Mexico News Roundup
By RICARDO CASTILLO
No Lupe-Reyes Reveling
The good news is that on Friday, Dec. 11, Mexico approved the Pfizer-BioNTech labs covid vaccine and will soon begin administering it to health workers and the nation’s most vulnerable.
But while this may mean light at the end of the tunnel, for Mexican Virgin of Guadalupe (Lupe) worshipers, it did not come soon enough to allow them to celebrate the Virgin as they would like with traditional pilgrimages and a huge masses on her official day, Saturday, Dec. 12.
The massive annual festivity at shrines nationwide and mainly at the Mexico City basilica was not held this year because of an official mandate due to the alarmingly growing pandemic.
However, the prohibition against large gatherings did not stop there.
The ordinances throughout Mexican states and municipalities also call for a ban on traditional posadas which reenact the journey in which Joseph and Mary ask for shelter in large parties, and the “romerías.” or Christmas pilgrimages.
The ordinances likewise put a halt to revelers who use the posadas and romerías to drink and dance all night.
The ban on gatherings will lingers (along with partial liquor sales bans, mostly on the weekends) thorough the new year until Jan. 6, the three wise men’s day (Reyes), when the so-called Lupe-Reyes fiesta season ends.
For fiesta-prone Mexicans (ain’t we all?), this is very bad news, but it puts the brakes on festooning until the vaccine becomes a shot in the arm for everyone, and not before.
Only in Mexico! Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) intervened against the mandate of Sinaloa Federal Judge María del Socorro Castillo to keep Rafael Méndez Valenzuela in jail.
The prisoner was tried and sentenced to 14 years in prison for theft and armed assault.
Méndez Valenzuela should have been set free in 2018 (he was arrested in 2006 and tried in 2008, hence he spent two years in jail that should have counted as time served), but the judge considered him a threat to society and refused to order his release.
So two weeks ago, Rafael’s mother, journalist Judith Méndez, went to the National Palace to plead for the release of her son.
AMLO wrote a letter to Supreme Court President Arturo Zaldívar to intervene.
He did and Judge Castillo had to sign the prisoner’s release, which was carried out on Friday, Dec. 11.
“This was in attention to a blatant violation of human rights” by Judge Castillo, AMLO said.
The law-abridging judge is fine, thank you.
Lame Duck Presidency Syndrome
On Friday, Dec. 11, U.S. Attorney General William Barr made known his disapproval of the passage in Mexico of a bill restricting foreign police agents’ movements and operations, which was approved by the Senate and is now at the Chamber of Deputies.
Immediately after the bill’s passage, a summit between Mexican Fiscal General authorities with members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA, considered the main target of the bill’s restrictions), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) representatives, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agents and the FBI was postponed until new notice.
The bill was sent to the Congress by AMLO after the arrest in Los Angeles and subsequent release by DEA agents of former Mexican Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos, and may be approved by the Chamber of Deputies as early as Tuesday, Dec. 15, the last day of legislative meetings before the Christmas vacation.
Sources claim that Barr, given the lame duck status of the Donald Trump administration, postponed the meeting.
The Spanish government announced the extradition delivery to Mexican authorities of steel entrepreneur Alonso Ancira Elizondo, to be carried out as early as this coming week.
The alleged culprit is accused of participating in the sale of a fertilizer plant to state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
The participants, including fertilizer plant owner Ancira Elizondo, allegedly sold the “junk installation” by at an overcharge of $200 million.
The accusation was made by former Pemex Director and protected witness Emilio Lozoya Austin.
Ancira’s company, Altos Hornos de Mexico (AHMSA), has been sold to Grupo Villacero, which is now responsible for “repairing the damages” done to Pemex.
Burner Phone Crackdown
The Mexican Chamber of Deputies approved a bill that will now make it obligatory for all mobile phone owners to have their lines registered with the government.
In accordance with the new bill, now in the Senate for final approval, n order to own a phone line, users must provide personal and biometric data for verification.
The bill comes in response to the increasing number of burner phones in use in which a subscriber identity module (SIM) chip can be obtained and then used by either extortionists or kidnappers.
The bill states that any phone number not registered with the SIM and not containing owner data will be cancelled by phone service operators.
…Dec. 14, 2020