Last week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador went off on the United States about its so-called democracy, and let our country know that fentanyl is our problem and not his country’s. To add more insult to injury, on Tuesday the government decided to stomp on property rights by seizing and occupying leased facilities of an American corporation.
From Fox News:
The seizure of an American company’s quarry facility in Mexico by the Mexican military and local state police has sparked outrage among former and current government officials, as well as appeals for the Biden administration and the Mexico’s U.S. ambassador to intervene.
According to Vulcan Materials, a Birmingham, Alabama-based company and the largest producer of construction aggregates in the U.S., members of the Mexican navy, local state police, along with federal investigators, entered the quarry just south of Playa del Carmen in Mexico’s Quintana Roo state in the early morning hours of March 14. They then forced the company to allow CEMEX, a Mexican-owned materials company, to unload a shipment of cement from a ship in the port.
Vulcan previously leased land to and provided offloading and handling services for CEMEX at the site, but the agreement expired last December and talks for a renegotiated contract broke down. The company said CEMEX completed unloading the forced shipment on Friday. However, the military and police have remained in control of the property and have given no indication they plan to leave, the company said.
“I am writing to request that your government immediately order its forces and officials to leave our private property,” Vulcan Chairman and CEO J. Thomas Hill wrote in a letter to Mexican Ambassador Esteban Moctezuma Barragán on Thursday, two days following the initial seizure.
CEO Hill further states in the letter to Ambassador Barragán:
“The government’s participation in this gross violation of our property rights is yet another example of the government’s arbitrary and illegal treatment of Vulcan and its investments in Mexico. This occupation must cease immediately.”
Apparently, tensions have existed between Vulcan Materials and the Mexican government for quite some time, and have only appeared to escalate.
Vulcan has been in tension with Mexico for months after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador forced a shutdown of the quarry’s operations in May 2022. Lopez Obrador accused the company of trying to extract minerals from Mexico without the required permits and ship them to the U.S.
The government suspended Vulcan’s customs permits on May 13, just days after shutting down the quarry, which the company says has put a strain on its ability to provide the stone construction aggregates to construct roads, bridges and other infrastructure in the U.S., and it has prompted lawmakers to request the Biden administration take swift action.
The quarry has remained closed amid legal proceedings in the Mexican courts, although Biden administration officials have been working with the Mexican government to find a solution, the company said.
According to Reuters, those legal proceedings include a settlement of a $1.1 billion dollar lawsuit brought by Vulcan over the shuttering of their limestone mine. Vulcan issued a statement to local AL.com saying they had been in NAFTA arbitration with Mexico regarding their investments in the country since 2018.
Vulcan Chairman and CEO J. Thomas Hill also expressed concern for the American employees who work at the facility and their families:
“Our first and foremost concern is the health and safety of our employees,” the Vulcan statement continued. “We have confirmed our Vulcan family members are physically unharmed and are focused on ensuring that this remains the case.”
Vulcan is “shocked” Mexico and the cement giant Cemex “supported this reckless and reprehensible armed seizure of our private property.
Freshman Senator Katie Britt (R-AL) had much to say about this violation of rights:
U.S. Senator Katie Britt denounced what her office is describing as Mexico’s militarized seizure of Birmingham-based Vulcan Materials port facility at Punta Venado in Quintana Roo.
“President Biden must raise this directly with President López Obrador and assure the American people that this will not be tolerated,” Britt said in a statement released Sunday night.
“This forcible seizure of private property is unlawful and unacceptable. It is shameful that this Mexican presidential administration would rather confiscate American assets than the fentanyl killing hundreds of Americans per day,” Britt added.
Britt said that when she traveled to Mexico City in February, she discussed the issue of “increasing, illegal aggression by the Mexican government towards Vulcan” with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard and discussed the matter with senior U.S. Embassy personnel in Mexico City.
“Mexico should be more focused on going after the cartels than law-abiding businesses and hardworking people,” Britt added.
“The ramifications of this illicit seizure extend into the United States, significantly hamstringing important American infrastructure, energy, and other construction projects that currently rely on Vulcan’s operations in Mexico for materials.”
Yeah, good luck with that. We have an American administration that is weak on supporting its own citizens over foreign interests. Between an adversarial Mexican government, and an encroaching Chinese government, U.S. companies with commercial interests in foreign lands are getting firsthand experience on what results when a breakdown in these relations occurs. Even more critical is the disruption caused to production and commerce when no U.S.-based contingency is in place. In this particular case, the development and maintenance of our nation’s critical infrastructure. This is where an “American First” policy would work. If Vulcan has not already done so, it should be looking into how its needs can be better met within the boundaries of the continental United States.