressed concern that, should he win his appeal, Mexican authorities would then owe him back wages, which they did not want to pay.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

ISIS' "threat to Mexico" becomes fuel for satire

Guillermo Farber, a Mexican journalist and humorist, has responded to news that ISIS has Mexico in its sights. Below is a translation from the Spanish, with the original English in italics. Farber essentially lists some of the horrors that the drug cartels, the security forces, and the general state of insecurity have already visited on Mexico.
ISIS? Drug cartel? 

Terrorism's fans

ISIS has put Mexico in its sights. Instead of frightening me, I’m curious to know what they can do to create "terror" among the Mexican population. It’s a challenge for them.

Are they going to set fire to a nursery?

Thursday 3 December 2015

In Michoacán, the unrest continues

The governor of the Mexican state of Michoacán, Silvano Aureoles, confirmed yesterday that the presence of armed groups – among them paramilitaries and criminals – has made it difficult for his government to maintain control over large areas of his state.
They want justice, and for an end to the violence

Only yesterday, armed men presumably linked to ‘Los Viagras’, a criminal gang, blocked roads in Michoacán.

In a recent interview, the governor said that ‘technically’ there was still conflict between paramilitary self-defense groups, known as autodefensas, and criminal gangs such as Los Viagras.

At times, security forces in Michoacán, as well as in other parts of Mexico, make a distinction between the two - at other times the autodefensas are treated like gangs themselves. On December 1, for example, the military detained two members of a self-defense force in Pinzandaro, within the Buenavista municipality in Michoacán. The result was that the local populace organized to demand their release, and briefly blocked the Apatzingan – Buenavista road with a vehicle and trailer.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Want to surf Mexico? Be safe

Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman, two surfers from Western Australia, drove to Mexico from Edmonton in search of waves. But they disappeared after taking the ferry on Friday, November 20, from La Paz, Baja California Sur, to Topolobampo, Sinaloa. Then, on November 21, their burned-out Chevy van was found on a dirt road near an irrigation channel in Navoloto, Sinaloa. There were two bodies inside. Officials are awaiting DNA confirmation that the human remains are those of the surfers, both of whom were 33.
The burned-out van (Proceso)

We don’t have the details on who might have killed the surfers, but it is safe to say that the alleged murderers are no longer near the scene of the crime, and may not even be in Sinaloa. This part of Mexico is controlled by the Sinaloa cartel. Criminal activity is ‘approved’ by the cartel, which is one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world. News like this is the last thing the cartel, or the government, wants. Which is to say: whoever did this is now on the run.

Saturday 3 October 2015

The Trans Pacific Partnership? Game on!

With the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) about to be signed, Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper is in a solid position to use it as a wedge issue between the Liberals and the NDP. Depending on how this is played, it will be critical for all three parties.
It's a big deal

The TPP is a massive trade agreement – the largest in world history – that began back in 2006 with Brunei, Chile, Singapore, and New Zealand. It is now being negotiated with the addition of United States, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Mexico, Japan and, yes, Canada. It is part of a strategic plan on the part of the United States and its larger corporations to isolate China in the Pacific. To sign on, Canada will have to give up supply management for its dairy industry, and it may take a hit in the automotive sector. The Canadian banks will love it, because it gives them access to more and bigger deals.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Why strategic voting is no strategy at all

For the majority of Canadians hoping to unseat Stephen Harper, there is a temptation to vote ‘strategically’ – which is to say, to pick the riding candidate with the best chance of defeating the Conservative nominee.
Some people never learn

Bad idea.

Strategic voting is often presented as a pragmatic approach, but it makes a few false assumptions.
First, it assumes that Harper represents such a scourge that an Anyone But Harper (ABH) vote will result in a preferred outcome. Outside of Quebec, this would mean that the Liberal, NDP, or even Green vote represent a kind of non-Harper equivalency. But that isn’t the case. Your ABH candidate will be going to Parliament supporting a leader and a specific platform, and if you don’t support the person or the platform, you’re screwed.  

