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.

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.

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 theepochtimes.com

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.

Despite love for pet dogs, Mexico has highest number of stray dogs in region

Pet dogs are extremely popular in Mexico. 

In the evenings the parks of Mexico City are teeming with dog walkers often stopping to chat with other owners they only know through a shared passion for their pets.

But there is a dark side to this picture of harmony between man and his best friend.

According to Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography, 70 percent of Mexico’s estimated 18 million dogs live on the street, either born as strays or abandoned by their owners.

The country has the largest number of street dogs in Latin America.

Dog Angie is examined by veterinary doctor Jose Carlos Hernandez Trejo at the Clinica Veterinaria Delegacional in Venustiano Carranza, Mexico City, 10.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

The most recent figures from Mexico City’s department of health estimate there are 1.2 million strays roaming the streets of the capital alone.

The Clinica Veterinaria Delegacional is a small shelter in Venustiano Carranza, one of Mexico City’s 16 boroughs.

Tucked away in the shadows of a raised subway track it does its best to give a second chance to the small fraction of the city’s strays fortunate enough to end up there.

Jose Carlos Hernandez Trejo, 26, is a veterinary doctor at the clinic, which receives support from local animal charity the Antonio Haghenbeck Foundation.

Achilles the cat in his cage at the Clinica Veterinaria Delegacional in Venustiano Carranza, Mexico City, 10.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

It is Trejo’s job to give all new arrivals a medical examination, administer any appropriate vaccinations, and carry out sterilizations, an important way of controlling the stray dog population.

The shelter currently has around 40 cats and dogs living in cages laid out across a concrete courtyard but that can rise to 80 at certain times of year.

“There are periods when there are going to be a lot more animals abandoned—February, March, April, and up until May,” Trejo said.

He speculates that the reason is that many people receive pets as Christmas gifts in December, and then later abandon them.

The courtyard at the Clinica Veterinaria Delegacional in Venustiano Carranza, Mexico City, 10.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

“People think they’re a thing or an object, not a living being that needs food, water, attention, washing, and plenty of care.

“Later they don’t understand when it goes to the bathroom or bites their child. They generate problems and then they end up here.”

Read the full story at theepochtimes.com

Pictured at the top of this post, a dog without a name in a cage at Dog at Clinica Veterinaria Delegacional in Venustiano Carranza, Mexico City, 10.10.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

Many still without a home one year after Mexico earthquake

A year on from a devastating earthquake that struck Mexico City and killed dozens of people, hundreds of buildings in the capital are still uninhabitable and many of their former residents remain homeless.

At 1.14 p.m. on Sept. 19, 2017, the anniversary of another devastating quake in 1985 that claimed tens of thousands of lives in Mexico City, a 7.1 magnitude tremor shook the center of the country, killing about 370 people.

In the capital more than 430 buildings either collapsed or have been demolished in the 12 months since, according to Plataforma CDMX, a government body set up to survey and categorize structures following the quake.

More than 1,000 buildings that are still standing remain at high risk of collapse according to data gleaned through reports and structural analyses filed on the Mexico City government portal by affected residents, many of whom have been forced to abandon their homes.

A demonstrator reaches for the sky during an emotional protest in support of the damnificados of Multifamiliar Tlalpan and across Mexico City, 19.09.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

Movements in support of “los damnificados”—”the victims” or “the people who have suffered a harm,” as those made homeless by the quake call themselves—have sprung up across the capital.

One of the most prominent are the damnificados of Multifamiliar Tlalpan, a housing development in the south of the city which was once home to 500 families, according to citizen watchdog group Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity.

During the earthquake, housing block 1C of the development collapsed completely, killing nine people and trapping 18 others who had to be rescued.

A firefighter taking part in the demonstration at Multifamiliar Tlalpan, 19.09.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

A number of the 2,000 people who once lived in Multifamiliar Tlalpan haven’t been able to find permanent housing, surviving under tarpaulins in a makeshift camp at the edge of the development.

With the rest of the blocks declared uninhabitable, residents are still waiting for work to be carried out in order to make them safe.

