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The American expats breaking up indigenous communities on the Mexican ‘Riviera’

As property developers edge closer to the home town of 5,000 Cocas, the community has appealed to the government for help

Machetes in hand, the indigenous Cocas are climbing the steep scrubby hills that overlook their territory. Young boys climb alongside elders while a trusty donkey carries their camping equipment. Other groups man outposts beside the entrances to Mezcala, the lakeside town their forefathers founded in the late 13th century, over 200 years before the Spanish arrived in Mexico.

Theyre heading out on a unique voyage – bringing the community together to discuss their tactics against displacement.The men and boys will spend the night huddled around ceremonial bonfires, telling stories about their heritage, before descending upon the sacred Isle of Mezcala the next morning to discuss with a larger group how to defend their land and way of life. Based in the western state of Jalisco, the Cocas go back more than 700 years and have had to fight off waves of invaders over the centuries.

The latest threat to their land? A wave of American retirees heading south – pretty ironic, given President Donald Trumps demonisation of Mexican immigrants. Thousands of American and Canadian retirees have settled in the neighbouring towns on Chapala and Ajijic in recent decades to take advantage of the cheap living costs, year-round sunshine and stunning views of Mexicos biggest lake.

Manuel
Weve always had invasions by people who want to take control of our land, says Manuel Jacobo, a 30-year-old Coca activist Photograph: Duncan Tucker for the Guardian

Now known as the Chapala Riviera, the area is brimming with boutique hotels and gated communities. Foreigners are driving the growth, having spent more than twice as much as locals on housing and tourism in 2015. An estimated 7,000 expats live there all year round, with up to 10,000 snowbirds joining them each winter. Expat community leaders say their population could double within five years.

Property developers have long coveted nearby Mezcala, the home of 5,000 Coca people. With poorly paved roads and crumbling houses, it is noticeably less developed than Chapala and Ajijic. But after witnessing what happened to the original residents of those towns, the Cocas have reason to fear outsider-led development.

Santiago Bastos, an anthropologist who has spent eight years studying Mezcala, notes that (pdf) the arrival of foreign retirees and wealthy Mexicans from nearby Guadalajara saw indigenous residents ousted, often illegally, from prime plots of land, while prices shot up, making the lakeside area unaffordable for many locals.

Senior
Senior citizens have flocked to Ajijic, attracted by great weather, cheap real estate and the quaint cobblestone streets of the town. Photograph: MCT/MCT via Getty Images

Weve always had invasions by people who want to take control of our land, says Manuel Jacobo, a 30-year-old activist with a punk-inspired appearance. We inherited it from our forefathers who fought and gave their lives for it. Our grandfathers used to tell us the myths and legends. We dont want future generations to lose [the land].

Were not against progress, adds Vicente Paredes, a Coca spokesperson. But if theres urbanisation then let it be carried out by our community, not outsiders. Weve seen the problems that happened in Chapala and Ajijic, where the original inhabitants have been forced to move into the hills and live as third-class citizens.

There have already been some unwelcome attempts to develop Mezcalas 3,602 hectares (8,900 acres) of communal land, which were not only formally recognised as belonging to the Coca people under a 1971 presidential decree but also in viceregal deeds dating back to 1539.

Since 1999, the Cocas have been locked in a series of legal disputes, still unresolved, with Guillermo Moreno Ibarra, a wealthy local businessman who built a hillside mansion on 10 hectares (25 acres) of their land. The townspeople claim Moreno seized the land illegally, diverted a local stream, sent armed men to intimidate them, and falsely accused several locals of property damage.

Moreno, whose family owns a mining firm and has shares in exclusive housing developments along the Riviera, denies the accusations. His lawyer, Jos Soto, says he built the property in partnership with a local resident in a sustainable manner that doesnt affect the community in any way. The locals are upset, Soto says, because theyve never wanted socioeconomic development.

This is not true, the Cocas say. They want to see investment in health, education and communications infrastructure. Mezcala has an infinite number of needs, Paredes affirms, describing how theyd like funding for programmes to combat poverty and marginalisation. Mezcala residents have also had to begin patrolling their territory to defend their forests and water from illegal logging or pollution.

Mezcala
The town of Mezcala is home to 5,000 Coca people. Photograph: Duncan Tucker for the Guardian

They need government support on these issues, though, and that remains lacking. The Cocas, according to their state government, dont meet the criteria for indigenous people as they have no traditional dress or dialect. And without this formal recognition, Mezcalas residents are ineligible for additional funding that could give them greater control of their destiny.

Theyve been trying to gain recognition from the state for some time in order to gain access to the funds assigned to indigenous communities, notes Fela Pelayo, the head of Jaliscos congressional committee for indigenous affairs.

