For the first time in nearly 80 years, Mexico opened its oil industry to foreign companies, offering 14 offshore exploration blocs in a July 15 auction. However, only two of the blocs were sold, falling short of expectations. ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total all passed on the first 14 shallow-water oil blocs in the Gulf of Mexico. A consortium of Mexico-based Sierra Oil & Gas, Texas-based Talos Energy and UK-based Premier Oil Plc won Bloc No. 2 after the first bloc didn't receive a bid, Mexico's National Hydrocarbons Commission and Energy Secretariat announced. Only nine companies took part in the auction, fewer than the 25 originally planned. A larger auction is planned for next month. The blocs are near the US-Mexico transboundary waters, and close to some of the most significant discoveries of the past 15 years on the US side. A new Hydrocarbon Law, allowing for production-sharing and profit-sharing, was instated in 2014. Over the past decade, Mexico has fallen from the world's fifth oil producer to tenth. (FuelFix, July 16; FuelFix, BBC News, July 15; WSJ, July 12)
Well, that didn't take long, did it? A massive manhunt is underway in Mexico after the country's most notorious drug lord escaped from the country's highest security prison on the night of July 11. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán stepped into a shower and through a secret door down a tunnel that led out of Altiplano Federal Prison. The lighted and ventilated tunnel was nearly a mile long, Mexico's National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido García admitted. Reports indicate the tunnel even had a "rail system." It came out in a warehouse. The Mexican press have now dubbed El Chapo the "Lord of the Tunnels."
After an electoral season marred by narco-violence and assassination of candidates of all parties, the results from Mexico's June 7 vote are in. The coalition led by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico as a one-party state for 80 years, maintains its slim majority in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies, although it lost some seats. Gubernatorial races were also held in several states, including some hit especially hard by the cartel violence. The PRI gained the governorship of Guerrero, but lost control of Michoacán to the left opposition. In one upset, the PRI lost northern Nuevo León state to an independent, Jaime "El Bronco" Rodríguez Calderón—the first independent candidate to win a governorship in Mexico. The gadfly rancher survived two assassination attempts by the Zetas when he was mayor of García, a Monterrey suburb. His son was killed in an attempted abduction, and his young daughter kidnapped, although returned unharmed. El Bronco beat the PRI and other estabished parties with a populist campaign and invective against entrenched corruption. With the state's establishment press bitterly opposed to him, he made deft use of social media to mobilize support. (Reuters, BBC News, Televisa, CNN México, June 8)
Mexican authorities boasted another take-down of a top narco lord May 29, with the arrest in Jalisco state of Manuel García Orozco, a leader of the New Generation cartel. García Orozco was detained "without a shot fired" at a road checkpoint in Tlajomulco de Zuniga municipality. He is accused of overseeing operations in Jalisco's Cienega region along the border with Michoacán state, including drug smuggling, fuel theft and extortion. He is also accused of involvement in "various attacks" against security forces, including the abduction and murder of two federal police officers in Michoacán in November 2013. The investigation into their disappearance led to the discovery of 37 clandestine graves containing 75 bodies in the Jalisco municipality of La Barca, near the state line. (AFP, May 29)
Mexico's drug cartels appear to have declared open season on any candidate for public office who will not toe their line in the run-up to June's midterm elections. On May 14, mayoral candidate Enrique Hernández Salcedo was shot to death by gunmen who fired from a passing truck as he was making a speech in the town of Yurécuaro, Michoacán. Three spectators were injured. Hernández was a leader of the town's "self-defense force," which took up arms to break the grip of the Knights Templar drug cartel in the region. He was running with the left-opposition Morena party.
Maya indigenous peasants in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas are marching cross-country to oppose violence by the local narco gangs and the corruption of local authorities that protect them. The "pilgrimage" left the rural town of Simojovel some 15,000 strong at the end of March, and is now arriving at the state capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez, some 240 kilometers away through rugged country. The pilgrimage was organized by the Catholic pacifist group Pueblo Creyente (Faithful People) with the support of the local diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas in response to a wave of narco-violence in Simojovel.
March 28 saw more angry protests in Mexico's conflicted southern state of Guerrero, as students from the rural college of Ayotzinapa clashed with police in the state capital Chilpancingo at a march demanding the return alive of the 43 abducted students from the school. Cars were set on fire as police attacked the marchers. The 43 students disappeared during protests in the Guerrero town of Iguala last September, and are now believed to have been turned over a murderous narco-gang by corrupt police. The weekend before the Chilpancingo demonstration, family members of some of the 43 missing students held a vigil in New York City's Union Square—one stop on a tour of US cities to raise awareness on their plight and protest Washington's "Drug War" aid to Mexico's brutal and corrupt police forces.