Millions embezzled in Mexico during Peña Nieto administration

Mexico, Feb 15 (Prensa Latina) Irregularities in projects worth 554 billion pesos (30.2 billion dollars) were detected during the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), the Public Function reported.

The secretary of that institution, Irma Erendira Sandoval Ballesteros, noted in a communiqué that in 2019, irregularities were identified in projects carried out by that Government that generated more than 10,000 observations associated to that amount of embezzled money.

In a report from 2019, the federal official described the irregularities found during the execution of the budget as 'monumental and immoral'.

The communiqué adds that the amount executed with alleged irregularities is higher than the federal budget for the education and healthcare sectors altogether.

It explains that in 2019, the Public Function carried out nearly 3,400 inspections, more than 2,500 of which were audits that generated more than 10,000 observations.

The federal official mentioned emblematic cases such as the actions against former Pemex Fertilizantes Director Edgar Torres Garrido, due to irregularities in the purchase of the Fertinal group, in which he embezzled more than 3.8 billion pesos (210 million dollars) from the State.

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'American Dirt,' novel on migrants, ignites literary controversy

Hailed by luminaries such as Stephen King and Oprah Winfrey, "American Dirt" was touted as the next "great American novel," bought for a seven-figure advance, backed by aggressive marketing and launched last week to great fanfare in both English and Spanish. 

Instead of glory, however, author Jeanine Cummins finds herself at the heart of a cultural maelstrom, accused by some of exploiting the tragedy of Mexican migrants in a US election year and of validating stereotypes such as those used by President Donald Trump to fuel his anti-immigration rhetoric. 

The book tells the story of a Mexican woman who owns a bookshop and flees on the notoriously dangerous cargo train known as "The Beast" that migrants ride to the north. She also survives the slaughter of almost her entire family by drug traffickers at a traditional birthday celebration.

The book's publication has generated intense debate about cultural appropriation, the marginalization of Hispanic authors by US publishers, the dangers of spreading misrepresentations and the responsible limits of fiction. 

The firestorm took publisher Flatiron Books by surprise, and on Wednesday they canceled Cummins' planned tour of US book stores.  

"Based on specific threats to booksellers and the author, we believe there exists real peril to their safety," said publisher Bob Miller in a statement.


Horror supremo King described the book as "marvelous" and author Don Winslow compared it to the Steinbeck classic "The Grapes of Wrath".

It is already being adapted for Hollywood.

But more than 120 writers, including Mexico's leading novelist Valeria Luiselli and chicana author Myriam Gurba, whose withering review sparked the debate, have signed a letter calling on Oprah not to feature "American Dirt" in her book club, which has historically been a gateway to massive sales.

"This is not a letter calling for silencing, nor censoring," said the writers, who called the novel "exploitative."

"But in a time of widespread misinformation, fearmongering, and white-supremacist propaganda related to immigration and to our border, in a time when adults and children are dying in US immigration cages, we believe that a novel blundering so badly in its depiction of marginalized, oppressed people should not be lifted up," the letter went on to say.

Mexican actress Salma Hayek put out a selfie of herself with the book, unaware of the controversy erupting around it, then quickly apologized for promoting it.

Photos that Cummins herself posted of a lobster luncheon for the book launch, featuring floral arrangements wreathed with barbed wire -- a nod to the book's cover -- did little to help. 

"Border chic," said Gurba on Twitter. "Cruel" and "insensitive," said the authors in their letter to Oprah.

Read also: French writer 'regrets' his pedophile sex tourism in Asia

'Ignorance and negligence' 

"This is a book that oversimplifies Mexico, uses bad Spanish, and in which the protagonist, a Mexican woman, does things that don't make any sense for a Mexican," said Ignacio Sanchez Prado, a professor of Latin American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

An expert on Mexico, he told AFP he did not believe that only Mexicans can write about the Mexican experience but said that Cummins "did it badly." He also laid the most blame on the "editorial process," lashing out at Flatiron's "ignorance and negligence."

The author of the book, who describes herself as white but also "Latinx" because she has a Puerto Rican grandmother, has not alluded to the controversy in her posts on social media but told The New York Times "there is a danger sometimes of going too far toward silencing people."

"No one intends to censor Ms Cummins," said Daniel Olivas, author of a collection of poems about the US-Mexico border, and one of the signatories of the protest letter sent to Oprah.

"But the promotion of this book as the 'Great American Novel' and 'a dazzling accomplishment' of John Steinbeck proportions is simply galling when so many brilliant Latinx writers are given a mere fraction of such attention and monetary compensation," he said.