But even formally recognised indigenous groups have little control over the administration of public funds in their communities, as local governments rarely consult them before deciding what the money is spent on. As a result of structural, systematic and historic discrimination, the National Council Against Discrimination found that Mexicos 15.7 million indigenous people have substandard access to health and education and suffer unjustifiable levels of poverty and marginalisation.

The Mexican government is trying to make changes. The current administration says it has invested a record 21.5bn pesos (917m) in infrastructure for indigenous peoples, issued 8,000 birth certificates to unregistered indigenous children, and provided legal support for 4,100 indigenous people who were found to have been wrongly imprisoned.

There is still a way to go though. Last August, Pelayo proposed changes to state law to give Jaliscos indigenous groups greater control over the use of public funds for development projects in their communities – but it was blocked in February.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/apr/04/the-american-expats-moving-into-the-mexican-riviera-and-breaking-up-indigenous-communities


How downtown Los Angeles made a stunning comeback

(CNN)Not long ago, it was hard to imagine downtown Los Angeles as anything more than a gritty, rundown neighborhood.

Dilapidated abandoned structures made up the fabric of the region, which consists of 16 districts and spans 5.84 square miles (15 square kilometers).
Come night time, the streets were deserted as the workforce, from industries as varied as finance and retail, made its escape to greener pastures such as Orange County.

    But it hadn’t always been that way.
    At the turn of the 20th Century, downtown was a desirable location and iconic buildings — such as the Million Dollar Theater and the Biltmore Hotel, which still stand today — were constructed.
    “After World War II, we suburbanized and left,” Hal Bastian, a real estate consultant who runs an online TV series about downtown Los Angeles, tells CNN. He has been a champion of the area’s revival for two decades.
    “One day, we woke up and said, ‘What happened?’ We did it to ourselves.”

    Major revival

    Over the past couple of decades, however, the neighborhood has undergone a major revival, thanks in part to the introduction of the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance in 1999.
    First targeted at downtown Los Angeles, and extended to other areas in the city in 2003, the ordinance made it easier, cheaper and faster for “older and historic” commercial buildings to be converted into lofts and apartments.
    It resulted in the creation of thousands of housing units in downtown and a rush of people moving back to the area.
    Downtown had a population of 27,849 in 2000, according to the US Census. By 2008, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning estimated that this number had risen to 34,811.
    Trendy bars and restaurants set up shop among classic architecture in the financial district, and a vibrant community followed.

    A long time coming

    So with such good housing stock, what drove people out of downtown originally?
    The area began to lose its sheen in the mid-20th Century. Commuters from the affluent communities of West Los Angeles became tired of the hellish traffic.
    And Bunker Hill — just 1.4 miles (2.25 kilometers) from the downtown area — came into play. “From the late 1960s, the government … started redeveloping (Bunker Hill) with high rises,” says Bastian.

    Los

    Between 1999 and 2015, $24 billion was invested in downtown Los Angeles, according to the Downtown LA Market Report.
    The result has been the creation of 700 new restaurants and a rise in occupancy rates to 97%, according to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District.
    Downtown landmark Grand Central Market is a prime example of this.
    Opened in 1917, the building it is housed in was out of use for four decades. It’s now a street food haven, packed with stalls that cater to LA’s diverse population.
    “There is no one demographic here, and that’s the great part,” Mark Peel, owner of Bombo restaurant who’s widely regarded to be a founder of Californian cuisine, tells CNN.
    “This is a slice of LA right here.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/15/architecture/downtown-la-revival/index.html


    Argentina sees migration ban and border wall proposals in immigration row

    President Mauricio Macri triggers backlash from Bolivia after banning entry for foreign citizens with criminal convictions as legislator proposes border wall

    Amid a racially charged national debate on immigration, a real estate tycoon-turned-president signs an executive order to stop foreign migrants entering his country and to deport foreign residents with criminal records.

    There is even talk of building a border wall, while intemperate language prompts a backlash from a neighbouring country.

    But this is not Donald Trumps America and the wall is not intended to exclude Mexicans.

    At the other end of the Americas, Argentinas millionaire president Mauricio Macri triggered a diplomatic spat with regional neighbours this week after he signed a controversial order to rein in migration.

    Macris centre-right government has said that the immigration order is intended to fight the rising wave of drug-related crime, which it claims is partly due to an influx of migrants from Argentinas northern neighbours.

    Peruvian and Paraguayan citizens come here and end up killing each other
    for control of the drug trade, said Macris security minister Patricia Bullrich this week. A lot of Paraguayans, Bolivians and Peruvians get involved as either capitalists or mules, as drivers or as part of the drug trafficking chain.

    The ministers words provoked a swift and angry reaction from Bolivia. We
    have to reject this kind of stigmatization against our compatriots that
    coincides with Trumps xenophobic attitude, responded Bolivian government
    minister Carlos Romero.

