North America

August 6, 2013

SpaceX awarded contract with Canada Space Program

Spacex, a private sector space exploration and technology company based in Hawthorne, California, has been awarded a contract for Canada’s largest space program.

The program is the ADARSAT Constellation Mission, which is designed to provide maritime surveillance, disaster management, and ecosystem monitoring capabilities. This wil provide Canada with the ability to monitor polar ice conditions, oil pills, ship movements, forest fires, wetlands and coastal changes.

The contract with Canadian space company MacDonald, Dettwiler, and Associates will transport three satellites to orbit in 2018. “SpaceX appreciates MDA’s confidence in our ability to safely and reliably transport their satellites,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO. “We hope this agreement is the second of many with MDA”, the company said in a press release.

SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

Filed under Aerospace and Aviation, Canada by

November 18, 2008

PayPal starts supporting Mexican peso

Online payment service PayPal, a subsidiary of San Jose-based eBay Inc. has announced that it has expanded into Mexico. Mexican buyers will now be able pay for online purchases using their credit cards or bank accounts with pesos as currency. According to a report in the San Jose Business Journal, the peso is the first Latin American currency to be added to the PayPal system. PayPal also enables payments in the U.S. dollar, Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, euro, British pound, Japanese yen, Chinese yuan, Czech koruna, Danish lrone, Hong Kong dollar, Hungarian forint, New Zealand dollar, Norwegian krone, Polish zloty, Singaporean dollar, Swedish krona, Swiss franc and Israeli new shekel. PayPal is now accepted in 190 countries around the world, and the company said users in Mexico can now shop at retailers that include including, Mixup, Sears, Match.com, Blockbuster, Best Day Travel, PlazaVIP, and PC en Linea “PayPal’s goal is to provide consumers a secure, fast and convenient way to pay and get paid online and to give online shoppers in Mexico more places to shop quickly and securely,” said Fernando Moreno, director of PayPal Latin America. “The launch of PayPal Mexico is a significant step towards our next phase of growth.”

Filed under Banking and Financial Services, Internet, Mexico by

September 19, 2008

Gap, Inc will open stores in Mexico, Egypt and Jordan

Gap Inc. is expanding internationally with new franchise agreements to open stores in Mexico, Egypt and Jordan, according to a report in San Francisco Business Times:

The new agreement brings to 21 the number of countries with approved Gap franchisees. The first franchisee was signed in January 2006, and over 100 franchised Gaps and Banana Republic stores are now open in 13 countries.

In Mexico, Gap (NYSE: GPS) will open stores within stores at a Mexican department store chain through a partnership with Distribuidora Liverpool. Gap products will become available in spring 2009.

Gap Inc. will also expand its Middle East presence with franchised Gap and Banana Republic stores in Egypt and Jordan. Fawaz Alhokair Group will open the first Gap stores in Egypt and Jordan by the end of the year, with Banana Republic stores following in 2009. Fawaz Alhokair also has franchised Gap and Banana Republic stores in Saudi Arabia.

Gap and Banana Republic franchise stores are now open in Bahrain, Greece, Indonesia, Korea, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Philippines, Turkey and United Arab Emirates. The company has also announced franchise agreements to open stores in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Russia over the next five years.

Filed under Egypt, Fashion and Apparel, Jordan, Mexico by

September 2, 2008

Mexico moving forward with massive port at Punta Colonet

Mexico has open the bidding process for the huge new port complex being planned for Punta Colonet – currently a village about 150 miles south of Tijuana. This project is being designed specifically to compete with California ports, and the economic impact could be huge. The project bid is being structured as “joint port-and-rail project” and we don’t know the route of that rail road yet – it could point straight toward Texas and bypass California completely. As reported in the Los Angelest Times, however, its future of this project is anything but ensured:

Mexico’s government is setting sail with the largest infrastructure project in the nation’s history, a $4-billion seaport that it hopes will one day rival those of Los Angeles and Long Beach. President Felipe Calderon is scheduled to travel to northern Baja California today to open bidding on a development that his administration hopes will catapult Mexico into a major player in North
American logistics.

Plans call for the construction of a massive port in the tiny coastal village of Punta Colonet, about 150 miles south of Tijuana, along with new rail lines to whisk Asian-made goods north to the United States. Mexico’s aim is to snatch some Pacific cargo traffic from Southern California’s ports, whose growth is constrained by urban development and environmental concerns.

Punta Colonet is expected to have a capacity of 2 million shipping containers annually when it opens in 2014, Mexico’s transportation secretariat told The Times But officials envision it ultimately handling five times that amount. Last year, the ports of L.A. and Long Beach handled 15.7 million containers combined. The massive development is to be privately funded, with the first phase estimated to cost $4 billion to $5 billion. The government is expected to award the 45-year concession in 2009. A number of major players are expected to vie for the project, including Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s second-richest man. Slim’s infrastructure company, known as Ideal, has teamed with Mexican mining and railroad giant Grupo Mexico and New Jersey-based terminal operator Ports America Group to make a run at the deal. “We’ve spent a lot of years working on this,” said Miguel Favela, head of Mexican operations for Ports America. “It’s going to make Mexico . . . much more competitive.”

