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The Quintana Roo Prosecutor's Office allowed Cemex access to the port controlled by Vulcan


The miner failed to comply with a court order by blocking entry to the cement company, according to documents to which EL PAÍS has had access, although the US firm assures that it has another ruling in its favor.

A private battle for access to the Punta Venado port, in Quintana Roo, has become a new front between Mexico and the United States.

The conflict broke out on March 14.

In an unusual early morning operation, a convoy of agents from the Secretary of the Navy and representatives of the Mexican firm Cemex entered the Vulcan Materials facilities in southeastern Mexico.

The largest cement company in the country had not been able to access the port for three months, a strategic point that it had used to receive cement ships for more than 20 years with the permission of Vulcan, the infrastructure concessionaire.

The US mining company described this act as an "illegal occupation" and assured, in writing, that Cemex did not have any "court order, authorization or other legal justification for its forced entry and occupation."

However, documents held by EL PAÍS confirm that on January 20, the Quintana Roo Prosecutor's Office issued a series of protection measures and ordered Vulcan to allow Cemex access to the port, a resolution that was not complied with by the subsidiaries of the mining company, Calizas Industriales del Carmen and Rancho Piedra Calizas.

The American company assures for its part that it has other court rulings in its favor.

The fight for Punta Venado this week raised the tension on both sides of the Rio Grande.

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, warned this Thursday that the irruption of sailors in the port of Quintana Roo would have a paralyzing effect on other US firms.

“I am very concerned about the treatment of our companies in Mexico and I am also very concerned about the situation of Vulcan Materials,” he told a hearing.

Blinken's statements have been seconded by the most radical Republicans, who have been carrying out a campaign of attack on Mexico for weeks.

US legislators have demanded that Biden take a “stronger stance” before the Mexican government.

President López Obrador has responded to these criticisms with other darts.

The president accused this Friday in his usual morning at the National Palace the Republican senators of having a double standard when defending a company like Vulcan, which uses explosives and has caused serious environmental damage.

Last May, the Government of López Obrador closed the property where Vulcan Materials operated a materials bank, arguing serious ecological damage.

In between, Cemex and Vulcan Materials still have a long way to go in court.

The order of the Public Ministry, which Cemex wields as the main weapon in this battle, derives from an investigation folder for the crime of disobedience and open resistance in January 2023. The protection measures issued by the Quintana Roo Prosecutor's Office emphasize that Calizas Industriales del Carmen and Rancho Piedra Calizas must allow "each and every one of the activities of the complainant companies", from the loading and unloading of products to the peaceful access of employees, customers and carriers to the maritime terminal facilities Punta Venado port, in Quintana Roo.

In addition to the order to re-enter the port,

The local Public Ministry also prohibits any type of intimidation of the victim and grants police protection and surveillance in the port to the cement company.

The battery of measures were renewed for 30 days, at the request of Cemex, on March 21.

An element of the Mexican Navy stands guard inside the premises of the Vulcan Materials company, on March 20, 2023 in Playa del Carmen.PAOLA CHIOMANTE (REUTERS)

The US miner declined to comment specifically on the protection measures issued in favor of Cemex.

However, it assures that it already has court orders to recover both its concessions and the port terminal.

“Contrary to Cemex's position, a Mexican federal court ordered Cemex to vacate the property and another Mexican federal court order requires the military and police forces to vacate the property immediately,” Vulcan said in writing.

More than 10 days after the controversial operation, personnel from the cement company and agents from the Navy remain in control of Punta Venado.

In this tripartite struggle, the Federal Government owns the port, the land is owned by Vulcan Materials, and Cemex claims its right over the terminal's infrastructure.

Vulcan —which has operated in Mexico under the names Calica and Sac-Tun— owns four concessions, including the disputed port.

For more than 20 years, the US mining company and Cemex signed lease and port service contracts so that the cement company could receive its cement ships at the terminal.

The problems between Vulcan and Cemex began when the cement company's lease was about to expire last December.

Weeks before the agreement was concluded, the cement company filed a first civil complaint against the US mining company before a Mexico City court for an alleged blockade.

At that time, a court in the capital established uninterrupted access to the disputed port as a precautionary measure and ordered that, while the process was unleashed, the contractual conditions between the parties would be maintained.

"The provisional precautionary resolution is decreed that orders Rancho Piedra Caliza to enforce, continuous and uninterrupted compliance with its obligations agreed upon in the Lease Agreement, entered into with Cemex," says the document to which EL PAÍS had access.

This first resolution was not enough and Cemex's defense, from the Mijangos y González law firm, filed three more lawsuits in Quintana Roo for disobedience to a court order and dispossession.

Among the arguments to justify the cement company, it stands out that, although its lease has already expired, the port services contract remains in force until 2025. Despite the reasons that are put forward on paper, Cemex was still unable to dock its ships from Punta Venado .

Now, a handful of sailors camp on the limestone terrain of Quintana Roo.

The agents wait for the firms to reach a new contractual agreement or the judges are the ones who have the last word.

The disagreement with Cemex is not the only front that Vulcan Materials has.

The US mining company has had a legal conflict with the Mexican government for years, from which it claims 1.5 billion dollars before an arbitration panel because the mining company has suspended its operations for years for environmental reasons.

The suspension of activities led to the filing in 2018 of an arbitration claim under NAFTA.

The company accused Mexico of failing to comply with the obligations contained in the trade treaty on "fair and equitable" treatment for private investment.

With this arbitration as a backdrop, the American firm must first unblock its conflict with the most relevant cement company in the country.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-03-25

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