A demonstration to call attention to the plight of the damnificados on Sept. 19 stopped all five lanes of traffic northbound on Tlalpan, one of the busiest roads in Mexico City.

Read the full story at theepochtimes.com

Pictured at the top of this post, firefighters and demonstrators link hands at a demonstration at Multifamiliar Tlalpan in Mexico City on the first anniversary of the devastating 19S earthquake, 19.09.18 (Tim MacFarlan)

Arrival of Diego Maradona puts spotlight on Mexican second division team

Diego Maradona speaks to the press after winning his first match as the new manager of Los Dorados in Culiacán on September 17 (Reuters)

The arrival of a football legend with a reputation as a troublemaker has thrust a second division Mexican team into the spotlight.

Wherever Diego Maradona goes he is guaranteed to attract attention and his latest attempt to resurrect his coaching career has certainly brought that to Los Dorados.

The team, named after the Mexican term for a type of golden dolphinfish, is based in Culiacán, the capital of the north-western state of Sinaloa.

Long the cradle of illicit drug production and trafficking in Mexico, Sinaloa is home to the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the largest and most feared criminal organizations in history.

After the announcement on September 6 that Maradona would be taking over as Los Dorados’ technical director, the state is also home to one of the greatest footballers to have ever graced the game but also one of the sports’ most divisive figures.

In his homeland of Argentina, the 57-year-old is still revered as a hero for his performances in the country’s 1986 World Cup-winning team, which won the tournament hosted by Mexico.

The diminutive forward is credited with inspiring an unfancied group of players to glory with his brilliance, culminating in victory over West Germany in the final at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

“His reputation in Mexico is generally good,” said Tom Marshall, a journalist based in Guadalajara who has covered Mexican football for eight years.

“Mexico is where he crowned his career, playing in 1986 like he did….Even at the recent World Cup he was saying he loved Mexican football and Mexico was his favourite team and that he was a Mexico fan.”

But that great victory in 1986 also showed Maradona’s dark side when he deliberately used his hand to score a goal in a quarter final game against England.

The man himself later dubbed it the “Mano de Dios,” or “Hand of God” goal, and it remains probably the most infamous example of cheating in the history of sport.

Read the full article at theepochtimes.com

UNAM students protest violence by ‘porros’ on campus

It may have been a daunting task, but the group of a dozen or so students seemed determined to scrub the graffiti off the side of the most famous building on the main campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), while wearing surgical-style masks to avoid inhaling the pungent mix of water and paint thinner.

“We are for freedom of expression, but not like this,” said Karen Aketzali García Miranda, who joined the clean-up group on Sept. 7 at the end of a tumultuous week at the largest and most storied university in Latin America.

Earlier that week, on Sept. 3, a group of students from one of UNAM’s many affiliated schools and colleges held a demonstration in front of the rectory at UNAM’s main campus.

A young girl rests on a ‘Made in CU’ (Ciudad Universitaria) sign in the shadow of the Biblioteca Central on Sept. 7, 2018, amid the calm of UNAM’s main campus just two days after a protest against university officials drew 30,000 people (Tim MacFarlan)

The gathering in the south of Mexico City was small, with the students intending to present a petition with a list of seven demands to UNAM Rector Enrique Graue Wiechers.

According to reports, about 40 people arrived at the protest site in cars and proceeded to attack the students with sharp weapons, large sticks, stones, firecrackers, and Molotov cocktails.

Fourteen protestors were injured, including two who sustained serious injuries—one of whom is thought to have been stabbed.

The attacks were carried out by members of so-called “porros,” mercenary groups also known as “grupos de choque,” or “shock groups.”

Volunteer student cleaners belt out UNAM’s famous ‘Goya’ chant in front of the Biblioteca Central (Tim MacFarlan)

These gangs of young men are often officially registered as students but have a darker purpose than getting a degree.

They are heirs to a long history of attackers, allegedly acting with the tacit approval of authorities intending to crack down on protests.

Read the full story here at epochtimes.com

Pictured at the top of this post, Miguel Ángel Romero Castillejos, 18, helps with the voluntary effort to scrub graffiti from the walls of the Biblioteca Central at UNAM (Tim MacFarlan)