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.

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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.”

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Caravan migrants willing to ‘climb that wall,’ claim asylum to get jobs

As thousands of Central Americans travel north in caravans toward the U.S. border, several of the travellers explained that they’re having trouble getting a job in their home country or that they want a better one.

For that reason, they’re willing to go to great lengths to apply for asylum in the United States.

“People come with the hope of breaking the wall [at the border], and they are going to break it, through faith in God,” said Moises Esu Vidal Sanchez, 24, (pictured above).

He worked as a taxi driver in the Honduran capital of San Pedro Sula, but embarked on the journey to escape personal issues.

“My mother passed away and there is nothing there for me now,” he said.

Traveling with a group of five male friends, he said he was willing to settle in Mexico.

“I like Mexico and I’m pleased to be here,” he said. “Everywhere, there is work—if you search for it, there is work.”

That doesn’t mean, however, he agrees with the United States limiting immigration.

“He [President Donald Trump] has to open the border, so all the world can pass,” Sanchez said.

I contributed reporting and photos to this piece, the full version of which can be read here at

Mexico’s Day of the Dead gets underway with procession for deceased children

Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations honor those who’ve died by remembering them and the lives they lived. 

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock visited the town of Tultepec north of Mexico City to find out how locals celebrate in their own special way with a march in memory of deceased children.

I produced this digital video about the ‘Farolitos’ parade, posted here on the CGTN America Facebook page.

For families of ‘the disappeared’ in Mexico, the search goes on

Members of a collective for families of the disappeared, Rastreadoras por la Paz, on a search around Los Mochis, Sinaloa

Miriam Báez Murillo is a rarity in Mexico. The fact that her son was forcibly ‘disappeared’ isn’t rare at all—there are more than 37,000 people on the official register of disappeared persons.

What is rare about Murillo is that she is ‘lucky’ enough to have actually found the remains of her son, José Manuel Herrera Báez, who disappeared at the age of 26 on May 27, 2017.

Criminal gangs, police, and the army, sometimes at the behest of local authorities, have been abducting people with virtual impunity in frightening numbers since the country’s drug war was militarized in 2006.

Murillo is one of the less than one per cent of families of people on the ‘disappeared’ registry who have had the remains of their loved ones found and formally identified.

That’s 340 people, or 0.91 per cent, of the 37,485 on the official list.

José Manuel Herrera Báez, son of Miriam Báez Murillo

Báez disappeared after he was allegedly arrested by municipal police at the home of his girlfriend, in the city of Mazatlán in the northwestern Pacific state of Sinaloa.

His remains were found about six months after he disappeared, in a field outside the city by a ‘colectivo’ on one of their búsquedas, or searches.

There are dozens of such groups across Mexico comprised of kin of the disappeared. They search for their lost family members, they say, while the authorities do nothing.

“The people who find their loved ones in this way, we cannot understand the immensity of it, because we always have hope of finding them alive,” Murillo said, recalling the day she heard her son had been found.

“The sadness is enormous and that’s something we have to cope with.”

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