Monday 21 September 2015

Ben Mulroney, anyone? The problem with dynastic politics

The presence of Justin Trudeau represents a disturbing new trend in Canadian politics that risks damaging the long-term viability of our democratic system.
The media makes the man

Whoa! What an overstatement! Isn’t it Stephen Harper, after all, who muzzles scientists, suppresses votes, prorogues Parliament, and passes grotesque omnibus bills? Indeed, Harper is an aggressive politician who, it often seems, would rather run the country like a dictator.

But the dismay and disappointment is in Harper the person. If he is kicked out of office (as he can be), that’s the end of him. He has done lasting damage, but as a person he does not represent a larger cultural transformation in the political landscape.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

In Peterborough-Kawartha, you’re voting for the Prime Minister

Canada is following a familiar pattern. Weary of the ruling party, voters are getting behind an “anyone but Harper” movement that has them thinking of voting strategically for either the NDP or Liberal candidate that has the best chance of winning.
Not the next MP for Peterborough-Kawartha

The result is a lot of second-guessing. In vote-rich Ontario, it has brought a recent bump for the Liberals, Canada’s erstwhile "natural governing party”. Historically, the Liberals have been favoured as the party to which otherwise Conservative and NDP voters might bail.

But this time it’s different. There are three parties, not two. The Liberals are campaigning on deficits, and the NDP has rushed to the middle-ground, promising balanced budgets. Suddenly, voters can’t flick the switch so easily.

Saturday 8 August 2015

Tom Mulcair: “We love our chances here in Peterborough”

Thomas Mulcair and Peterborough-Kawartha candidate Dave Nickle
Thomas Mulcair came to Peterborough, Ontario, on August 7th, the day after the first debates.

He advised his assembled supporters to talk up the NDP’s $15 a day childcare plan, and to remind “friends and neighbours” that “quality, affordable childcare is just one election away.”

Here is a video of his brief comments - audible despite people initially yelling that his microphone was off.

Mulcair fielded questions on the debates, essentially saying that he will participate in further debates, with the condition that the Prime Minister attend.

Thursday 25 June 2015

“The victim here is Canadian society”: Justice Cameron’s withering assessment of Dean Del Mastro’s crimes

Justice Lisa Cameron has sentenced Dean Del Mastro, the former Conservative MP for Peterborough, to thirty days in jail for overspending about $20,000 on his 2008 election campaign.

(Scroll down for video footage by Pamela VanMeer).
Del Mastro was optimistic at first

Del Mastro, 44, had already been found guilty on three counts of election fraud related to overspending, both on his personal and his campaign limit. The jail sentence is for the first two counts – each of 30 days, to be served concurrently, (i.e. both at the same time, as opposed to consecutively, which would have been 60 days).

After Del Mastro is released, he is to serve four months of house arrest, and will be on probation for an additional 18 months. He also has to pay back $10,000 that Cameron has determined he owed to his riding association.

Cameron delivered an even-handed yet withering assessment of Del Mastro’s crimes.

Monday 22 June 2015

Trudeau and asylum for Mexican torture victims

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has promised to lift the Mexican visa requirement should his party form the next government. The requirement was put in place in 2009 to stem a flood in asylum claims.

The olive branch is a good idea. The visa, as presently structured, is punitive in the extreme, with many Mexicans unable to fulfil the onerous bureaucratic requirements.  This would go a long way toward improving strained relations between the two countries. A complete cancellation, however, would likely result in a flood of asylum claimants – something Trudeau did not address in his speech.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Mexican authorities recapture Anastasia Lechtchenko for double homicide

Ten days after allegedly murdering her mother and young sister, 19-year-old Anastasia Lechtchenko has been detained by authorities in Tijuana, Mexico.
The accused after her arrest

It is believed that Ms. Lechtchenko murdered and dismembered her mother Yuliya Masney Safonchik, aged 45, as well as Valeria Lechtchenko, 12.

After the bodies were discovered, Anastasia Lechtchenko allegedly confessed to her crimes, telling the police that she thought her mother and sister were “witches”.

Monday 15 June 2015

Russian teenager who confessed to murdering and dismembering her mother and sister, claiming they were “witches”, released in Tijuana, Mexico

WARNING: This post contains graphic language.

