Wednesday, May 22, 2013
By Elinor Comlay and Tomas Sarmiento
MEXICO CITY | Tue May 21, 2013 6:15pm EDT
(Reuters) - The chief executive of Mexico's fourth-largest bank by assets, Grupo Financiero Banorte, is optimistic about expanding the bank's business this year despite of worries over a global economic slowdown.
Banorte expects to increase its lending by 15 percent this year, Chief Executive Alejandro Valenzuela told the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit. That would be in line with last year's increase in lending.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hopes to push through major energy and fiscal legislation later this year that could help boost growth, part of a wider raft of economic measures.
Earlier this month the government unveiled a bill aimed at spurring lending in Latin America's No. 2 economy, where banks boast high capital levels but lend much less than their counterparts in other countries.
The reform effort will be positive for lending, but it is "more of a long-term vision," Valenzuela said, adding that wider economic growth is a more important factor.
"If Mexico's economy expands, then obviously the banks and financial sector will be able to lend a lot more," he said.
But given an economic slowdown and political fault lines that could disrupt Pena Nieto's reform agenda, Valenzuela remains cautious.
"Much of what might happen in Mexico in the next 12 to 18 months is going to depend on the effectiveness of these reforms," he said. "If they go well as we expect ... then obviously Mexico could grow at much better levels."
A wider economic slowdown could drag on Banorte's growth, Valenzuela said, although he said the bank is not yet revising growth expectations even though Mexico's annual economic growth slumped in early 2013 to its weakest in three years.
Valenzuela said he expects Mexican economic growth to pick up in the second half of the year. However, the bank is not currently considering any acquisitions or capital raises.
"I think we have to be cautious, we have to be careful. I have never seen so much uncertainty in my life," he said.
Still, Valenzuela brushed off concern about Mexico's three largest homebuilders, Geo (GEOB.MX), Homex (HOMEX.MX) and Urbi (URBI.MX), which are struggling under heavy debt loads. Geo and Urbi have said they are considering debt restructurings.
All Mexico's banks are facing write-downs on loans to the homebuilders, he said, noting this is a one-off issue that will not affect the bank's results.
"It can still be a good year, in spite of the homebuilders' issues."
(Editing by Simon Gardner and Dan Grebler)
Monday, May 20, 2013
Border relations between U.S. and Mexico
Mexico is in a great moment. Macroeconomic stability and a low debt rate are part of our strengths as one of the top fifteen economies in the world. We are an economy with a broad social perspective fully inserted into international trade, with an exchange of goods and services that amounts more than US$ 700 billion each year. We offer a secure and trustworthy environment for foreign investment. Our political institutions show increasing strength and vitality. Our country has vast amounts of natural resources, a solid industrial basis and increasing innovation, as well as a privileged geographic location.
This moment of our history embodies an important promise of well-being and development for the Mexican people through structural reforms, key for the country's development. We are a nation determined to transform itself and to grow.
From the beginning of his administration, President Enrique Pena Nieto committed to boosting a significant national effort aimed at achieving prosperity by means of fighting against poverty and inequality, by providing high-quality education across the country, and to consolidate Mexico as an actor with global responsibility determined to make positive contributions to its international environment.
To reach national goals, during the administration of Pena Nieto foreign policy will contribute to Mexico's development as never before. At the same time, our country will consolidate its position as a solid advocate of international order and stability, as a supporter of global free trade, as a friendly and safe destination for foreign investment, and as a responsible and solidary state that promotes peace and human development.
We have decided to fortify Mexico's global presence by strengthening our international cooperation, promoting our values into the world and protecting Mexican interests abroad. These are the pillars of our foreign policy, and will serve as guidelines to identify priorities and concrete actions with each region and with each country.
Mexico is convinced that no other part of the world today matches the growth and dynamism of Asia and the Pacific. Their political weight and cultural influence are also unquestionable.
Mexico respects and admires China's universal inputs. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, both nations have forged strong bonds of friendship, solidarity and cooperation with enormous potential benefits for both countries.
This was recognized by Pena Nieto and President Xi Jinping during their meeting in April as part of the Boao Forum for Asia. They agreed then to raise the relationship to new levels of dialogue and cooperation that correspond to their enormous potential and the role Mexico and China play in the international arena. We share hopes in the international realm and challenges that I am sure we can solve if we bind our ties and exchange experiences.