    Bolivias indigenous president Evo Morales also protested the move, writing on Twitter: We cant be following the example of the north and its policies, building walls to divide us.

    Macri is intent on copying Trumps agenda, said former legislator and
    human rights lawyer Myriam Bregman of the Socialist Workers party. Theyre
    trying to associate immigration with crime.

    While they persecute poor people in the slums because of the colour of
    their face or their nationality, major crime involving drug trafficking
    continues to be run by government officials and corrupt police, she added.

    Immigration from Argentinas northern neighbours where the vast majority of the population is either mestizo or indigenous has always been a source of racial tension in a country where around 79% of the population is descended from European immigrants.

    As in the US, migrants in Argentina tend to work in construction or other low-paying jobs; activists say that they often take jobs that Argentinians are unwilling to take.

    This did not stop one Argentinian congressman from proposing a wall along the border with Bolivia to block the flow of migrants.

    We have to build a wall, said legislator Alfredo Olmedo of the northern
    province of Salta, which borders with Bolivia. I agree 100% with Trump.

    Macris new immigration order, which was made public on Monday, prohibits the entry into Argentina of foreign citizens with criminal convictions and speeds up the deportation of foreigners accused of breaking the law, even if they havent been convicted for some cases.

    Unlike Trump, however, Macris executive order is not country-specific and
    only affects people with criminal records.

    Bolivias foreign ministry quickly retaliated with a statement rejecting unfounded affirmations that do not contribute to the fight against discrimination and xenophobia in our countries.

    One Bolivian legislator lashed out personally at Argentinas first lady, Juliana Awada, who owns a prominent clothing firm. In the past, press reports have claimed that Awada employed undocumented Bolivian workers in her apparel workshops a charge she denies.

    What will Macris wife do without Bolivians in her workshops? asked the president of the senate, Jos Alberto Gonzles. Before thinking of walls, think of your economy.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/03/argentina-sees-migration-ban-and-border-wall-proposals-in-immigration-row


    The hidden history of Nasas black female scientists

    The diversity of Nasas workforce in 1940s Virginia is uncovered in a new book by Margot Lee Shetterly. She recalls how a visit to her home town led to a revelation

    Mrs Land worked as a computer out at Langley, my father said, taking a right turn out of the parking lot of the First Baptist church in Hampton, Virginia. My husband and I visited my parents just after Christmas in 2010, enjoying a few days away from our full-time life and work in Mexico.

    They squired us around town in their 20-year-old green minivan, my father driving, my mother in the front passenger seat, Aran and I buckled in behind like siblings. My father, gregarious as always, offered a stream of commentary that shifted fluidly from updates on the friends and neighbours wed bumped into around town to the weather forecast to elaborate discourses on the physics underlying his latest research as a 66-year-old doctoral student at Hampton University.

    He enjoyed touring my Maine-born-and-raised husband through our neck of the woods and refreshing my connection with local life and history in the process.

    As a callow 18-year-old leaving for college, Id seen my home town as a mere launching pad for a life in worldlier locales, a place to be from rather than a place to be. But years and miles away from home could never attenuate the citys hold on my identity and the more I explored places and people far from Hampton, the more my status as one of its daughters came to mean to me. That day after church, we spent a long while catching up with the formidable Mrs Land, who had been one of my favourite Sunday school teachers. Kathaleen Land, a retired Nasa mathematician, still lived on her own well into her 90s and never missed a Sunday at church.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/05/hidden-figures-black-female-scientists-african-americans-margot-lee-shetterly-space-race


    The Canada experiment: is this the world’s first ‘postnational’ country? | Charles Foran

    When Justin Trudeau said there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada, he was articulating a uniquely Canadian philosophy that some find bewildering, even reckless but could represent a radical new model of nationhood

    As 2017 begins, Canada may be the last immigrant nation left standing. Our government believes in the value of immigration, as does the majority of the population. We took in an estimated 300,000 newcomers in 2016, including 48,000 refugees, and we want them to become citizens; around 85% of permanent residents eventually do. Recently there have been concerns about bringing in single Arab men, but otherwise Canada welcomes people from all faiths and corners. The greater Toronto area is now the most diverse city on the planet, with half its residents born outside the country; Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal arent far behind. Annual immigration accounts for roughly 1% of the countrys current population of 36 million.

    Canada has been over-praised lately for, in effect, going about our business as usual. In 2016 such luminaries as US President Barack Obama and Bono, no less, declared the world needs more Canada. In October, the Economist blared Liberty Moves North: Canadas Example to the World on its cover, illustrated by the Statue of Liberty haloed in a maple leaf and wielding a hockey stick. Infamously, on the night of the US election Canadas official immigration website crashed, apparently due to the volume of traffic.