Flatiron did not respond to an AFP request for comment on the controversy and an interview with the author. 

The publishers said in a statement they were "proud" of the book, but Miller acknowledged that the controversy "has exposed deep inadequacies in how we at Flatiron Books address issues of representation."

"We made serious mistakes in the way we rolled out this book," Miller admitted.

"The concerns that have been raised, including the question of who gets to tell which stories, are valid ones in relation to literature and we welcome the conversation," his statement said.

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Cuban films to be screened at the 2020 Guadalajara International Film Festival

The 35th Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG by its Spanish acronym) will take place from March 20-27, where three Cuban films will compete.

In the Ibero-American documentary film category, the Cuban films will be "Brouwer; El origen de la sombra" (The Origin of the Shadow), by Katherine T. Gavilan and Lisandra Lopez Fabe; and "A media voz"(In Mid Voice), by Heidi Hassan and Patricia Perez.

FICG is a very important cultural event for Mexico and Guadalajara as it serves as platform for the appreciation, promotion and distribution of Mexican and Ibero-American films.

It also shows films from various perspectives (industry, entertainment and art) and is a forum for training, instruction and creative exchange between filmmakers, critics and students, who enrich professionally through master conferences with experts from around the world, film exhibitions and healthy competition. (ACN)

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Caravan migrants cross river into Mexico, throw stones at police

Mexico City, January 21 (RHC)-- Hundreds of Central Americans waded across a river into Mexico on Monday, some clashing with waiting security forces, in a new challenge for President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador efforts to contain migration at the bidding of the United States.

Scattered groups launched rocks at a few members of Mexico's National Guard who were on the banks of the river attempting to thwart any illegal crossings, as hundreds of others ran past into Mexico, video footage of the scene showed.

The mostly Honduran migrants appeared to grow impatient on the bridge over the Suchiate River that connects the two countries, after some were denied permission to cross by assembled Mexican migration officials.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to punish Mexico and Central American countries with economic sanctions if they fail to curb migrant flows, resulting in a series of agreements aimed at taking pressure off the United States in absorbing the numbers.

At least 2,000 migrants had been camped in the Guatemalan border town of Tecun Uman, opposite Ciudad Hidalgo on the Mexican side.  Mexico has offered migrants work in the south, but those who do not accept it or seek asylum will not be issued safe conduct passes to the United States, and most will be deported, the interior ministry said.

The Mexican ministry said in a statement that authorities had already received nearly 1,100 migrants in the states of Chiapas and Tabasco and set out various options to them in accordance with their migration status.

According to Guatemala, at least 4,000 people entered from Honduras since last Wednesday, making for one of the biggest surges since three Central American governments signed agreements with the Trump administration obliging them to assume more of the responsibility for dealing with migrants.

In late 2018, a large caravan of migrants sought to break through the Tecun Uman border. At that time as well, many crossed via the Suchiate River dividing the two countries.

Edited by Ed Newman

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'Mexico Won't Let the Caravan Pass' Guatemala's President Says

Mexican Foreign Ministry has not made any official comments on Giammattei's words.

Guatemala's President Alejandro Giammattei Wednesday revealed that Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told him that the Honduran migrants' caravan heading towards the United States would not be allowed to enter into Mexican territory.

RELATED: Honduran Migrant Caravan Repressed On Guatemala Border Crossing

"The Mexican government told us that they won't let it pass," Giammattei said, adding that they told him "they will do everything in their powers to stop it from passing."

So far the Mexican Foreign Ministry has not made any official comments on President Giammattei's specific remarks. 

Nevertheless, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) administration warned that it will not deliver safeguards so that the pilgrims can cross its territory to the U.S., although it will study the refuge requests of those seeking to stay in Mexican territory.

"Mexico is not simply a transit country," the Interior Secretary Olga Sanchez said.

If the caravan manages to cross the Honduras-Guatemala border, Mexico’s AMLO will face a big test: how will he respond to the exile of thousands fleeing poverty and violence? He claims to want a humanitarian approach toward migration but his record says otherwise.
The second & largest group of the #migrantcaravan left this morning on foot. Some say the 2020 caravan bigger than the first caravan, involving over 10,000 people but hard to get an estimate. #Honduras

In October 2018, thousands of Central American migrants, who were fleeing poverty and violence in their homelands, entered Mexico intending to reach U.S. territory.

Their caravans caused tensions between the Government of the United States and Mexico, especially in June 2019 when President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on all Mexican products if Central American migration flows were not reduced.

Both countries reached an agreement whereby the AMLO administration deployed the National Guard on Mexico's border with Guatemala, which has reduced the flow of migrants by 60 percent over the last year.