Progressively but surely, Mexico will have greater presence in this area of rapid growth, global development and innovation that the Asia-Pacific region has become. Mexico and China have the opportunity to consolidate their existing ties in deepening exchanges, and making them more and more productive and mutually favorable. Political dialogue, trade, investment, education, science, technology, tourism and culture are priorities in a broad and expanding bilateral agenda.
The relationship between Mexico and China has a promising future. We are countries in motion and in constant process of transformation. With the relaunching of our ties, we will work to benefit from our coincidences and our complementarities. I am convinced that in this new stage, the people of both Mexico and China will benefit from a bilateral relationship sustained on a greater strategic and long-term vision.
The author is Mexico's secretary of foreign affairs
Friday, May 17, 2013
Osorio Chong: Institution’s prestige was put at risk
BY CIRCE VARGÓN
MEXICO CITY – Humberto Benítez Treviño, the head of Mexico’s Federal Consumer Protection Agency (Profeco), has been sacked over an incident in which the agency attempted to shut down a restaurant just hours after it refused to clear a table for Benítez Treviño’s daughter.
The Interior Secreteriat (Segob) announced on Wednesday that Benítez Treviño was removed as the head of the Profeco on the orders of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong said the move sent a clear message to the nation’s public servants that “in addition to doing our jobs within the law, we are obligated to act ethically and with absolute professionalism.”
On April 26, Benítez Treviño’s daughter, Andrea Benítez, arrived at the Maximo Bistrot restaurant in Mexico City’s upmarket Roma district and demanded an outside table.
Restaurant owner Gabriela López said that when Andrea Benítez was asked to wait for the table, she said to waiters, “Do you know who my father is?” and threatened to call the Profeco. Two hours later, inspectors from the Profeco arrived at the restaurant and attempted to shut it down for supposed “anomalies” in its reservations system.
The incident went viral on social networks, with users dubbing Andrea Benítez “Lady Profeco.”
Three days later, an official investigation was launched. Osorio Chong said that the investigation found that Benítez Treviño had not ordered the Profeco to shut down the restaurant, but the incident had nevertheless put the institution’s reputation at risk.
The Obama administration's proposal to study fees for crossing the land borders of the United States met a dead end at a congressional committee today thanks to Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.
The House Homeland Security Committee, by voice vote, approved Higgins' amendment blocking the Department of Homeland Security from studying such a border crossing fee, as Republicans and southern-border Democrats joined with Higgins to oppose the idea.
"This is a huge victory for Western New York and other communities across the Northern Border that rely on the seamless flow of people and goods between the U.S. and Canada to support our economies," Higgins said. "The fee would have put an unfair burden on residents who frequently travel across the border and the cost of the proposed study would have taken resources, already stretched thin, away from significantly more critical security needs."
The committee voted to attach Higgins amendment to a larger bill aimed at bolstering border security both at the northern and southern borders.
And while that larger bill, if passed, would become likely become part of the larger congressional debate on immigration reform, the bipartisan support Higgins won for his amendment makes it more likely that his measure will survive as the bill moves forward.
Collecting a fee on people crossing the U.S.-Canadian border and the U.S.-Mexican border would be counterproductive, other members of the committee said.
"This kind of a fee would be so chilling on an economy that's trying to be on the rebound here," said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Friday, May 10, 2013
We would like to wish all the mothers a wonderful Feliz Dia de las Madres and a Happy Mother's Day.
Below is an interesting Yuma Sun article about how Mother's Day comes two times a year along the US/Mexican border.
Mother's Day comes around twice along the border
May 09, 2013 4:23 PM
No matter that their mother passed away 20 years ago, Frances Murrietta and her siblings gather at her graveside in San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., every Mother's Day to honor her.
For them, Yolanda Sanchez de Valdez is alive in spirit and memory, if not in body.
“We sing to her, we bring her flowers,” said Murrietta.
Murrietta, the manager of the Somerton Library, planned to go to the cemetery across the border at the end of work Friday, since Mother's Day always falls on May 10 in Mexico, where her mother had lived.
But then Murrietta and her siblings and their families will gather again on Sunday for a potluck meal where they'll observe Mother's Day on the U.S. calendar.