According to Mexican authorities, 19-year-old Anastasia Lechtchenko Masney has confessed to murdering and dismembering her mother, Yuliya Masney Safonchik, aged 45, as well as her little sister, Valeria Lechtchenko, 12.
The poster seeking Ms. Lechtchenko Masney
earlier this year

Why Ms. Lechtchenko (who in Mexico is also known as Lechtchenko Gubarev) has since been released, and why the court has not issued an arrest warrant for her, is uncertain.

On Wednesday, June 10, Mexican authorities found the two dismembered bodies wrapped in plastic bags in a rented apartment on Paseo Ensenada in the Playas de Tijuana neighborhood, where the family had lived for five years. Police were called after neighbors complained of a foul smell. The two had last been seen on Sunday, June 7.

Two days later, on Friday the 12th, police detained Ms. Lechtchenko. She confessed to the murders during the preliminary investigation, saying that her mother and sister were “dangerous witches”. Aside from the confession, police were led to believe that Ms. Lechtchenko was implicated, as she did not report her mother or sister missing, as well as the fact that the apartment showed no damage or sign of forced entry. Her father was interviewed, as were crime-scene experts.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Margarita Zavala: Mexico's Hillary Clinton?

Margarita Zavala, wife of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), has announced that she will be a candidate for the presidency of Mexico in 2018.
Margarita Zavala

Ms. Zavala made the announcement via social media, claiming that her goal was to bridge the enormous divide between Mexico’s political classes and the people.

The former first lady is vying to be the right-of-center National Action Party (PAN) candidate.  She has been a PAN deputy in the Mexican Congress (2006), as well as a two-time local deputy in Mexico City (1994-1997 / 2003-2006). She is the only wife of a Mexican president to have served in Congress.

American real estate agent beaten to death in San Miguel de Allende

A gang has beaten to death an American real estate agent in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Oliver Caraco, formerly of Miami, Florida, was killed outside of the “La Lomita” nightclub on Saturday night, allegedly by three youths.
The murder may have been unintentional

According to reports from Mexico, Mr. Caraco, 53, was a regular at La Lomita. A group of up to fifteen young people started to harass Mr. Caraco in the bar. As he left, they threatened to steal his scooter. He fended them off, and got as far as a nearby bypass (“Libramiento Dolores”), where the three caught up to him and beat him to death.

Some reports have Mr. Caraco coming upon the group first outside the bar, and then confronting them as they tried to steal his motorbike. A scuffle ensued, and he got as far as the bypass, where the three men killed him.

Friday 5 June 2015

Fracking in Mexico's shadows

Mexico’s national energy company, Pemex, has been conducting hydraulic fracking to extract hydrocarbons in Mexico since 2003. However, with the recent changes on Mexico’s energy laws the activity will now be open to “Round One” tenders for direct access to fields from foreign companies such as Halliburton, Schlumberger, and Baker Hughes.

According to information accessed by CartoCrítica, a civil society organization in Mexico, Pemex has registered at least 924 wells as having been drilled using fracking in Mexico, including in the states of Coahuila (47 wells), Nuevo Leon (182 wells), Puebla (233 wells), Tabasco (13 wells), Tamaulipas (100 wells) and Veracruz (349 wells).

However, the Pemex document contradicts another from Mexico’s Ministry of Energy (SENER), dated April 2010, which specifically references the hydraulic fracturing of 1,323 wells, and with this greater number only being in the “Chicontepec Paleocanal”, a well-known oil field that covers the states of Veracruz and northern Puebla.

Ahoy landlubbers, the NDP have set sail

For Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada, it was supposed to be easy. Set yourself up as the only alternative to the hated Stephen Harper. Line up the gunwales and fire your cannons at the skull and crossbones. Find that breezy middle, and promise things like “fairness” and “transparency”. Tack to the polls on security. The evil pirate ship will assuredly fire back, but their grapeshot will not even tatter the yardarm of your noble vessel. Gallant ensign Trudeau will pull a head and sail across the finish line, firing his guns in triumph.
The damage done?

