Dirty Tricks in Mexicali

AFN is reporting that May 7 a group of people entered the city hall of Mexicali, bypassing security measures and passwords and entered the information/data processing department. There they erased a substantial amount of computer records, generating a disaster which prevents the city from writing checks, making payments and collections.

The Municipal Trustee has identified at least four officials considered as suspects. The security cameras managed to capture the entrance of several persons into the city hall.

Link to article in Spanish.

Mexico fires 7 officials from immigration agency

MEXICO CITY – Seven top officials were fired Thursday from Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, part of a wider cleanup effort at the embattled department amid rampant migrant kidnappings and accusations that some agents have been involved.

The officials directed operations in seven states most traveled by Central American migrants trying to reach the United States and where some of the worst atrocities against migrants have occurred, the Interior Department announced in a statement.

They include the director in the northern state of Tamaulipas, where a group of Central American migrants recently accused immigration agents of pulling them off buses and handing them over to criminal gangs. Six agents from the immigration institute were arrested after migrants identified them in photographs.

The plight of migrants is a source of discomfort in Mexico, which regularly lobbies for better treatment of its own immigrants in the United States.

But despite many efforts to root out corruption, Mexican immigration officials and police are often found to be involved in the kidnapping of migrants, who are regularly extorted for money and, more recently, targeted by drug gangs trying to forcibly recruit them as traffickers.

Link to article.

Survey: Corruption increases in Mexico by 18.5 pct

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The latest survey by an anti-corruption group says more bribes are going into the pockets of Mexican officials than three years ago.

The Mexican chapter of Berlin-based Transparency International estimates Mexicans paid $2.75 billion in bribes in 2010. It says that’s an 18.5 percent increase from 2007.

The average bribe was about $14, compared to $12 in 2007.

The group said Tuesday that it based its estimates on a survey that asked more than 15,300 Mexican households about bribes offered for 35 public services.

The report says Mexican households spend 14 percent of their income on bribes and make such payments in a tenth of their contacts with public officials or utilities.

Link to article.

Tijuana Police Continue Extorting Tourists

Tijuana – April 19. 2011. Guillermo Diaz, president of the Merchants’ Association of the Central Zone, reported that members of the municipal police are still extorting money from foreign tourists, especially in the Zona Norte of the city.

In an interview, the business representative pointed out that more than SIAVE, the restriction on dollars and all the border restrictions, the drop in tourism is due to the extortions carried out by the police.

“They see an American license plate and they pull it over, much different from what the authorities say, and they keep doing it,” he complained.

As proof he has the testimony of established developers in the city of Rosarito, who in recent days have claimed that tourists do not buy condos in the area because Americans do not even want to go there.

“The tourists say each time they pass through Tijuana it costs them at least $200 in mordidas,” he added.

He explained that during a tour of the Zona Norte, it is easy to see how cars with American license plates were stopped by the municipal police.

“Contrary to official statements which insure us that the municipal police now do not extort tourists, it remains a recurring problem and they told us that the percentage of complaints have reduced,” he explained.

He said that before a million people came and a certain number of them complained, now the officials say there are not so many complaints, but they have not considered that now there are maybe only a thousand tourists.

Guillermo Diaz said that despite holding meetings with local public safety officials and people close to Mayor Carlos Bustamante Anchondo, they are always left with promises and the situation has not changed and apparently will not change.

Link to article in Spanish.

Sempra LNG Plant In Ensenada: The Other Shoe Drops

Fulano has often said on this blog that when it comes to Mexico, nothing is at it seems to be. SEMPRA has had its share of problems with its LNG facility near Ensenada. The main problem is that a local rancher, Ramon Eugenio Sanchez Ritchie, has been doing a full court press in the Mexican courts to get SEMPRA’s operating permits and land title declared invalid.

Ritchie got the mayor of Ensenada, Enrique Pelayo Torres, to send the local police out to close down the plant, but the Mexican federal government stepped in hours later and reopened it. It was later learned that Pelayo had asked SEMPRA weeks earlier to fund a public works project to build an aquaduct to bring water to Ensenada. Then the Mexican legislature, in a non-binding resolution, voted to urge the federal government to investigate the whole SEMPRA permit issue.

In the latest bombshell, The Watchdog and San Diego Channel 10, broke the story that Ramon Sanchez Ritchie was being financed in his legal battles in part by a Coronado resident, Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, who is a Mexican citizen. There is a contract between Ritchie and Matsura, where Matsura gets the lions share of any money or land that Ritchie recovers.

Jose Susumo Azano Matsura. Photo SDUT

Link to the story in the SDUT.

Boy, I’ll bet the foreign investors are just lining up to invest in Mexico right now…not!

Calderón Is Committed To A Crusade Against Corruption

MEXICO .- President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa pledged to lead a crusade against corruption, in which there will be more active participation by society via the complaint process, and which seek to “severely punish” those who engage in this practice within his administration.

“We will make it easier to report acts of corruption. We will also provide rewards for identifying corrupt behavior. We will prevent these unexplained increases in the net wroth of public servants,” Calderon said, introducing the initiative “Federal Anti-Corruption Law in Public Procurement,” which seeks to curb corruption in companies that are competing to win a bid.