In a border region where two nations' cultures and traditions mesh and mingle, Yuma-area residents whose roots go back to Mexico may opt for observing the holiday in Mexican custom or waiting for Sunday, or marking both days in a hybrid celebration of motherhood in keeping with the influences of both countries.
Visiting the grave of a departed mother on Mother's Day is common in Mexico. And while they live in United States, Murrietta says she and her siblings follow the same practice to honor their mother for instilling in them values they in turn have taught their own children.
“Though she's not near us, it's important to share the lessons that she taught us with our own children. Her foundations were so strong and unique. She continues to live for us in our hearts.”
In San Luis, Ariz., — where many residents are immigrants of Mexico or their children or grandchildren — “95 percent” of families will observe's Mexico's Mother's Day date, says Laura Sanchez, owner of Pro Evento, a party supply and venue provider.
A tradition in either country's celebration is to give flowers, and based on prior years' experience, Sanchez was expected to fill between 150 to 200 orders for floral arrangements in the days leading up to Friday.
While the father may be perceived as the stereotypical dominant figure in a Mexican or Latino family, said Sanchez, it is the mother who is the “pillar” for the children.
Father Javier Perez of Immaculate Conception Church agreed with Sanchez's analogy.
“There is no other love greater than a mother's,” said Perez, adding that the Mother's Day celebration carries huge symbolism in Mexico and in U.S. border communities.
Special Mother's Day masses will be offered Sunday at Immaculate Conception Church and the parishes of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Somerton and San Judas Tadeo on San Luis, Ariz., but the services will include a tradition from Mexico as “Las Mañanitas”.
Mañanitas are songs sung on birthdays and other holidays in Mexico, but families may also hire musicians to sing them as early morning serenades to wake up the mothers on Mother's Day.
Los Rezecos, a Yuma-based band that performs songs in a variety of Mexican musical genres, has been making the rounds among homes in Yuma and Somerton to sing Mother's Day mañanitas in each of the past 10 years.
For this year's celebration, the band planned to start at around 10 p.m. Thursday in Yuma, sing a set of three songs to the mothers of 20 to 25 households, then move on to Somerton, where it would visit a similar number of homes, Los Rezecos member Argel Garcia said. He figured that band would finish its rounds by about 5 or 6 Friday morning.
The youngest members of the family were getting an opportunity of their own at Yuma County libraries to honor their mothers.
At the county library branch in San Luis, children were making tissue paper floral arrangements for their moms in a craft session, while in the Somerton library, they were making greeting cards.
“This is a good way to teach the children how to be creative using their own words and their own talents,” said Murrietta.
And the library sessions happened soon enough for the kids to finish their gifts in time for either Mother's Day.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
By U.S. Sen. Susan Collins
May 09, 2013 2:00 AM
Growing up in Caribou, barely 10 miles from New Brunswick, I saw every day that on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border are the lifelong friends and family members, the shopping, medical services, churches, and all the other things that make a community. From Jackman to Fort Kent to Calais, Mainers understand the principle that, while America's borders must be closed to our enemies, they must always be open to our friends.
For that reason alone I and people throughout Maine were alarmed by the recent announcement that the Department of Homeland Security's proposed 2014 budget includes funding to study the feasibility and cost of instituting a fee for anyone crossing into our country by land — on foot, on a bike, or in a car — from Canada or Mexico. This is a bad idea that should be abandoned. And, as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have taken action to prevent scarce federal funds from being used for this ill-conceived purpose.
Any fee, no matter how small, would have a negative impact on the day-to-day commerce and travel between border communities. It would unduly penalize families who have relatives on either side of the border. In addition, it would damage relations between the United States and the neighbors that are vital trading partners. The Canadian ambassador told me that Canadians, too, are alarmed at the prospect of such a fee.
Maine's biggest trading partner, not surprisingly, is Canada. At the national level, too, America's biggest trading partner is Canada and Mexico is third. Our goal should be to enhance ties with our neighbors, not put what would be unnecessary barriers in place. In addition to our strong economic ties, we must preserve the friendships the United States enjoys with Canada and Mexico. Singling out our neighbors for a fee that would apply only to them would damage those relationships.