The strategy was, it seems, set in stone. But, given changing currents and winds, that’s no certain way to win a naval battle. In fact, it might just sink you. As the NDP moved up in the polls and jockeyed with the other two parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals were still pouring their money into advertisements, attacking each other. They jumped each other’s decks, swords drawn, and the NDP, more or less ignored, sailed right past the fracas.

Justin Trudeau’s fading star

EKOS poll, June 5, 2015
The recent EKOS poll is bad news for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada. Among the three major federal parties, EKOS has the NDP at 31.3%, followed by the Conservatives at 29.2% and the Liberals bringing up the rear with 23.9%.

Significantly, the poll shows that the Conservatives and Liberals are struggling with both “ceiling” and leadership numbers.

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.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

TPP Investment Chapter: How to Annihilate an Industrial Strategy

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “Investment Chapter” was released by Wikileaks on March 25, and revealed a rather confused view of what has been going on during the secret trade negotiations between the 12 parties representing 40 per cent of the world’s GDP (Vietnam, USA, Singapore, Peru, New Zealand, Mexico, Malaysia, Japan, Chile, Canada, Brunei, Australia).
The Wikileaks TPP investment cartoon

The TPP Investment Chapter is dated 20 January 2015. According to Wikileaks, the document is classified, and to be kept secret for four years from either the completion of the agreement or, should it not come to fruition, the close of negotiations.

Presumably, after four years the TPP will have been normalized to the extent that it will no longer be “news”. There is simply no other way to explain why the citizens of the affected nations would be denied access to information on how their labor, assets, and national patrimonies are being peddled.

But perhaps we should know. The TPP is, after all, the largest economic treaty in history.

The Grapes of Wrath, 2015: Mexico’s slave labor problem

After Mexican officials freed 200 indigenous Rarámuri working in slave-like conditions in Baja California Sur earlier this month, more abuses have come to light. Just this week, forty-nine indigenous Mixtecs were found working in similar conditions in a Colima cucumber field, on Mexico’s Pacific coast.
Work camp in Baja Sur

Since the first story broke, 452 people in Mexico have been rescued from what amounted to indentured servitude. Many of the victims are indigenous, and working far from home.  

The Rarámuri found in Baja California Sur, for example, hailed from the small town of Creel, Chuhuahua. They were then supposedly sent to Comondú by a company called Corporativo El Cerezo Sociedad Agrícola. The head offices for this company don’t actually exist: the address is simply a piece of land, a former hacienda owned by former president Vicente Fox and his two brothers.

Thursday 5 March 2015

For the record: Justin Trudeau believes in the Red Cross

A recent opinion piece by Carol Goar in the Toronto Star, titled Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is running out of second chances, expressed concern that the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada was a serial blunderer and, in effect, unfit to be Prime Minister of Canada.
Mikhail Kasyanov meets with Chrystia Freeland, 
Justin Trudeau, and Marc Garneau

The list of gaffes would be enough to warrant its own Wikipedia entry: his embrace of Tory turncoat Eve Adams; getting caught moonlighting as a well-paid public speaker while an MP; expressing his “level of admiration” for China’s “basic dictatorship”; his expulsion of 32 senators from the Liberal caucus without warning or consultation; his bold lie when pledging to allow “open nominations for all Liberal candidates in every single riding in the next election”; his arbitrary removal of Liberal MPs’ right to vote according to their consciences on moral issues.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Liberal Party of Canada: Since our role is to govern, why oppose?

One of the criticisms of the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) over the years, from both inside and outside the party, has been that the LPC, in seeing itself as the “natural ruling party”, had grown complacent. The narrative being built by Justin Trudeau is that those days are over: only hard work and direct appeals to the Canadian people will earn their trust. Nothing can be taken for granted.
The Liberal Party of Canada's new look

Yet, in positioning the LPC as a “government in waiting”, Mr. Trudeau has deferred to the policies of the Conservative party to such an extent that, should the Liberals form the next government, we can expect little more than a changing of the guard. In effect, Mr. Trudeau seems to believe that Canadians want a different Conservative party to rule. The problem isn’t the content, it’s the style. Give it a softer touch, and there should be a smooth ride to power.