    Of course, 2016 was also the year really the second running when many western countries turned angrily against immigration, blaming it for a variety of ills in what journalist Doug Saunders calls the global reflex appeal to fear. Alongside the rise of nativism has emerged a new nationalism that can scarcely be bothered to deny its roots in racial identities and exclusionary narratives.

    Compared to such hard stances, Canadas almost cheerful commitment to inclusion might at first appear almost naive. It isnt. There are practical reasons for keeping the doors open. Starting in the 1990s, low fertility and an aging population began slowing Canadas natural growth rate. Ten years ago, two-thirds of population increase was courtesy of immigration. By 2030, it is projected to be 100%.

    The economic benefits are also self-evident, especially if full citizenship is the agreed goal. All that settlers ie, Canadians who are not indigenous to the land need do is look in the mirror to recognize the generally happy ending of an immigrant saga. Our government repeats it, our statistics confirm it, our own eyes and ears register it: diversity fuels, not undermines, prosperity.

    But as well as practical considerations for remaining an immigrant country, Canadians, by and large, are also philosophically predisposed to an openness that others find bewildering, even reckless. The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, articulated this when he told the New York Times Magazine that Canada could be the first postnational state. He added: There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.

    The remark, made in October 2015, failed to cause a ripple but when I mentioned it to Michael Bach, Germanys minister for European affairs, who was touring Canada to learn more about integration, he was astounded. No European politician could say such a thing, he said. The thought was too radical.

    For a European, of course, the nation-state model remains sacrosanct, never mind how ill-suited it may be to an era of dissolving borders and widespread exodus. The modern state loosely defined by a more or less coherent racial and religious group, ruled by internal laws and guarded by a national army took shape in Europe. Telling an Italian or French citizen they lack a core identity may not be the best vote-winning strategy.

    To Canadians, in contrast, the remark was unexceptional. After all, one of the countrys greatest authors, Mavis Gallant, once defined a Canadian as someone with a logical reason to think he may be one not exactly a ringing assertion of a national character type. Trudeau could, in fact, have been voicing a chronic anxiety among Canadians: the absence of a shared identity.

    But he wasnt. He was outlining, however obliquely, a governing principle about Canada in the 21st century. We dont talk about ourselves in this manner often, and dont yet have the vocabulary to make our case well enough. Even so, the principle feels right. Odd as it may seem, Canada may finally be owning our postnationalism.

    Theres more than one story in all this. First and foremost, postnationalism is a frame to understand our ongoing experiment in filling a vast yet unified geographic space with the diversity of the world. It is also a half-century old intellectual project, born of the countrys awakening from colonial slumber. But postnationalism has also been in intermittent practise for centuries, since long before the nation-state of Canada was formalised in 1867. In some sense, we have always been thinking differently about this continent-wide landmass, using ideas borrowed from Indigenous societies. From the moment Europeans began arriving in North America they were made welcome by the locals, taught how to survive and thrive amid multiple identities and allegiances.

    That welcome was often betrayed, in particular during the late 19th and 20th centuries, when settler Canada did profound harm to Indigenous people. But, if the imbalance remains, so too does the influence: the model of another way of belonging.

    Mavis
    Mavis Gallant once defined a Canadian as someone with a logical reason to think he may be one. Illustration: Jacqui Oakley

    Can any nation truly behave postnationally ie without falling back on the established mechanisms of state governance and control? The simple answer is no.

    Canada has borders, where guards check passports, and an army. It asserts the occasional modest territorial claim. Trudeau is more aware than most of these mechanisms: he oversees them.

    It can also be argued that Canada enjoys the luxury of thinking outside the nation-state box courtesy of its behemoth neighbour to the south. The state neednt defend its borders too forcefully or make that army too large, and Canadas economic prosperity may be as straightforward as continuing to do 75% of its trade with the US. Being liberated, the thinking goes, from the economic and military stresses that most other countries face gives Canada the breathing room, and the confidence, to experiment with more radical approaches to society. Lucky us.

    Nor is there uniform agreement within Canada about being post-anything. When the novelist Yann Martel casually described his homeland as the greatest hotel on earth, he meant it as a compliment but some read it as an endorsement of newcomers deciding to view Canada as a convenient waystation: a security, business or real-estate opportunity, with no lasting responsibilities attached.

    Likewise, plenty of Canadians believe we possess a set of normative values, and want newcomers to prove they abide by them. Kellie Leitch, who is running for the leadership of the Conservative party, suggested last autumn that we screen potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values. A minister in the previous Conservative government, Chris Alexander, pledged in 2015 to set up a tip-line for citizens to report barbaric cultural practises. And in the last election, the outgoing prime minister, Stephen Harper, tried in vain to hamstring Trudeaus popularity by confecting a debate about the hijab.

