Hundreds of vehicles auctioned in Mexico government austerity drive

Black SUVs, escort motorcycles and an armoured car used by Mexico’s previous president – all have been up for sale at a public auction.

The country’s new leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, says neither he nor his administration needs them.

He hopes to raise more than five million dollars from selling the road-going vehicles and a series of helicopters and airplanes – money which will go towards funding a National Guard, AMLO’s flagship idea to improve Mexico’s dire security situation.

On Saturday and Sunday (February 23 and 24), hundreds of people gathered to bid on the fleet at the Santa Lucía Air Force Base north of Mexico City.

“We are going to save money through tackling corruption and save money through putting an end to the luxuries and over-spending of the government,” the president has said.

He continues to fly on commercial airlines, has turned the presidential residence into a museum and accepts only 40 per cent of the salary of his predecessor.

These measures are popular but Esteban Illades, who edits the Nexos political magazine, is waiting to see concrete results.

“Mexicans are very happy with the actions he’s undertaking there, and by doing that and by changing that, he’s saying things are changing,” he explained.

“He hasn’t yet completed 100 days in office, but we’ve yet to see something that’s remarkably different in terms of public policy, that is in terms of actual actions that he’s undertaking as a president, instead of just symbols that he’s performing.”

A second auction of the helicopters and airplanes is planned for April, which will include the presidential jet.

I produced and helped film this news package for CGTN America correspondent Alasdair Baverstock, which you can see on the CGTN website here.

‘El Chapo’ legacy will live on thanks to wife, his ‘Chapito’ sons, cartel’s acceptance in Sinaloa

Left to right: Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, his wife Emma Coronel Aispuro and son Jesus Alfredo Guzman-Salazar

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán has finally been convicted of running a massive drug smuggling operation as head of Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa Cartel – but even though he will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars, but experts believe the story is far from over.

Journalist and author Malcolm Beith, who has covered Mexico’s efforts to combat organized crime for more than a decade, has written a book on the hunt for El Chapo, and attended the kingpin’s trial in Brooklyn, thinks we’ll be hearing more from the kingpin in future.

“He’s off to jail, no doubt, for life but he’s got kids who are now American citizens; he’s got a wife who’s legally here; he’s got lawyers,” he told Fox News.

“They have already threatened to sue people in Mexico for defaming his name.”

America Armenta, a reporter for El Debate newspaper, based in the Sinaloan capital Culiacán, says that partly through the help of his wife Emma Coronel, who has been a fixture at his 11-week trial, El Chapo remains “very well seen” by many in his home state.

Read the full story at foxnews.com

‘The burned screamed’: Mexicans seek answers after pipeline blast

Claudia Zacarias Hernandez heard the screams as flames engulfed dozens who had gathered to collect fuel from a gushing pipeline in rural Mexico last week.

She was on the other side of the field in the small town of Tlahuelilpan, about 105km north of Mexico City, when the pipe exploded.

“All those who had been burned were yelling,” she told Al Jazeera, as she sat on a small bank on the edge of the field, awaiting any news on her nephew who had gone missing.

“There were children here,” she said, the towers from the giant Tula fuel refinery visible in the distance. “I feel terrible because I could not help. All the burned were screaming and I could not help them.”

Claudia Zacarias Hernandez, 19.01.19 (Tim MacFarlan)

Hernandez’s nephew, Martin Alfredo, is one of the dozens who remain missing after the explosion on Friday that claimed 89 lives and injured 51, officials said on Monday (January 21).

Hernandez joined dozens of others who combed the field this weekend, looking for any sign of hope that their loved ones were still alive.

Among them was Christopher Neri Carillo, who clutched a piece of paper with a man’s face as he wandered around the field on Saturday. The man is his missing father.

“Up until this moment, we don’t know exactly what happened to him,” Carillo told Al Jazeera.

Christopher Neri Carillo, 17, (left) and his cousin Javier Gonzalez Neri, 28, clutching a poster of Christopher’s missing father Lorenzo Neri Porras

“We know that he left the house but he hasn’t come back yet,” he said on Saturday.

“I’m worried because I can’t find him and I don’t know if he’s alive, if he’s in a hospital and if he’s seriously hurt or if he’s okay and is recovering. It’s horrible.”

As of Monday morning, Carillo still had no word on his 48-year-old father.

Read the full story at aljazeera.com

Pictured at the top of this post, workers excavate what remains of the destroyed pipeline, 19.01.19 (Tim MacFarlan)

Mexico endures gas shortages as government cracks down on narco fuel thieves

Mexicans have endured a week of gas shortages as the government takes drastic action to combat narco fuel thieves.

Several states in the center of the country, including the capital Mexico City, have seen hundreds of petrol stations closed and long lines at those left open.

The government of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, has cut off the gas supply in a number of key pipelines transporting fuel from refineries.

