How power outages could help AMLO’s push for energy sovereignty

Monsanto and the US govt. are teaming up to pressure Mexico

Thanks for joining us this week! We’re happy to bring you an update on Mexico’s power outage and discuss it plays into AMLO energy policy plans. The vaccination rollout to the general public has begun, and it is messy to say the least... Also, find out what Monsanto and the US government are up to and why Mexico wants your biometric cell phone data.

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Mexico goes dark

Bloomberg / Reuters

Just like Lindsay Lohan back in the day, this week Mexico suffered severe blackouts, which were sparked by the winter storm that hit Texas. Was the outage bad? Well, at first it sounded like a ‘minor’ incident when the President declared only 400,000 users in Northern Mexico were affected… a few hours later, the Federal Electric Commission (CFE) corrected the President and said that it was in fact 4.7 million customers (10% of the entire country)  that were left without power. And then, Energy Agency CENACE, announced that because of the blackouts in the north of the country, it would schedule blackouts throughout the week in 12 states, lasting 15 to 30 minutes, between 6 and 10 PM.

(As we went to press, the CFE reported that electricity supply in the northern part of the country had been 100% restored, but that brief blackouts would still be expected)

Why did the blackouts happen? One of the ways Mexico produces energy is through natural gas, which it mostly imports from the U.S. Due to the winter storm, Texas authorities said that most natural gas providers failed to withstand such low temperatures and had to halt production. This meant less natural gas and a huuuge increase in prices (up to 5,000%). Either Mexico didn’t want to spend that much money on gas or they were simply left without it, but ultimately the country was unable to generate energy in northern Mexico causing blackouts.

Was this preventable? So just like Miss Lohan back in the day, there’s a lot of questions about how to prevent this; yet, this is where you’ll get different answers depending on who you ask.

According to some energy experts (and critics of the government), Mexico should’ve done two things (at least). First, it should have a diversified energy portfolio, meaning that it should invest in other types of energy, like renewable plants, so that they can supply energy when other sources fail to do so -  currently Mexico’s power generation depends 64% on natural gas. Second, it should also produce natural gas of its own - Mexico has one of the world’s top 5 natural gas reserves, but according to Energy Policy Expert Erick Salas the reason not to invest in extraction seems to be a political one.

Unsurprisingly, the President has a different interpretation. As you might remember, he has gone on a crusade to push for national energy sovereignty (which essentially means depending less on other countries for energy production, including electricity and oil).

So this event has actually been used by the President to support his rhetoric against importing natural resources and depending on private companies. Does this mean that Mexico will now start producing natural gas? It’s too early to say that, and if we consider that the government’s solution was to re-start high-polluting carbon and fuel oil plants, it’s highly likely that the government will still focus on the state-run energy companies, CFE and Pemex, which might be able to supply energy but definitely are not eco-friendly.

🥴 Vaccination of the general population has lofty aims and is already off to a rough start, 

Plans are made to be broken. After announcing that the government would first vaccinate all frontline health workers, before moving to the general population, they started to vaccinate seniors this Monday using AstraZeneca doses, while 200,000 eligible health workers are still missing their first shot. Authorities have received criticism on the rollout from all directions. 

Because this vaccine does not require ultra-cold freezers, the government said it would focus on marginalized, rural, and poor municipalities, which have suffered a higher mortality rate. However, they included in their plan some localities like Cuajimalpa (in Mexico City), home to lavish country clubs and multi-million dollar houses, meaning that all of their well off senior citizens are also eligible for the vaccine - contradicting the President’s “first the poor'' message. 

AMLO also said that he calculates that by mid-April all 15.7 million senior residents 60 years and older  (this figure has fluctuated in past speeches) will receive at least one vaccine. However, his own Covid Tzar, Hugo López-Gatell, expects to apply all 860,000 AstraZeneca vaccines within 7 to 10 days. At this rate, they would only vaccinate less than 7 million people by mid-April. As several states have lower virus alerts, cases and deaths might soon rise if vaccines are not sufficient. Associated Press

Senior citizens waiting in line to get their vaccine in Milpa Alta, Mexico City. According to some reports, some waited over three hours in line. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

🔴 Where have all the tampons gone?