    To add to the mix, the French-speaking province of Quebec already constitutes one distinctive nation, as do the 50-plus First Nations spread across the country. All have their own perspectives and priorities, and may or may not be interested in a postnational frame. (That said, Trudeau is a bilingual Montrealer, and Quebec a vibrantly diverse society.)

    In short, the nation-state of Canada, while wrapped in less bunting than other global versions, is still recognisable. But postnational thought is less about hand-holding in circles and shredding passports. Its about the use of a different lens to examine the challenges and precepts of an entire politics, economy and society.

    Though sovereign since 1867, Canada lingered in the shadow of the British empire for nearly a century. Not until the 1960s did we fly our own flag and sing our own anthem, and not until 1982 did Trudeaus father, Pierre, patriate the constitution from the UK, adding a charter of rights. He also introduced multiculturalism as official national policy. The challenge, then, might have seemed to define a national identity to match.

    This was never going to be easy, given our colonial hangover and American cultural influence. Marshall McLuhan, one of the last centurys most seismic thinkers, felt we shouldnt bother. Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity, he said in 1963.

    According to poet and scholar BW Powe, McLuhan saw in Canada the raw materials for a dynamic new conception of nationhood, one unshackled from the states demarcated borderlines and walls, its connection to blood and soul, its obsession with cohesion based on a melting pot, on nativist fervor, the idea of the promised land. Instead, the weakness of the established Canadian identity encouraged a plurality of them not to mention a healthy flexibility and receptivity to change. Once Canada moved away from privileging denizens of the former empire to practising multiculturalism, it could become a place where many faiths and histories and visions would co-exist.

    Thats exactly what happened. If McLuhan didnt see how Chinese, Japanese, Ukrainian and later Italian, Greek and Eastern European arrivals underpinned the growth of Canada in that sleepy first century, he surely registered before his death in 1980 the positive impact of successive waves of South Asians, Vietnamese and Caribbean immigrants. The last several decades have been marked by an increasingly deep diversity, particularly featuring mainland Chinese, Indians and Filipinos.

    Others have expanded on McLuhans insight. The writer and essayist John Ralston Saul (co-founder of the charity for which I work) calls Canada a revolutionary reversal of the standard nation-state myth, and ascribes much of our radical capacity not a term you often hear applied to Canadians to our application of the Indigenous concept of welcome. Space for multiple identities and multiple loyalties, he says of these philosophies, the roots of which go deep in North American soil, for an idea of belonging which is comfortable with contradictions.

    How unique is any of this? Ralston Saul argues that Canadas experiment is perpetually incomplete. In other countries, a sovereignty movement like Quebecs might have led to bloodshed. Instead, aside from a brief period of violent separatist agitation culminating in kidnappings and a murder in 1970, Canada and Quebec have been in constant compromise mode, arguing at the ballot box and finding ways to accommodate. Canadas incomplete identity is, in this sense, a positive, a spur to move forward without spilling blood, to keep thinking and evolving perhaps, in the end, simply to respond to newness without fear.

    Were still working on the language. The same Canadian who didnt appreciate being told he has no identity might rankle at being called a citizen of an incomplete nation. The American and European citizen, too, may find all this chatter about inclusion and welcome ethereal, if not from another planet given the events of 2016, in which the US elected an authoritarian whose main policy plank was building a wall, Britain voted to leave the EU in large part to control immigration, and rightwing political parties gleefully hostile to diversity may soon form national governments, including in France.

    None of this raw populism is going away in 2017, especially as it gets further irritated by the admittedly formidable global challenge of how to deal with unprecedented numbers of people crossing national borders, with or without visas. But denial, standing your nativist ground, doing little or nothing to evolve your society in response to both a crisis and, less obviously, an opportunity: these are reactions, not actions, and certain to make matters worse.

    If the pundits are right that the world needs more Canada, it is only because Canada has had the history, philosophy and possibly the physical space to do some of that necessary thinking about how to build societies differently. Call it postnationalism, or just a new model of belonging: Canada may yet be of help in what is guaranteed to be the difficult year to come.

    Charles Foran is a novelist and the CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/04/the-canada-experiment-is-this-the-worlds-first-postnational-country


    ‘Fear and threats’: Mexico hits back after Trump pressures automakers

    Mexican government categorically rejects attempts to scare off investors but effects seem clear as future Ford plant and job hopes are left an empty shell

    Mexico has hit back in the verbal trade war with Donald Trump, hitting out at the use of fear or threats to deter companies from investing in the country.

    The US president-elect has threatened to slap import tariffs on US automaker General Motors for importing cars it makes in Mexico and Japans Toyota for planning a new factory there.

