Thursday 3 November 2016

A Journey to the Zone of Silence

There’s an area in the Chihuahuan desert in northern Mexico where radio signals don’t work, and compasses spin out of control when placed near stones on the ground. It’s called the Zone of Silence. It measures only 50 kilometers across, and it is located in the Mapimí Biosphere Reserve, a huge, mostly uninhabited expanse of almost 400,000 hectares, where the flat and desolate terrain is interspersed with lonely mountain outcrops.
Horses and 'Venus' build site at the Palacios ranch.
“The Zone is my passion,” Benjamin Palacios says as we bounce through the area in his 4-wheel drive Suburban, surrounded by mesquite, cactus, and guamis—brilliant yellow flowers resembling buttercups. Palacios, 61, grew up in the village of Escalón, Chihuahua, on the edge of the Zone, and now has his own UFO-themed ranch on the area’s periphery.

Read full article by La politica's TE Wilson here at Atlas Obscura.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

US Citizen Kidnapped in Mazatlán México

UPDATE: O’Neil Patrick McGean has since been found dead, and his killers captured by police.

The family has requested that this news be spread without media speculation. For that reason, La politica is posting the following unedited press release:

O’Neil Patrick McGean, an American full-time resident of Mazatlán, Sinaloa for 10 years, has been missing since Tuesday, Oct. 25 under suspicious circumstances.
O’Neil Patrick McGean
McGean was last heard from earlier that evening, as he was on his way to meet a new friend at the Hotel Punta Pacifico, at the far north end of this popular retirement and vacation destination for foreigners. His last communication was with another friend at about 8pm, saying that he was on his way.

After that, he has not been seen or heard from. The vehicle he was driving, a white Spark (license plate VRK-1996) was found by friends early Saturday morning parked on Camaron Sabalo one of the busiest streets in the center of the tourist area, near the restaurant Los Zarapes. Neighbors said it had been there for several days. It is now in police custody.

Monday 24 October 2016

The mysterious disappearance of Shawn Ramta in Mexico City

On August 31, 2016, a Canadian man, Shawn Ramta, 34, called his wife in Canada from Mexico City. He then left his AirBnB in the upscale Polanco neighborhood to go to the gym.

He never came back.

According to Mr. Ramta’s younger sister, Sareeta Bassuta, 31, Ramta had been in Mexico City on vacation, and was due back in Canada on September 2. But when his wife went to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to get him, he wasn’t on his direct Air Canada flight.

His absence was more troubling given that his one year marriage anniversary was only a few days later, on September 5.

Mr. Ramta is believed to have arrived in Mexico City on August 10. His sister and her partner Anisan Anton were recently in the Mexican capital to try to determine his whereabouts.

“The Canadian Embassy has contacted all the jails and hospitals, and found nothing,” says Ms. Bassuta. “Beyond that, the Canadian government says the only people who can help are the Mexican authorities.”

Saturday 3 September 2016

A Mexican newspaper owner is arrested for cartel links, and worlds collide

Members of Mexico’s Criminal Investigation Agency of the Attorney General's Office have arrested Naim Libien Tella - owner of the newspaper Diario Amanecer, and vice president of the newspaper unomásuno - for tax fraud.

Last year the US Treasury Department named Libien Tella as having business connections with Los Cuinis, which is believed to be the financial wing of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (known by its Spanish acronym, “CJNG”). As a result of these concerns, all US assets and interests of Libien Tella were frozen, and US citizens were prohibited from engaging in any business activities with him or his companies, including the newspaper Diario Amanecer and his air taxi company Aerolíneas Amanecer.
Naim Libien Tella

There is a lot of history to this story, and more than meets the eye. In 2007, Abigael González Valencia, a leader of Los Cuinis, granted power of attorney to Libien Tella to allow him to control his investment company Valgo Grupo de Inversión.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Protesters block access to Torex Gold’s Media Luna mine site in Guerrero, Mexico

At five in the morning on Thursday, March 31, members of the commission of communal property in Colula, Guerrero, blocked access to Torex Gold Resources’ (Torex) Media Luna mine site. As of this writing, it appears that the blockade continues.
Blockade at the Media Luna mine entrance (Milenio)

The protesters are from three surrounding communities, and have shut down access to the gold mine’s main entrance. They are alleging that during the initial exploration period the Canadian mining company had promised to pay compensation in excess of 500,000 pesos (C$37,500) to the surrounding towns. The company was also to make investments in social services.