Sempra LNG Plant In Ensenada Revelation

Fulano blogged about the Mexican standoff at the Sempra LNG pland near Ensenada last week. This is where the new mayor of Ensenada sent in his police force to shut the plant down, claiming it lacked the proper permits to operate. The Mexican federal government then sent in the Army, kicked out the Ensenada police, and put the plant back in operation. The army is still guarding the plant.

Well, today there was a new revelation. It seems the mayor of Ensenada, Enrique Pelayo Torres, admitted that three months ago he went Sempra, the owner of the plant, and asked them to build an aqueduct from Mexicali to Ensenada, at a cost of $67 million to be paid for by Sempra.

Link to article in Spanish.

Now how about that? The drug cartels aren’t bad enough Mexico even has extortion by elected officials.

Sempra LNG Plant In Ensenada in Mexican Standoff

[Fulano's note: This is why it is inadvisable for foreign companies to invest in Mexico. No matter how many permits you get, no matter how many approvals you receive, no matter how long you have been doing the same business from the same location, some little arrogant prick with a political agenda or his hand out for a bribe is going to try to screw you. SEMPRA, which operates the gas plant discussed below, has amparo's from both state and federal courts. An amparo is a court order saying they are in compliance with the law and not to be interfered with unless a further order comes from the court. Yet the local mayor just ignores all that and orders the plant shut down, sending police to enforce his order. They just keep coming and coming. They never rest. Now read the story.]

A Mexican natural gas import terminal was the site of a showdown Friday between Ensenada’s mayor and Baja California officials. 

Ensenada Mayor Enrique Pelayo Torres ordered the Sempra Energia Costa Azul LNG plant shut down Friday afternoon saying there were “irregularities and flagrant violations to the law.” 

Municipal authorities put seals on the plant gates, but state officials stepped in to keep it operating, witnesses said. 

“The plant has not been shut down,” said Kathleen Teora, a Sempra spokeswoman. “Due to the quick response of the state and federal authorities in Mexico, the egregious actions of the mayor of Ensenada were rightfully thwarted.” 

The plant supplies natural gas from Russia, Indonesia and Qatar to users on both sides of the border, including large power plants. 

The plant has been at the heart of allegations of corruption for years. Its owner, Sempra Energy, has denied those allegations. 

Sempra is the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric, which operates independently of the natural gas import terminal. 

The plant’s operation has permits from federal, state and municipal officials, said Baja California’s Economic Development Secretary, Alejandro Mungaray Lagarda.
“The Sempra plant is operating legally,” he said in a statement.
 

He chided the attempted closure of the plant and said the state would go to federal court “with the aim of ensuring the rule of law and punishing those responsible.” 

The head of Ensenada’s business sector, Hector Contreras Luenga, denounced he city’s move.
“This is very unfortunate for those of us who are interested in promoting business in Baja California,” he said.
 

In his statement, Mayor Pelayo said that land-use permits were improperly issued, the plant is not adequately insured and Sempra hasn’t told emergency officials how the plant works or how it was built. 

“Municipal authorities don’t have plans for roads, pipelines and other infrastructure inside the plant’s area,” he said.He also said that the plant doesn’t have a properly equipped emergency response center.And he said construction of the plant has caused environmental damage on land and in the ocean. 

Pelayo criticized a former mayor, Jorge Antonio Catalán Sosa, saying he improperly approved construction of the plant. 

Pelayo belongs to the PRI, the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Catalán was a member of PAN, the National Action Party. 

Rivalry between the two parties has been intensifying as Mexico prepares for presidential elections next year. The two parties are bitter political opponents. The PAN currently controls the Baja California and federal governments.

Link to article.

Mexican Prison Boss Sacked After Prisoner Gets Botox In Her Cell

Link to article.

The high heels and dark glasses worn by prisoner Sandra Ávila Beltrán were already against regulations, but it was the Botox injections given to her in her cell that finally cost two prison officials their jobs.

The head of Mexico City’s main women’s jail and its medical chief have been sacked amid revelations that they allowed a plastic surgeon to enter the prison and administer beauty treatments to the alleged cocaine trafficker.

Sources within the prison authority said the treatments consisted of several Botox injections to the face, administered over several hours, and that a liposuction operation was planned to take place at the jail in the near future.

Ávila Beltrán, 50, has long been alleged to enjoy special privileges allowing her to wear non-regulation clothing to keep up appearances behind bars.

Sandra Ávila Beltrán

The woman nicknamed Queen of the Pacific was arrested in Mexico City in September 2007 and charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs and money-laundering. Authorities said that she was a key link between the Sinaloa cartel and the Colombian suppliers of cocaine. She insisted she made her living by renting houses and selling clothes.

The life of the highest profile alleged female trafficker has enthralled Mexicans. Veteran investigative journalist Julio Scherer wrote a book about Ávila Beltrán based on prison interviews in which she told how she grew up surrounded by narcotics and had love affairs with several drug kingpins.

“People can think what they like about me,” she told him. “But I cannot be convicted for my personal relations with narcos or whoever else.”

Ávila Beltrán was acquitted by a Mexican court in December, but prosecutors are appealing against that decision.

The US is also seeking her extradition to face charges associated with the seizure of nine tonnes of US-bound cocaine found on a fishing boat in a western Mexican port in 2001.