    Ford also announced that it was cancelling a $1.6bn new factory in the northern state of San Luis Potosi that had been criticised by Trump, though the company said the decision was business-related.

    Without mentioning Trump or any government, Mexicos economy ministry nonetheless said in a statement that it categorically rejects any attempt to influence the investment decisions of companies on the basis of fear or threats.

    Trump has vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) with Mexico and Canada as well as impose tariffs on companies that ship jobs out of the United States.

    The investments that are made in Mexico, the United States and Canada benefit the three countries thanks to the integration of our chains of production, the economy ministry said. This, the statement said, did not cause the loss of jobs for any of the participating countries.

    Fords abrupt move to scrap its $1.6bn plant in San Luis Potosi has sent shockwaves through the factorys likely network of suppliers. Many of them had already started to expand in anticipation, in a state where industry is easily 70% dependent on the auto sector, according go Julian Eaves, managing director of Preferred Compounding de Mexico, a US-owned maker of rubber compounds operating in central Mexico .

    Its going to have a huge impact on the local community, said Eaves, calculating the loss to the economy could run into the hundreds of millions or billions of over the next five years, as manufacturing, contracting and indirect jobs all fall short of plans.

    Billboard
    Billboard welcoming Ford at the San Luis Potosi industrial park. Photograph: Reuters

    In a matter of days, Fords retreat has turned the factory site into a barren plain bereft of its economic promise. It now looks like a cemetery, said Fernando Rosales, 28, a hydraulic hoses contractor preparing to abandon the site. [There is] only death here, we are all leaving.

    Fords decision also puts the brakes on Detroit automakers push to build small cars in Mexico to reduce labour costs while using higher-paid US workers for larger, more expensive vehicles.

    Not far from the doomed Ford site, other major players from the global automotive industry are in the midst of multi-million dollar investments, including General Motors Co, which Trump has also repeatedly berated for investing in Mexico.

    German carmaker BMW is assembling a $1bn plant, and a few miles from the Ford site Goodyear is busy building a $550m tyre factor.

    The US president-elects broadsides against Mexico have shown how exposed companies in the supply chain are to the whims of US automakers under pressure not to offshore production.

    Shares in Kansas City Southern, one of the main railroad operators in Mexico, fell following news of the Ford cancellation and have lost 3.3% since Tuesday morning.

    Between 40 and 50,mostly foreign-owned suppliers had been ready to come and supply the San Luis Potosi plant, said Sergio Resendez of real estate broker Colliers International.

    This was going to catapult us, Gustavo Puente, the state economy minister of San Luis Potosi, said of the plant Ford originally announced in April of last year. Ford told him the plan was off about an hour before it went public with the news, he said.

    Around 12 to 14 of the suppliers had already invested money buying land or signed a contract with developers, said Resendez of Colliers, though Puente suggested the number was fewer.

    Its a very, very complicated hole, Resendez said. The suppliers, depending on their level of advancement, will lose money. They had already made big investments.
    At the Ford premises shocked and dejected workers packed up construction materials and prepared to leave. This is a massive kick in the teeth, said Rosalio Rocha, 52, a construction worker on the site from a nearby town.

    It looks like he is going to keep going on about it, he added, referring to Trump.
    Some of the ground at the 280-hectare site had already been levelled and the skeletons of two large white buildings stood out against a rusty brown and green backdrop.

    Workers said they had heard plans for an industrial park opposite the site for suppliers had also been suspended. The parks developers were not immediately available to comment.

    The auto sector is at the heart of a Mexican industrial boom since the 1994 Nafta agreement.

    It hurts because were partners in trade, culture, sports, were partners in everything, said Puente, the San Luis Potosi economy minister. It hurts because [Trump] is pushing a policy that wants to break those ties.

    With Reuters and Agence France-Presse

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/07/fear-and-threats-mexico-hits-back-over-trumps-bullying-of-automakers


    Chile judge questions Pinochet’s widow over embezzlement allegations

    Lucia Hiriart accused of using public funds for not-for-profit womens group to fund dictators battle against extradition from Britain

    A Chilean judge has questioned the 94-year-old widow of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet over allegations she embezzled public funds through a not-for-profit womens group she ran.

    Luca Hiriart is accused of using money from the foundation to fund Pinochets battle against extradition from Britain in the 1990s.

    Investigating judge Guillermo de la Barra visited Hiriart at her luxury home in the east of the capital, Santiago.

    He left the building without commenting to reporters.

    De la Barra said before the visit that he would question Hiriart over the embezzlement accusations.

    She is suspected of embezzling the proceeds from selling off real estate ceded by the state to the Cema-Chile foundation, over which she presided until a few weeks ago.

    Formerly a training institution for women, the foundation provided popular backing for the Pinochet regime, under which thousands of people were abducted or killed.