"It is a country that opens its doors to people who want to enter and migrate to our country; however, in no way, we have transit visas."​​​​​​​

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Mexico ratifies asylum to Bolivian refugees at embassy in La Paz

Mexico City, January 3 (RHC)-- Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) reaffirmed Thursday that he will not fall to "any provocation" and ratified that he will not hand over the former officials from Evo Morales government that have been granted asylum at his country's embassy in La Paz, Bolivia.

"The instructions they have are to assert the right of asylum, that we cannot waver in this matter of giving protection to those politically persecuted people who received asylum in our embassy and who later received arrest warrants," the Mexican president said.

AMLO then added that "if we give these people up we would be ending the right of asylum that is sacred for Mexico, it is part of international law, but in the case of our country, always, even in more difficult circumstances, it has been enforced, it is a matter of principle."

The president's position comes after he ordered the withdrawal of his ambassador to the Andean country, Maria Teresa Mercado, "to safeguard her security and integrity" and who left the country on December 31st after being declared “persona non grata ” by the President of the de-facto government of Bolivia Jeanine Añez.

The decision was taken after an "alleged interference" by the Mexican ambassador in an incident that occurred on December 27, when Spanish officials were prevented from entering, within the framework of a protocol visit to the residence of Mexico by the Bolivian police, generating tensions at the international level which resulted in the  European Union delegation in Bolivia expressing "deep concern."

The bilateral crisis that began with Mexico dragged on into Spain when the de-facto government also declared two Spanish officials as “personas non-gratas,” ordering them to leave Bolivian territory in 72 hours, something the Spanish government called a "hostile gesture."

Mexico has not expelled Bolivia’s ambassador in Mexico City and AMLO said he would not react to provocations and that his position on the matter will always be to defend the principles of foreign policy.  Relations have been difficult between the Mexican government and the de-facto government led by Añez since Mexico gave asylum to former Bolivian socialist leader Evo Morales last November, after a coup d'état was carried out against his government.

Edited by Ed Newman
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At Least 16 Killed, 5 Wounded in Mexican Prison Riot

At least 16 inmates in a central Mexico prison were killed and five more were wounded in a riot that closed out a violent 2019 for the country, authorities said. 

Zacatecas state security secretary Ismael Camberos Hernandez told local press that authorities had confiscated four guns believed to have been brought into the Cieneguillas state prison during visits Tuesday. He said the prison had been searched for weapons on Saturday and Sunday and that no guns had been found. 

The melee broke out around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and the prison was brought under control by 5 p.m., according to a statement from the state security agency. Fifteen of the victims died at the prison and one died later at a hospital. 

One prisoner was detained with a gun still in his possession and the other three guns were found inside the prison, the statement said.  

Camberos said not all the victims died from gunshot wounds. Some were stabbed and others beaten with objects. No guards or police were wounded, he said. 

Camberos did not offer a possible motive for the attacks, but such killings frequently involve score settling between rival cartel members or a battle for control of the prison's illicit business. 

Mexico has a long history of deadly prison clashes. In October, six inmates were killed in a prison in Morelos state. 
In September, Nuevo Leon state closed the infamous Topo Chico prison, the site of many killings over the years. In February 2016, 49 prisoners died there during rioting when two factions of the Zetas cartel clashed.

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Bolivia expels Mexican ambassador amid ongoing diplomatic row

La Paz, December 30 (RHC)-- The de-facto regime of Jeanine Áñez ordered the expulsion on Monday morning of the Mexican Ambassador, María Teresa Mercado, and two Spanish diplomats.  The move was conveyed to the Mexican Ambassador by the Bolivian Foreign Minister, Karen Longaric, prior to the self-proclaimed president's announcement.

Áñez explained at a press conference in the government's palace that her regime "has decided to oppose people pleasing" to the officials mentioned, as well as "to the group of allegedly hooded and armed diplomats."  The decision taken by the de facto government means the Mexican Ambassador and two Spanish diplomats have 72 hours to leave the country.

Áñez specified that the "hostile behavior, trying to surreptitiously and clandestinely enter Mexico's residence in Bolivia, challenging Bolivian police officers and citizens themselves, are things that we cannot allow."

For its part, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs instructed the Mexican Ambassador to Bolivia, María Teresa Mercado, to return to her country in order to protect her security and integrity after the expulsion.

The Mexican Embassy in Bolivia has named, Ana Luisa Vallejo, the current head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Mission, as reported by the Mexican Government in a  statement, which also indicates that Mexico's diplomatic representation in Bolivia will continue to operate normally after this movement.

Edited by Ed Newman
  • Published in World
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