If you are a woman living in Mexico City you may have noticed tampons being less available. This is a consequence of the capital’s recent ban of single use plastics. The move was planned to force producers to replace their products with more environmentally-friendly materials. That hasn’t happened, but it has left customers only with sanitary towels and menstrual cups, not perfect substitutes. Even though government officials have insisted that the ban had been announced in advance, NGOs have said that they should’ve made sure there were tampons with applicators that used an alternative to plastic, at an accessible price. Some also pointed out the government’s hypocrisy for focusing on banning tampons and not other single use plastics, like the lids on Starbucks drinks. Financial Times / Global Citizen

📱 Mexico considers biometric phone registry to combat kidnapping and extortion

How would you feel about your cell phone provider sending your biometric data (fingerprints and retina scans) to a Mexican government registry? No, thank you... However, did you know that 83% of mobile phone lines in Mexico are pre-paid SIM cards that can be bought at your corner Oxxo? Kidnappers and extortionists use multiple phones and SIMs to make themselves untraceable to authorities. The government's solution of mandatory biometric registration per SIM is already approved in the lower house and is now going to the Morena controlled Senate, where it has a good chance of being passed. The Telecom industry says this could increase phone theft as criminals will look to get around the biometric requirements by stealing phones and compromising users’ data and falsely incriminating innocent people. In addition, they say meeting these requirements will raise costs for consumers. Reuters

👿 Monsanto owner and US officials pressured Mexico to drop glyphosate ban

AMLO has given Mexican farmers until 2024 to stop using glyphosate (a pesticide linked to cancer in Roundup) and Monsanto is happy that the country is prioritizing the health of their citizens… just kidding. Obviously, Monsanto isn’t having it, and in recent emails from US agencies it was revealed that they are lobbying, and getting help in doing so from the EPA, to get Mexico to stop these silly ideas. Bayer (owner of Monsanto) is currently negotiating $11bn in legal claims over cancer from exposure on glyphosate. Croplife, Monsanto’s lobbyist, claims that these restrictions could jeopardize $20bn in agricultural exports to Mexico. AMLO has held out strong so far against these pressures, we’ll see if he is able to weather the storm. The Guardian

Longer read

💸 Top Mexico Tax Official Fired for Permitting Money Laundering

Until 2009, Ramón García Gibson served as president of HSBC’s Communication and Control Committee, the area in charge of detecting and preventing money laundering. It was during this period that HSBC functioned as a vehicle to launder money for the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico (there is even a Netflix show about it). After his position at HSBC, Garcia Gibson founded an anti-money laundering consulting firm (the audacity!). Over the years, he was invited (and paid) to give talks, workshops, and seminars on the subject. In 2019, he was appointed as the head of SAT’s (Tax office) Central Administration for Legal Affairs Concerning Vulnerable Activities. Apparently, no one from the current government was worried about him ... until a journalistic investigation forced the government to launch an internal investigation and finally to fire García Gibson. A quick must read. InSight Crime

What else we’ve been reading:

With four of his mentors dead, a young catholic priest tries to save his diocese from Covid-19   [Los Angeles Times]

2019 Miss Mexico Contestant Reportedly Charged With Involvement in Kidnapping Ring [Sputnik News]

Mexico makes a plea at the U.N. Security Council for rich countries to stop hoarding vaccines [Reuters]

Power outages then and now. Then: A power pole came down and we were out of power for a whole week. I did my homework by candlelight and my mom did the wash by hand. Now: The power went out for an hour and a half and it gave me a lot of anxiety cause I was in the middle of an Xbox update.

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Aciclar: to improve a person’s appearance significantly by applying cosmetics, makeup, doing their hair, etc.

“I got all fixed up to  address you, but these days I have not been like that, I have worn other clothes” - AMLO appearing in video while recovering from covid-19