Could his last act in Mexico City ruin Carlos Slim?

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim on a tour of his Plaza Carso real estate development in 2010. (Bloomberg/Getty Images)
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim on a tour of his Plaza Carso real estate development in 2010. (Bloomberg/Getty Images)

By Feike de Jong / The Guardian

It is sometimes hard to tell where Carlos Slim stops and Mexico City starts. He controls most of the mobile phone, landline and internet markets. His telecoms company, Telmex, installed the city’s surveillance cameras. Grupo Carso, his flagship infrastructure conglomerate, runs the city’s principle water treatment plant. His bank, Inbursa, is Mexico’s sixth largest. He even owns the city’s only aquarium.

In 2015 Slim’s companies accounted for 6% of the entire country’s GDP, according to the Mexican media outlet El Universal. These holdings run parallel to a vast network of strategically located retail properties. But more than anywhere or anyone else, the 77-year-old tycoon and sometime world’s richest man has grown with the capital. Like a ghost in a shell, Carlos Slim has become part of Mexico City’s urban fabric.

Now, in the autumn of his career, the Valley of Mexico – Slim’s canvas – is running out of space.

The only large open area remaining lies to the east, amid the swampland of Texcoco – almost all that is left of the once-great lake system that filled the basin.

This is where the man known as el Ingeniero, the engineer, will make what is likely to be his last great urban intervention: a massive new airport, expected to be the third-largest in the world.

The stakes are high, and not just for Slim. Should this project be a success, it will be his crowning glory, a symbol of his role in shaping Mexican modernity and a great gateway for the country’s global ambitions. Should it be a fiasco, future generations will see it as an ostentatious monument in an era long on mathematics and short on wisdom, in which natural resources existed to be consumed, megaprojects were a way to keep the poor fed and occupied, and the future was an afterthought.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jun/28/billionaire-airport-last-act-mexico-city-ruin-carlos-slim

Wall prototypes to be built by September

The Guardian – Rival prototypes for Donald Trump’s wall on the US-Mexico border should be built by September, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency said. A bidding process for contractors to design and construct prototypes at the south-west border in San Diego, California, the first step towards the multibillion-dollar project, is currently under way.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/27/donald-trump-border-wall-mexico-prototypes-september

New species of parrot found in Yucatan

Parrot new speciesSmithsonian – There are about 30 species of vibrantly colored Amazon parrots that soar through the skies of Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. But a new fluffy family member may soon be added to the Amazona genus. A team of researchers believes they have discovered a never-before-seen species of the parrot on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-species-amazon-parrot-discovered-mexico-180963853/

The beauty and power of Mexico’s volcanoes

NYT – The beauty of Mexico’s volcanoes can be matched by their power. Whether topped by snow or spewing towers of ash and smoke, they are a natural draw for would-be nature photographers. But to Hector Guerrero they are more than subjects for pretty pictures. The 33-year-old photographer sees them as embodying the environmental and social challenges facing his country.

https://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/the-beauty-and-power-of-mexicos-volcanoes/?_r=0

U.S. factories in Mexico welcome Nafta changes

Marketplace – “Maquilas,” the mostly American-owned factories that line the Mexican side of the border with the U.S., have been looking forward to the prospect of change since the election of President Trump. They don’t want a border tax placed on their shipments to the U.S., as the Trump administration has threatened. But they are embracing the possibility of an updated North American Free Trade Agreement.

https://www.marketplace.org/2017/06/27/business/us-owned-maquilas-welcome-prospect-change-nafta

Consumer agency targets airline bag fees, delays

AP -Mexico’s consumer agency has announced fines and new rules meant to protect travelers from airlines. The federal consumer prosecutor’s office fined five airlines more than $1.2 million (22.4 million pesos) for charging passengers to check their first bag for flights to the United States and Canada originating in Mexico City.

http://wtop.com/travel/2017/06/mexico-consumer-agency-targets-airline-bag-fees-delays/

Mapping Mexico’s hidden graves

Science – More than 30,000 people have disappeared without a trace in Mexico. Police investigations rarely solve such crimes, so many families are left to search on their own for the hidden graves that might hold their relatives. Last week, a team of data scientists and human rights researchers released a new tool for the searchers: a map predicting which municipalities in Mexico are most likely to house hidden graves.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/06/mapping-mexico-s-hidden-graves

Mexico’s murder rate reaches 20-year high

Police outside a house where were six people – including a four-month-old baby – were killed in San Pedro Cacahuatepec near Acapulco. (Francisco Robles/AFP/Getty Images)
Police outside a house where were six people – including a four-month-old baby – were killed in San Pedro Cacahuatepec near Acapulco. (Francisco Robles/AFP/Getty Images)

The Guardian

Mexico marked another murderous milestone in its conflict with organised crime as the monthly homicide rate hit its highest level in 20 years.