    After the dictatorship, Cema transformed into a lucrative property business until the embezzlement charges caught up with Hiriart.

    The government is suing to recover possession of 135 public properties it says were ceded to Cema, worth about $120m.

    Chile marked the 10th anniversary of Pinochets death on Saturday.

    He ruled the country with an iron fist from 1973 to 1990.

    He was arrested in London in 1998, when British magistrates ordered him to be extradited to Spain, where judges wanted to try him for human rights violations.

    However, the British government eventually ordered Pinochets release on health grounds.

    He died in 2006 without ever being brought to justice for crimes committed by his regime.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/14/chile-augusto-pinochet-wife-lucia-hiriart-embezzlement


    Vancouver hopes to cool off housing market with a tax on empty homes

    City approves 1% tax on homes that are not principal residences and are empty for more than six months a year, which data suggests could number 20,000

    Vancouver has become the first city in Canada to approve a tax on empty homes, as officials in the city scramble to address the spinoff effects of an overheated housing market that ranks as one of the worlds least affordable.

    On Wednesday, Vancouver city council voted to move forward with a 1% tax on homes that are not principal residences and which are left empty for more than six months a year.

    The tax is aimed at bolstering the citys meagre supply of rental stock. Vancouvers rental vacancy rate currently stands at 0.6% resulting in some of the highest rents in the country while city data suggests that more than 10,800 homes are sitting empty and another 10,000 are left vacant for long periods of time.

    Vancouver is in a rental-housing crisis, Gregor Robertson, the mayor of Vancouver, said earlier this month as he unveiled details of the tax. The city wont sit on the sidelines while over 20,000 empty and under-occupied properties hold back homes from renters struggling to find an affordable and secure place to live.

    An increase of 2,000 rental properties would raise the rental vacancy rate almost sixfold to 3.5%, according to estimates by the city.

    The tax which will come into effect at the start of 2017 will be based on the assessed value of the property, meaning the owner of a C$500,000 ($370,000) condo left vacant would pay an additional C$5,000 a year in taxes. Exceptions include properties that are undergoing renovations, condos or townhouses that have restrictions on rentals, and homes whose owners are in medical or supportive care.

    The tax will rely on homeowners to declare their vacant properties, with random audits by the city to ensure compliance. Those caught skirting the tax will be steeply penalised: from a 5% penalty for those who are late in paying the tax to fines of C$10,000 a day for false declarations.

    In the lead-up to the vote, the city held two open houses and heard from more than 10,000 residents, including those who voiced concerns that the tax unfairly targets those who have second homes that they or their family use on a regular basis. Elizabeth Ball, one of the few councillors who voted against the tax, called it a cruel, cruel tax on good citizens who arent rich.

    Robertson responded by pointing to the many who will be exempt from the tax and the appeal process created for residents who feel theyre being wrongfully taxed. The fact is these are second or third homes so its difficult to see how hardship applies if you own multiple homes in Vancouver, said the mayor. The motion proposing the tax was approved by eight votes to three.

    Recent months have seen a slew of measures aimed at cooling metro Vancouvers red-hot property market, where low interest rates and demand from foreign investors many of them from China have seen housing prices grow by 249% since 2005.

    In August the provincial government imposed a 15% tax on foreign buyers, while in October the federal government tightened the rules for mortgage insurance eligibility and moved to close a tax loophole believed to be used by some speculators.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/17/vancouver-empty-homes-tax


    Canada closes tax loophole to cool down overheated housing markets

    Finance minister outlines measures to rein in foreign speculators after house prices in Vancouver and Toronto have doubled in last decade

    The Canadian government has announced a handful of measures aimed at dampening demand in its red-hot housing markets, including closing a tax loophole used by some foreign speculators.

    Canadian authorities are facing growing pressure to address frothy housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto, where home prices have more than doubled in the past decade. Earlier this year, Justin Trudeau, Canadas prime minister, pointed to an influx of capital from Asia as partly responsible for the soaring prices.

    Overall, I believe the housing market is sound, Bill Morneau, the countrys finance minister, said in Toronto on Monday. I want to make sure that were proactive in assessing and addressing the factors that could lead to excess risk.

    Currently, Canadian homeowners who sell their principal residences do not have to report the sale or pay taxes on any profit earned. Amid reports suggesting that some non-residents have been taking advantage of the same exemption, the government will now step up scrutiny of principal residences, said Morneau.

    We know that there is a principal residence tax exemption and that should only be applicable to people who own their home in Canada and live in that home in Canada.

    In Vancouver, where housing prices have risen 249% since 2005, a 15% tax was introduced in August on all home buyers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Its introduction saw home sales in the Vancouver region drop 26% in August while the average price of detached properties fell to C$1.47m ($1.1m), a decrease of 17% from one month earlier.

