How $500,000 Check That Sat Uncashed Adds to Mexico Scandal

Luis Videgaray says the home purchase was carried out with "honesty and legality" (Reuters)
Luis Videgaray says the home purchase was carried out with “honesty and legality” (Reuters)

By Eric Martin and Brendan Case / Bloomberg

For months, Mexicans have been clamoring for more details about Finance Minister Luis Videgaray’s purchase of a luxury house perched at the edge of a lush golf course a couple of hours outside of Mexico City.

Now, documents have been released suggesting that Videgaray completed his purchase of the vacation home after taking office in an unusual deal with a builder who has ties to the government.

Videgaray, a former investment banker, paid for the home with three works of art and a personal check dated Jan. 31, 2014. But the $500,000 check wasn’t cashed until almost a year later — just days before a news report was published questioning the minister’s dealings with the government contractor.

The revelations — included in thousands of documents released last week as part of a federal investigation into home purchases by the finance minister, the president and his wife that cleared them of wrongdoing — add to the political soap opera that has dominated the headlines for months and helped undermine public approval of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

“This doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Arturo Pueblita, a constitutional-law expert at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City. “This is completely irregular and generates a great amount of suspicion.”

Pena Nieto reshuffles cabinet, removes 6 ministers

IB Times – Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has reshuffled his cabinet, following declining approval ratings and several scandals, including the escape of infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from a maximum security prison. Peña Nieto, who is midway through his six-year term, removed six ministers and shuffled another four to new positions.

Little League advances to international title game

Little League Daniel ZaragozaAP – Left-hander Daniel Zaragoza gave up only three hits and doubled home a pair of runs Thursday, leading Mexicali Baja California, Mexico, to an 11-0 victory over Barquisimeto, Venezuela, and a berth in the International championship game at the Little League World Series. Mexicali will play Tokyo for the title Saturday. The winner will face the U.S. champion a day later for the World Series championship.

Mexico Sweetens Oil Auction to Draw Firms Hit by Low Oil Prices

Gas is flared from a tower on an oil drilling rig operated by Pemex in the Ku-Maloob-Zaap oilfield at Campeche Bay off the coast of Ciudad del Carmen. (Susana Gonzalez / Bloomberg)
Gas is flared from a tower on an oil drilling rig operated by Pemex in the Ku-Maloob-Zaap oilfield at Campeche Bay off the coast of Ciudad del Carmen. (Susana Gonzalez / Bloomberg)

By Laurence Iliff / Wall Street Journal

Mexico’s hydrocarbons regulator has improved the terms for its September oil auction to drum up more interest among cash-strapped international oil firms reeling from falling prices, with industry analysts applauding the move Wednesday as a step in the right direction.

The National Hydrocarbons Commission approved a series of changes in both auction procedures and contract terms that reduce the risk to oil companies seeking to begin operations in Mexico following the nation’s energy opening to private and foreign firms.

The first oil block auction under the energy overhaul, held in July, was considered a failure because only two of 14 exploratory offshore blocks were awarded. Mexican officials promised to find ways to improve the terms for the second auction, which are for five groups of already discovered offshore fields.

Among the 14 companies that have qualified to bid in the next auction are major oil companies like Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell, national oil firms such as China’s Cnooc Limited, and Mexican upstarts Sierra Oil & Gas and Carso Oil & Gas.

Deforestation in Monarch reserve almost triples

Monarch butterfliesAP – Illegal logging has almost tripled in the monarch butterfly’s wintering grounds In central Mexico, reversing several years of steady improvements. Almost all of the loss occurred in just one rural hamlet in the state of Michoacan. A total of 52 acres (21 hectares) of forest were lost overall. That’s the highest figure since 2011, well above the 20 acres (8 hectares) lost a year earlier.

Mexico’s Trade Deficit Widens in July to $2.27 Billion

WSJ – Mexico’s trade deficit widened in July as a drop in crude-oil prices continued to weigh on petroleum exports while manufacturing exports grew at a modest pace from a year before. The country registered a trade deficit of $2.27 billion last month, bringing the accumulated shortfall in the first seven months of the year to $6.32 billion.

Mexico seizes 9 horses at Zetas’ Coahuila ranch

AP – Raids and arrests haven’t cooled the fascination of Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel with fine horses. A raid in Coahuila had netted nine quarter horses, and about one dozen trailers and trucks. In 2012, U.S. authorities cracked down on a Zetas scheme to take proceeds from drug sales in the United States and launder them by purchasing American quarter horses.

Rights groups say forced disappearances rising

TeleSur  -A number of human rights organizers and defenders say that forced disappearances are on the increase in Mexico. “Today we must say that (forced) disappearance occurs widely. In the past eight years we have documented more than 26,000 cases,” said Mario Patron of the Miguel Agustin Pro Human Rights Center.–20150827-0002.html