(CNSNews.com) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador “continues to take arbitrary and punitive actions against U.S. businesses operating in Mexico,” Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) told Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday at a hearing of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.
Hagerty asked Blinken if he’s aware of “the Mexican military’s recent seizure of a U.S.-owned deepwater port” on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Vulcan Materials, the Alabama-based producer of crushed stone, sand and gravel, says on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, CEMEX — a Mexican multinational cement/concrete and building materials company — “forcibly entered Vulcan’s port facilities near Playa del Carmen, aided by armed Mexican police and soldiers.
“There is no contract permitting CEMEX’s use of Vulcan’s port facilities,” Vulcan said, and CEMEX is still occupying the property.”
Blinken said he’s “aware of” the takeover and he “shares the concern about that.”
“And we have been asking the Mexican authorities, local authorities, as well as national authorities about the military and police presence there. So this is of deep concern,” Blinken said.
“I think as a practical matter as well, cases like this can very negatively impact Mexico’s efforts to attract future investment from the United States and any other countries.”
Hagerty said Mexico’s seizure of the port owned by a U.S. company is not all that bothers him:
“It concerns me that the Mexican government has put its military in charge of constructing a section of the train, Mayan railway, that’s near this recently seized port,” he said. “And the bigger concern is the fact that China may be involved in building sections of that railway.
“The Chinese have bragged that the China Communications Construction Corporation is heavily involved in providing key materials for the railway.”
Hagerty said he’s concerned about Mexico taking “this sort of arbitrary and very detrimental action against U.S. assets.”
“And the rule of law is critical to the relationship. And I am just shocked that President Lopez Obrador is operating in this manner.
“I think the even deeper shock though is — is the concern that — that Chinese company is involved in building the section of the railway nearby. I also understand that the — this company that they’re using is deeply involved in building Chinese military infrastructure there — they’re involved in militarizing the islands in the South China Sea that China has, you know, poured concrete into the ocean and built.
“I think the other thing I hope we can investigate is whether the Chinese are involved in financing this.
“There are deep concerns there where you’ve got potentially Chinese companies working with the Mexican military to take adverse actions on US assets and in particular seizing a deep water port in that location.
“I’d be interested in your opinion whether — whether this would be in the interest of the Chinese Communist Party to have control of this port.”
Blinken responded, “I think it theoretically would be, and it would certainly not be in the interest of Mexico.
“One of the things that we worked actively with Mexico on is making sure that in other areas, for example, in the telecoms sector, that they focus on making sure they have trusted vendors engaged in their system because we know the challenges to their own sovereignty when you don’t have a trusted vendor in your telecom system.
“And this is something, I must say, that President Lopez Obrador seemed seized with, but I’d welcome, first of all, making sure we have all the information that you have about this particular case and sharing with your team what we know.”
According to Vulcan Materials, the Mexican government has illegally shut down Vulcan’s quarrying, processing and shipping operations. “Nonetheless, Vulcan owns the four parcels of property that make up its Mexico operation, including the port facilities. Likewise, Vulcan lawfully holds the port concession. Use of Vulcan’s private property by third parties, such as CEMEX, requires Vulcan’s authorization,” the company’s statement said.
The Vulcan port seizure prompted two Republican congressmen to issue a statement condemning Mexican corruption and urging the Biden administration to do something about it:
“This armed takeover of Vulcan’s property shows just how corrupt the Mexican government has become,” Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) said. “This is a gross abuse by the Mexican government to which President Biden must immediately respond in the strongest possible terms. The unjust takeover of a private American enterprise should cause every American company to reconsider locating in Mexico.
“If the Mexican government can do this to one company, they can do it to all.”
Palmer called on President Biden to take action against the Mexican government in response to the port seizure.
“The Biden Administration should immediately respond to this assault against an American company and demand the Mexican government withdraw from the Vulcan Materials facility,” he said. “It is essential the Biden Administration acts to protect America’s interests, or it will risk other actions against American companies.”
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) also criticized the Mexican government’s priorities: “Mexico’s government can seize control of U.S. companies,” Rogers said. “But they can’t stop cartels from trafficking fentanyl and humans across our border?”
“Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has tussled with the operator for more than a year, calling on Vulcan to convert the limestone quarry into a tourist park and claiming that the operation has caused environmental damage.
“He is also believed to have an interest in Vulcan’s marine terminal for the quarry, which is the only dock in the region capable of handling rock shipments for construction of the gigantic Maya Train rail line project – a controversial piece of Obrador’s development program. Obrador has been pushing to accelerate the line’s construction, and the train relies on imported rock.”
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