It will fail, and Stephen Harper will be elected to a minority government. But more on that later.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Torex Gold subsidiary denies making payments to Mexican cartel

Press reports in Mexico have accused Minera Media Luna, a Mexican mining subsidiary of Toronto-headquartered Torex Gold Resources, of paying one million Mexican pesos a month (about C$ 84,000) to a henchman for La Familia Michoacana, one of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels.

The reports cite as a source an anonymous member of the Community Police in Nuevo Balsas, within the municipality of Cocula in the state of Guerrero, near the company’s Morelos Gold Property, which includes the  El Limon-Guajes project (under development) and the Media Luna project (in an advanced stage of exploration). The accusation is that Uriel Vences Delgado, also known as “La Burra” or “El 50”, received the payments through two Mexican representatives of the Canadian company: Carmelo Navarrete and José Luis Peralta.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Mazatlán mayor informs youth delegation they have impunity to drink and drive

In Mexico impunity is not only a privilege, it is also a gift. If you know the right people, and are in the right place, those in power will sometimes bequeath you the right to do as you please.
Carlos Felton: Partier in Chief

Carlos Felton, the mayor of Mazatlán, in Mexico’s Sinaloa state, drove that home recently when he told hundreds of young people at the Second National Congress for Innovation in Education that, as visitors in his town, they could avoid a breathalyzer test if they flashed their Congress membership card.

“Don’t forget to enjoy some good scallops with a Pacifico beer,” he told the kids. “If you are stopped for a breathalyzer test, just pull out your card from the Second National Congress for Innovation in Education.”

Friday 16 January 2015

Saudi Arabia is (not) so gay! John Baird sentenced to 600 word lashes

In Canada it is not libelous to call someone a homosexual, for the simple reason that homosexuality is nothing to be embarrassed about – it is, quite rightly, considered neither a good nor a bad thing. It just is.
Baird: playing it safe in Ottawa

In that respect, the notion of “outing” a gay person in Canada becomes somewhat moot, because sexual preference is no longer such a big deal. For example, Canada’s Foreign Affairs minister, John Baird, is a homosexual. That’s hardly news, which might be why not a single major media outlet in Canada, including the CBC, reports this fact. However, there is a political angle: the Conservative party would rather not broadcast Mr. Baird’s sexual orientation for fear of losing support among its socially conservative base.

That’s a political choice that might be craven, but hardly the end of the world. That said, Mr. Baird is minister of Foreign Affairs, which complicates matters given that many countries around the world have strict laws against homosexuality. One of the worst offenders is Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is illegal and can be punished by life in prison, or even death.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Mexicali madness: gay couple must be crazy to want to marry

In Mexicali, Mexico, gay marriage is legal, but mentally unstable people are not permitted to marry, and since a gay couple must be crazy to want to get married, they’re out of luck.
"My rights are not crazy"

Mexicali is the capital of the State of Baja California, on the US border near Tijuana. Civil marriages of gay couples is legal throughout Mexico, according to that country’s Supreme Court, but the reality is that local prejudices still hold sway: despite repeated attempts, no gay couple has ever been married in Baja California. Usually the roadblocks are due to unexplained “paperwork” and other bureaucratic canards.

Mormons buying a Mexican stairway to heaven

The Mormon faith is notable for its insistence that its parishioners abstain from all intoxicants, including caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. However, in Mexico the Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), has been spending pesos like a drunken sailor on a bender in Tampico.
Joseph Smith,
founder of Mormonism

According to the Church’s own financial statements, it has investments in Mexico totaling 11,200,000,000 pesos, over US$767 million at today’s exchange rate. The purpose of the financial statements is to assess the economic value of the Church in Mexico, and does not include philanthropic spending.

Practically speaking, as a result of reforms to the Mexican Constitution in 1992, “foreign” (i.e. non-Catholic) religious groups can have tax-exempt legal status in Mexico that allows them to acquire real-estate and hold funds in Mexican financial institutions. Non-Mexican missionaries are also allowed to proselytize, and the LDS can set up places of worship and even educational institutions.