    With an eye on increasing housing affordability, the city of Vancouver has also vowed to launch a tax on empty homes by 2017 and is currently exploring measures to curb short-term rentals through sites such as Airbnb.

    On Monday, the Canadian government said it would also introduce a stress test for insured borrowers in hopes of injecting greater stability into the countrys housing market. Starting in mid-October, the test will ensure would-be homebuyers some of whom are rushing to gain a foothold in the market amid fears of being priced out down the road would be able to afford their mortgage if interest rates were to rise, said Morneau.

    Low interest rates have gradually changed the way both borrowers and lenders view debt and indebtedness in this country, said the finance minister. As these attitudes and behaviours have changed, some households began carrying high debt loads and pockets of risk have begun to emerge.

    A recent report by the Swiss bank UBS looked at 18 financial centres around the world and singled out Vancouver as most at risk of a housing bubble.

    Mondays announcement received a mixed reaction. Josh Gordon, a professor at Vancouvers Simon Fraser University, described the government measures as prudent.

    The tax change, he said, sent a clear signal to foreign investors and others looking to speculate on real estate. I do think it will have an impact on its own, but I think the bigger point is the message, he said. Because it suggests that the federal government does believe that foreign demand is an issue and its willing to tackle that.

    Others argued that the shored-up tax requirement would do little to dissuade investors, whether it was foreigners or local people who have been using the exemption to avoid payments on profits earned from selling secondary residences. Its not going to dampen the market, said Bob Aaron, a Toronto real estate lawyer. If people think they can make money on flipping real estate, they will.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/03/canada-housing-market-measures-tax-bill-morneau


    Pea Nieto’s making a dangerous gamble with Trump’s Mexico visit | Daniel Pea

    The beleaguered Mexican president, battered by one scandal after another, hopes that the meeting might boost his approval ratings. But will it backfire?

    Outside of their respective hairstyles, questionable real estate dealings and plagiarism scandals, President Enrique Pea Nieto and Donald Trump dont seem to have much in common. So why then would Pea Nieto seemingly out of the blue invite Trump to Los Pinos? At first glance, the timing of it might seem strange. Except its not at all.

    Trump memorably launched his campaign in 2015 by comparing Mexicans to rapists and criminals. He later promised to erect a border wall (which Pea Nieto has publicly refused to build) while also pledging to deport 11 million undocumented people living in the United States. Pea Nieto, on the other hand, has gone so far as to liken Trump to Hitler and Mussolini for that kind of rhetoric.

    And yet, those spats arent getting in the way of a meeting. Its reported that neither the US embassy in Mexico nor the Mexican government were given advance warning about the visit. And though Pea Nieto did extend invitations to both Hillary Clinton and Trump to meet with him in Mexico City, its easy to see that both Pea Nieto and Trump have something to gain from this particularly timely visit.

    Trump stands to bolster his ever-loosening grip on his campaigns trademark issue, immigration, ahead of his big speech in Arizona on Wednesday. Pea Nieto, meanwhile, stands to salvage his waning poll numbers now hovering around 23% according to one recent survey by looking like he is standing up to Trump. The visit is also a timely distraction from embarrassing reports, which have dominated recent headlines, that he plagiarized his law degree thesis.

    This weeks bad press, which includes the sacking of Mexicos police commissioner following allegations of cartel executions, follows months of looming scandals plaguing his own administration. These include large teacher strikes, allegations of the use of torture on ordinary citizens and most recently reports that the Mexican first ladys home is owned by a potential government contractor. All of the above have sent Mexican confidence in its president plunging.

    The embarrassing thing is that we can actually see Pea Nietos logic at work in real time as this disaster unfolds. The president thinks that he will see the bad man, appear stern to the bad man, tell everyone that he was indeed stern to the bad man and then his poll numbers will rise. Easy. Theres only one problem with this plan. Trump may well hijack that narrative, frame the meeting to his advantage and then straight-up lie about the details in Arizona with a straight face.

    Pea Nieto, with his credibility already weakened internationally, would be easy prey. His name is almost synonymous with the brand of poor Mexican governance that Trump rails against in his anti-immigrant tirades all over the country. And even if Pea Nieto does a good job in standing tall to Trumps xenophobic, anti-Nafta, pro-wall rhetoric, the president risks everything should the Republican candidate choose to exploit his numerous political weaknesses. That would not just be damaging to him, but to Mexicos international reputation at large.

    Thats why many fear this gamble can only go well for Trump. And if this meeting teaches us anything its that Pea Nieto is willing to risk Mexican ire and possible geopolitical consequences if only to save his own political career.

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/31/pena-nieto-mexico-visit-trump-approval-ratings-backfire


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