This fee would also hurt American border communities. According to the Maine International Trade Center, more than 300,000 people cross the U.S.-Canada border each day. Many American communities and businesses along the northern border rely on trade and tourism to power their economies, and imposing a land border fee on individuals would deter Canadians from visiting the United States. A decrease in tourism and travel would have a detrimental impact on these border communities. It would be truly ironic for the Department of Homeland Security, after investing significant taxpayer dollars in improving border facilities at such places as Calais, Van Buren and Jackman, to now adopt a policy that undoubtedly would cause a significant drop in their use.
While I recognize the difficult fiscal challenges facing the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security, imposing a border crossing fee for individuals crossing the border over land is not a sustainable solution to our budgetary concerns. For that reason, I am asking my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to join me in blocking this misguided proposal. Current federal law bars the U.S. Treasury and the attorney general from charging and collecting any fee for the immigration inspection and pre-inspection of passengers arriving over land at a U.S. port of entry whose journey originated in Canada or Mexico. This prohibition should be maintained.
One of the best examples of our special relationship with Canada is the "Hands Across the Border" summer festival, which demonstrates just how much the two municipalities of Calais, Maine, and St. Stephen, New Brunswick, truly are one community. We must not permit the hands of friendship from becoming hands demanding payment.
By LORNE MATALON of FRONTERAS
May 8, 2013
BOQUILLAS, Coahuila, Mexico — A formal border crossing opened a few weeks ago along the Texas-Mexico border. It links a remote Mexican village with Big Bend National Park in West Texas. Villagers on the Mexican side, in the tiny village of Boquillas, hope the crossing will bring back the tourists who sustained their economy in the past, and they're already working to rebuild the tourist infrastructure.
Ivan Sanchez, 21, his face burnished by the sun, stands on a dusty cliff that spills into the Rio Grande. The United States is just steps away and is framed by a Grand Canyon-esque tableau that dwarfs Boquillas. Sanchez' boss, Bernardo Robles, is renovating a faded stone structure for tourists.
Robles said he believes Boquillas can anchor a reborn economy — by funneling tourists into the red rock wilderness that flanks Boquillas and two nearby villages.
Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, 20,000 visitors a year propped up the local economy. People crossed back and forth with ease and few formalities. But now everyone here knows who Osama Bin Laden is. After the attacks in New York and Washington, the border here was sealed, the economy gutted. The new border crossing is bringing hope, and outside help.
In September, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an agency financed by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico under the NAFTA free trade agreement, awarded a 10 month, $100,000 contract to a Washington, D.C. consulting company called Solimar International to promote sustainable tourism here. Nine months into the contract, Solimar says it has drafted a business plan for a community-owned co-op to offer guides for back country trips.
That enterprise right now appears to be a two-room office with racks of pamphlets. A couple of people sitting around apologize that they’re not fully open yet. At least one group of tourists has been told guides are not yet available.
Solimar’s consultant on the Boquillas project is Ernesto Hernandez, a native of Veracruz, in southern Mexico.
“Tourists, sustainable tourists is the alternative to develop the economy for these communities,” Hernandez said. He believes the tourist industry here will change. “It’s going to be more organized. It is a big potential opportunity to show them Mexico in a cultural way and also at the same time develop some good economic interests or both sides.”
When the border crossing opened a few weeks ago, Solimar held what appeared to be an impromptu meeting with a dozen villagers. They were asked, "This is an economic development project, right?” Villagers nodded.
“We’ve spoken about conservation, improving life here, yes or no?" The reply: Si.
On the street, I ask a villager, Soccoro Limon, what does the group do ?
"I can't really say," she says in Spanish.
Boquillas today is a shell of its former self. Three hundred people then, and 90 now. But Boquillas exudes charm and a certain innocence, a legacy of its extreme isolation, and people here redefine the concept of hospitality.
But more than a few are skeptical about outsiders telling them how to deal with the hoped-for influx of tourists. Several are already sprucing up rooms to rent out and three guides told visitors to contact them directly.
Other villagers bristle, saying they don’t want outsiders fixing what they don’t believe is broken.
A man says, ‘Before 9-11 we dealt with tourists ourselves. We didn't have rules, we never had issues with tourism.”
Now, he said "we have to get permission from someone."
Preparations for visitors are one thing. But right now, not enough tourists are coming to make a difference.
Solimar’s contract expires next month.
If Boquillas is to become a model for rescuing broken border economies, villagers say it needs one thing; more visitors.