An aggressive move by the Mexican military to seize the property of a US company in Mexico has sparked another diplomatic clash between the two countries – at the same time as tensions and finger pointing are rising over the US fentanyl crisis facilitated by Mexican smugglers. .
Vulcan Materials, a Birmingham, Alabama-based company that produces construction aggregates, had its quarry seized by the Mexican military and state police in the early hours of March 14. The company said officials forced the company to ask CEMEX, a Mexican-owned company, to unload a cargo of cement from a ship in the port.
The company said the seizure was likely due to the breakdown of contract negotiations between the company and CEMEX and ongoing tensions with the Mexican government over its mining activities. Mexican President Lopez Obrador had accused the company of attempting to extract minerals from Mexico and ship them to the US without the required permits.
Vulcan previously leased land to CEMEX and provided unloading and transshipment services there, but the agreement expired last December and talks about a renegotiated contract failed.
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BIDEN ADMIN CONCERNED ABOUT MEXICAN MILITARY BREACH OF US COMPANY PROPERTIES, WARNS TRADE IMPACT
This screenshot from a Vulcan Materials security video shows Mexican police and military entering the company’s facility in Quintana Roo, Mexico on March 14, 2023. (Vulcan materials)
The hostile move by the Mexican authorities had diplomatic consequences. A spokesperson for the State Department told Fox News Digital this week that the government is concerned about the treatment of U.S. companies in Mexico and that they regularly speak with Mexican officials about expecting them to be treated fairly and in accordance with trade obligations.
The spokesman noted that such obligations provide trade and investment security within Mexico, and said such instances could potentially impact the US’s ability to realize its shared vision with the Mexican government for improving the livelihoods of the economic disadvantaged regions of the country.
Meanwhile, Republicans in both the House and Senate have called for a strong US response in the face of Mexico’s aggression. In the Senate, Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., called it “illegitimate and acceptable.”
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In the House, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green took aim at Mexico and called on the Biden administration to “show strength” on the issue.
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“Mexico’s unjustified seizure of the facility of a private US company is yet another appalling sign that the rule of law is completely absent in the country,” he said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “Instead of working to stop the violent cartels and deadly fentanyl that is taking American lives, Mexico is using its military and law enforcement to occupy the property of an American company.”
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“The continued weakness portrayed by the Biden administration clearly emboldens Mexico,” he said. “I would advise President Biden to show strength on the global stage and immediately address the increasingly tense relationship between our two countries.”
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The incident comes amid already mounting tensions as Republicans and some in the administration have targeted Mexico for tackling Mexican cartels’ smuggling of fentanyl into the U.S. Fentanyl, which kills more than 70,000 Americans a year and 50-100 times more potent than morphine, is smuggled across the country border after being made in Mexico using Chinese precursors.
Attorney General Merrick Garland recently told lawmakers that Mexico helped the US with the fentanyl issue but could still do more. He also said the epidemic was “on purpose” unleashed by Mexico. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, told lawmakers on Wednesday that parts of Mexico are controlled by the cartels.
Several Republicans have called for cartels that smuggle drugs and people into the US to be designated as foreign terrorist organizations and have suggested sending the US military to take down the drug labs.
“We are going to unleash the wrath and power of the United States against these cartels,” Graham said at a news conference earlier this month alongside Senator John Kennedy, R-La. “We are going to destroy their business model and their lifestyle because our national security and the security of the United States as a whole depend on our decisive action.”
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Attention to the cartels was also renewed after the kidnappings of four Americans by cartel members earlier this month. Two of the Americans, caught in a firefight, were killed.
However, Lopez Obrador reacted angrily to the increased rhetoric from Washington, falsely claiming that fentanyl is not produced in Mexico while trying to pin the blame on the US.
“Here we don’t produce fentanyl and we don’t consume fentanyl,” said López Obrador. “Why don’t they (the United States) solve their problem of social decay?”
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has resisted US criticism of his handling of cartel violence and smuggling. ((AP photo/Marco Ugarte))
He also threatened to interfere in the US election by launching an “information campaign” against Republicans.
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“And if they don’t change their attitude and think they are going to use Mexico for their propaganda, electoral and political purposes, we are going to call on them not to vote for that party, because it is interventionist, inhumane, hypocritical and corrupt,” López Obrador said. , later adding that Mexico would insist that “not one vote” goes from Mexicans and Hispanics to Republicans.
Tensions escalated further this week when a State Department report criticized the government’s human rights record.
Obrador responded by accusing the US of behaving like “the government of the world,” telling reporters Tuesday that he believes its northern neighbor is “lying.”
Fox News’ Peter Aitken contributed to this report.
Adam Shaw is a political reporter for Fox News Digital, primarily covering immigration and border security.
He can be reached at [email protected] or at Twitter.