Government statistics showed that 2,186 murders were committed in May, surpassing the previous monthly high of 2,131 in May 2011, according to a review of records that date back to 1997.

Mexico recorded 9,916 murders in the first five months of 2017, roughly a 30% increase over the same period last year.

The situation has hit such calamitous levels in states such as Guerrero, to south of Mexico City – where armed groups are fighting for control of the heroin industry – that morgues there have been unable to handle the dead bodies.

Analysts say the surging violence stems from various factors, including the increased cultivation of heroin to meet US demand and the legalisation of marijuana in some US states, which has caused cartel profits to plummet and prompted criminal groups to diversify into crimes such as kidnap and extortion.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/21/mexicos-monthly-rate-reaches-20-year-high

Mexico legalizes medical marijuana

Washington Post – Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a decree this week legalizing medical marijuana. The measure also classified the psychoactive ingredient in the drug as “therapeutic.” The new policy isn’t exactly opening the door for medical marijuana dispensaries on every corner.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/06/21/mexico-just-legalized-medical-marijuana/?utm_term=.1c13fd689ee4

Supreme Court rules in telecom spat

Reuters – Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in a spat over interconnection rates paid between telecommunications firm America Movil and rivals that touches on a bigger case related to an antitrust reform the company is fighting. The court ruled partly in favor of a unit of America Movil against Pegaso and Grupo de Telecomunicaciones Mexicanas, both Telefonica units, in a case involving rates charged to interconnect calls between their networks.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-telecom-idUSKBN19D07W

Ford will build Focus in China — not U.S.

Quartz -Automaker Ford said June 20 it won’t move production of its Focus model from the US to Mexico after all. The company now plans to make the cars in China, and ship them to the US. It’s an eyebrow-raising decision for several reasons. Making the sedan in neighboring Mexico would be more convenient for Ford, enabling the company to avoid the high costs of shipping the cars from Asia.

https://qz.com/1010607/ford-has-decided-not-to-send-car-production-to-mexico-but-its-still-not-staying-in-the-us/

Mexico “spied on journalists, lawyers and activists

Journalist Carmen Aristegui is among those allegedly targeted by the government.
Journalist Carmen Aristegui is among those allegedly targeted by the government.

BBC

Several prominent journalists and activists in Mexico have filed a complaint accusing the government of spying on them by hacking their phones.

The accusation follows a report in the New York Times that says they were targeted with spyware meant to be used against criminals and terrorists.

The newspaper says messages examined by forensic analysts show the software was used against government critics.

A Mexican government spokesman “categorically” denied the allegations.

The report says that the software, known as Pegasus, was sold to Mexican federal agencies by Israeli company NSO Group on the condition that it only be used to investigate criminals and terrorists.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-40337770

Ford to save $1 billion building Focus in China, not Mexico

Bloomberg – Ford Motor Co. is canceling controversial plans to build the Focus small car in Mexico, saving $1 billion by ending North American production entirely and importing the model mostly from China after next year. The U.S. automaker will start making the next-generation Focus in China from the second half of 2019, a year after output ends at one of its plants in Michigan. Ford will trim about $500 million in costs by shifting production to China, adding to the $500 million already saved from canceling construction of a small-car factory in Mexico earlier this year.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-20/ford-to-save-1-billion-making-focus-in-china-instead-of-mexico

How new Nafta could change doing business in Mexico

Harvard Business Review – Multinational companies operating in Mexico are facing a great deal of uncertainty. The possibility of a contentious renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement has led to delayed or canceled investments in what has been one of Latin America’s most economically stable markets. Mexico’s fast-approaching July 2018 general election, of which the populist leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador is the current frontrunner, is further making the case for incremental investments by multinationals corporations.

https://hbr.org/2017/06/what-a-changing-nafta-could-mean-for-doing-business-in-mexico