The commission members argue that the mine is now well beyond the exploration stage, yet they have yet to see any compensation.

Thursday 3 March 2016

Goldcorp challenges Mexico's tax laws, and loses

A Mexican subsidiary of Canadian mining giant Goldcorp has been denied an injunction challenging the constitutionality of federal tax reforms that were brought into effect on January 1, 2014. The reforms established a special duty of 7.5 percent to net income on the disposal or sale of extraction activities, with an additional 0.5 percent tax on income from the sale of gold, silver and platinum.
Goldcorp's vision, values, and "six pillars".

The Goldcorp subsidiary, Minas de la Alta Pimeria, put forth an extraordinary challenge. According to Mexico’s Federal Judiciary Council (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal, or “CJF”), the mining company wanted to pay per unit of measure, and not by the value of gold extracted. In effect, it would pay the equivalent taxes on a kilo of coal as on a kilo of gold.

In its legal claim, the company stated that the “constituent does not have powers to establish these rights and added that the amounts are not proportional or equitable.” How Goldcorp felt it could challenge the powers of the federal government of Mexico to establish its own tax laws is hard to understand.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Heating up the plaza in Sinaloa

In the middle of the night on February 13, in the municipality of San Ignacio, Sinaloa, near the border with Durango, 13 people – eight men and five women – were gunned down. An additional three gunmen were killed in a shootout between armed groups on February 16 in Maloya, near Rosario, south of Mazatlán.
Shrine to Santa Muerte, near Sinaloa-Durango
border, southern Sinaloa.

Then, another five people were shot to death on February 21 in a bar in La Cruz de Elota, a town on the old Mazatlán - Culiacán highway – including a federal police officer, who died after he was transferred to a hospital in Mazatlán. The violence occurred during a concert at La Trova bar by the band Enigma Norteño. This may be a matter of “drunken idiots with guns”, and not cartel related, but it looks like people showed up for a fight.

Which is to say, things appear to be heating up in Sinaloa, particularly in the southern part of the state, which is no stranger to mass killings.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Mexico’s hope: from Mazatlán to Las Vegas with Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez

It’s a go. Gilberto Ramirez, the undefeated 24-year-old boxer from Mazatlán, Mexico, is set to challenge Arthur Abraham at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on April 9 for the super middleweight title. It won’t be easy: Abraham, an Armenian-German, is a formidable opponent. Technically skilled, he is tough, with a strong punch.

(UPDATE: The kid won in a unanimous decision!)
Gilberto Ramirez training in Mazatlan (Photo: Matt Mawson)

“Abraham is a good champion, a great champion,” Ramirez’s manager, Jesus Zapari, a heavy-set man with short-cropped gray hair, told me at his gym in Mazatlán before the team relocated to Los Angeles. “But we are going to have a new champion after April 9.”

It is clear that the boys from Mexico are serious contenders. At the gym in Mazatlán I watched as Ramirez – called “Zurdo” or “Lefty” – was taken around the ring with weights on his ankles by Jose Luis Cruz, a former world-ranked middleweight. Cruz was a solid opponent, but this was boxing school, not proper sparring. For that, the team needed to be Stateside.

Monday 25 January 2016

Canada’s Liberals continue the TPP charade

When President Obama delivered his State of the Union address, he was clear: He supported the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and he wanted Congress to pass it.
Freeland and Trudeau: appearance is everything

Similarly, during last year’s federal election, Canada’s former Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was unstinting in his support for the TPP. And the New Democratic Party's Thomas Mulcair made it clear that, given what he knew of the deal, he was unlikely to support it.