The aim is take the fight to the ‘huachicoleros’ as the fuel thieves are known. Many are affiliated with larger drug cartels, who for years have been tapping pipelines of the state oil company Pemex.

Fuel theft has become a highly lucrative business for organized crime in recent years as revenue from traditional sources such as marijuana and opium as declined.

Read the full story at foxnews.com

Pictured at the top of this post, a biker takes a breather waiting in line for fuel in Mexico City, 11.01.19 (Tim MacFarlan)

Tultepec: Fireworks mecca whose inhabitants risk death for their craft

A Tultepec resident looks on as smoke rises from yet another explosion in the town’s designated fireworks making zone

Fireworks have been dazzling spectators at celebrations across the world for centuries and in Mexico they’re highly popular way to mark a special occasion.

The town of Tultepec outside Mexico City is built around the fireworks industry, passing on the skills of hand making the explosives from generation to generation.

But this has come at a price, with dozens of people having been killed in fatal accidents while making or selling fireworks.

Despite this many in Tultepec are still willing to risk their lives to support their families and uphold the town’s reputation as the fireworks capital of Mexico.

Correspondent Alasdair Baverstock traveled to the town to find out more.

I produced this short documentary for CGTN America, which you can watch here.

Check out my written piece on the story.

14,000-year-old mammoth skeleton goes on display in Mexican museum

In 2016, Ernesto Vargas was digging the foundations for a drainage ditch when he came across a discovery that could rewrite history.

Beneath his shovel was the preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth. Mexican archaeologists believe the remains are about 14,000 years old.

“There were always rumors that mammoth bones were around here, but we rarely saw any,” said Vargas.

“But when you see some for real, it’s amazing. You say “wow, they really did exist!”

The remains of the woolly mammoth were scattered, a vital element in the find according to Luis Córdoba, who led the excavations.

“When we look at how the bones were found, we can surmise that the animal was butchered by primitive hunters of that age,” said Córdoba.

“This makes it an important find because even though they are not human remains, the human activity is reflected and it tells us that 14,000 years ago, people were living in this region.”

The earliest human remains to have been found in North America currently date to 13,000 years ago and although the mammoth’s dismemberment demonstrates the presence of humans, academics believe people may have been here for as long as 25,000 years.

After two years of painstaking excavation, the woolly mammoth is now on display in a museum in the town of Tultepec, north of Mexico City.

I produced this package for CGTN America.

Migrants rush border in Tijuana with no US-Mexico asylum deal in sight

Tensions at the U.S. border with Mexico have escalated, with some Central American migrants trying to breach the crossing between Tijuana and California.

Observers say it’s a bid to pressure the U.S. to hear their asylum claims, as Alasdair Baverstock reports.

I produced this package for CGTN America.

English proficiency is ‘down’ in Mexico

English proficiency is down in Mexico according to recently published statistics.

It’s a trend that English teachers in the country see as worrying for the next generations’ future.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports from Downtown Mexico City.

I produced and filmed this Facebook Live for CGTN America.

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s trial starts in US

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán is accused of leading one of the most powerful drug cartels in Mexico.

But at the start of his trial in New York he has claimed he is just a scapegoat and the actual leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel have Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on their side.

I joined TRT World’s Money Talks to talk about the story live from Mexico City.

Stray dogs in Mexico’s ‘Pueblos Mágicos’ being ‘poisoned’ by authorities, activists claim

Street dogs are rescued from a mine in Mineral del Monte (credit Lorena Rivera Garnica)

Three so-called ‘magical towns’ in Mexico have been accused of poisoning street dogs in order to clean up their image for tourists, a claim that’s rejected by administrators of the towns.

Mineral del Monte and Mineral del Chico in the state of Hidalgo, and Tlalpujahua in Michoacán, all have the prized ‘Pueblo Mágico’ designation.

Inaugurated in 2001, the program aims to promote some of Mexico’s most beautiful towns as alternative tourist destinations to beach resorts.

But in the name of promoting an idealized image to visitors, some towns have allegedly been poisoning dogs—and not just strays but some with owners.

The municipal authorities in Mineral del Chico and Tlalpujahua denied involvement in the poisoning of dogs when they were asked about accusations made by animal-welfare groups; the town council of Mineral del Monte has declined to respond.

The Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in the centre of Mineral del Monte, Hidalgo, México (credit Diego Delso, taken 10.10.13)

Hidalgo state tourism board secretary Eduardo Baños told The Epoch Times there have been instances of canine poisoning in “different municipalities in the state,” while stopping short of blaming municipal authorities.

“To begin with, it should be pointed out that rather than a policy, a series of unfortunate contingencies have arisen in different municipalities in the state.

“We have said on different occasions that these are reprehensible acts which conflict with the image we want to project,” he said.

“We reiterate that the state government doesn’t approve of this type of action and we believe there is a responsibility to face these kinds of problems [with street dog populations], with appropriate education to ensure these living beings are respected and protected.”

Read the full story at theepochtimes.com