However, the Liberal Party of Canada, under leader Justin Trudeau, made the false claim during last fall’s election campaign that it knew too little about the TPP to pass judgment. The party was pro trade, but would need to look at the details.

Thursday 21 January 2016

Moreira arrest: a long tradition of corrupt Mexican governors

When Humberto Moreira, former governor of the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, was arrested at Madrid’s Barajas Airport on January 15 for alleged financial crimes, it was big news.

(Update: Moreira was released by a Spanish judge  on January 22 for lack of evidence, though ordered to surrender his passport.)

In Mexico, there was much handwringing. Here was the former leader of Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a former close adviser of the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, being detained in Spain on a request from the U.S. on suspicion of money laundering, embezzlement, bribery and criminal association.
Moreira: if Mexico won't, Spain and the US will

The anxiety, however, wasn’t that Moreira might be guilty of such crimes. It was that it was the Spanish in concert with the gringos who nailed the cabrón. In effect, these two external powers did what Mexico could not.

It was hardly news that Moreira’s behavior was suspect. After an investigation by two journalists, Moreira was accused in a U.S. court of money laundering and embezzlement. A state court in Texas heard how Moreira and other state officials took over $1.8 million from the Coahuila treasury and transferred them to a leader of the Los Zetas cartel to invest in radio stations.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

El Chapo Tried to Bribe Federales by Side of Highway

In the State of Sinaloa, Mexico, it is a tried and true tradition that when you are stopped by the side of the road, you can usually buy your way out of a jam. That corruption might have let El Chapo to get away yet again, but for the general chaos surrounding his capture.
Here we go again

After El Chapo escaped through a drain tunnel in the town of Los Mochis, he and his number one hitman, Orso Iván Gastélum, ‘El Cholo’, hijacked a vehicle. The alert was put out, and the vehicle was detained by federal police on a highway.

Here, things got dicey. Apparently, as soon as El Chapo was detained by the federal cops, the billionaire leader of the Sinaloa Cartel offered to take the officers to Juan José Ríos, Sinaloa. The roadside negotiations were intense. Guzmán started to offer some serious coin. From the side of the highway, he said he would set up the police officers with businesses and houses in Mexico and the United States, whereupon they could “forget about work for the rest of their lives.”

Mexico’s marijuana consultation, and Justin Trudeau’s harsh toke

Mexico’s Human Rights Undersecretary, Roberto Campa, has announced that his country will be embarking on a national debate on the legalization of marijuana. However, with Mexico matters are complicated somewhat by the fact that the country is a signatory to international treaties that make the road ahead uncertain. The same is true for Canada, which has stated intends to legalize marijuana.
Looked good then  (source: Toronto Sun)

The difference seems to be that Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has been aware of his country’s treaty obligations; whereas Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, only now seems to be coming to this realization.

During the 2012 Mexican presidential campaign Peña Nieto did not campaign on legalization. Not so with Justin Trudeau, who was elected Prime Minister of Canada on October 19, 2015.

During the Canadian campaign, the three dominant Canadian political parties were clear in their positions. The New Democratic Party (NDP) under Thomas Mulcair campaigned on decriminalization and consultation towards legalization. The Conservatives, under then Prime Minister Stephen Harper, campaigned for the status-quo, and the Liberals under Trudeau campaigned for legalization.

Friday 8 January 2016

“El Chapo” Guzmán Won’t Be Extradited Until At Least 2019

Now that Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, the leader of Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa Cartel, has been recaptured in his home state of Sinaloa on the west coast of Mexico, the pressure is on to extradite him to the United States.
El Chapo in the love hotel - Three strikes?

The U.S. has an outstanding – and still valid – extradition request, but don’t expect it to happen any time soon.

The life-long criminal, who has now escaped from two separate maximum security prisons in Mexico, has become such an embarrassment to the Peña Nieto government that it simply cannot withstand the additional humiliation of handing him over to the gringos.