About 30 million shipping containers crossed the Pacific Ocean last year, a flow that increased about 10% annually in the last decade. A weak U.S. economy has slowed the trade, but experts predict it will rebound. With shippers increasingly worried about congestion at L.A.-Long Beach, Punta Colonet has emerged as an attractive alternative. It’s close to the United States. It possesses a wide, natural harbor. And it’s in a lightly populated area offering room for expansion. When Calderon visits the dusty hamlet of about 2,500 people today, he is expected to talk about the big changes in store. The village will need extensive upgrades to its roads, housing, electrical grid and water supply. State and local officials are planning for a city of about 200,000 to spring up around the port.

The changes envisioned are alarming environmentalists, who worry about the potential destruction of the area’s plants and wildlife. But the farmers who scratch out a living there are thrilled at the prospect. “What we need is employment for our kids,” said Jesus Lara, representative of several peasant landowner groups that are eager to sell. “Everyone is excited. Having the president come to your town is like winning the Lotto.”

But whether Punta Colonet turns out to be lucrative for Mexico won’t be known for years. Competitors up and down the Pacific coast are in the midst of major upgrades. Panama has begun a $5.3-billion expansion of its landmark canal. Canada’s Prince Rupert port in British Columbia began speeding containers to the American heartland by rail last year and is planning a major expansion. Little of the cargo bound for Punta Colonet will stay in Mexico, making the port vulnerable to the whims of shippers, who can choose other routes to the U.S.  “Nothing is guaranteed,” said Asaf Ashar, research professor with the National Ports and Waterways Institute in Washington. “It’s a big risk.”

Building a seaport from scratch would be difficult enough. But the overland transportation piece is likely to make or break Punta Colonet. The deal is being structured as a joint port-and-rail project,
requiring terminal operators, railroads and construction companies to team up in consortia to win the bid. The railroad’s ultimate route and U.S. crossing points will depend on which railway operator is chosen and how it manages to link up with existing rail networks on both sides of the border.
Union Pacific Corp. of Omaha and Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway Co. control the U.S. side of the tracks at most of the key U.S.-Mexico border crossings. Striking a deal with one of those companies to get the cargo to the American side will be crucial, said Paul Bingham, managing director of the global trade and transportation practice for Global Insight, a Massachusetts-based consulting firm.

“They have the ability to essentially choke off that port,” Bingham said.  BNSF spokesman Patrick Hiatte said Wednesday that the company was “very interested” in the Punta Colonet project. He declined to say with whom the firm might collaborate to make a bid. Union Pacific could not be reached for comment. The company earlier had teamed with Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings to make a run at the project, but that alliance dissolved last year.

Filed under California Ports, Freight and Logistics, Mexico by

April 8, 2008

California shown as part of Mexico in Absolute Vodka advertisment

Absolute vodka company set off a minor controversy by showing California, Texas and much of the Western U.S.as part of Mexico in advertisements in Mexico. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The campaign, which promotes ideal scenarios under the slogan “In an Absolut World,” showed a 1830s-era map when Mexico included California, Texas and other southwestern states. Mexico still resents losing that territory in the 1848 Mexican-American War and the fight for Texas independence.

But the ads, which ran only in Mexico and have since ended, were less than ideal for Americans undergoing a border buildup and embroiled in an emotional debate over illegal immigration from their southern neighbor. .. Absolut said the ad was designed for a Mexican audience and intended to recall “a time which the population of Mexico might feel was more ideal.”

“As a global company, we recognize that people in different parts of the world may lend different perspectives or interpret our ads in a different way than was intended in that market, and for that we apologize.” Vin & Sprit, Absolut’s Sweden-based parent company, will be acquired by French spirit maker Pernod Ricard SA under a deal reached last week.

Filed under Foreign Relations, Media and Entertainment, Mexico, Sweden by

March 4, 2008

Mexican avocado exporters sue California business group

The feud between Mexican and California avocado growers continues. As reported in “The Packer”:

Last year the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission unsuccessfully sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an effort to keep out Mexican avocados because of concerns about armored scale insects.

Now, Mexican avocado exporters have two active lawsuits against California interests.

Following up on a January lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Avocado Producer and Exporting Packers Association of Michoacán (APEAM) has filed a lawsuit against the California Avocado Commission, requesting an unspecified amount to compensate for what it called severe damage to the marketing of Mexican avocados in California caused by the commission in 2007. Tom Bellamore, senior vice president and corporate counsel for the California Avocado Commission, said APEAM essentially has refiled the case that was dismissed without prejudice last September. “It is the commission’s position that that those claims then lacked merit and still do today,” he said.

Mexican exporters had hoped to settle the matter out of court, but the avocado commission’s board rejected a settlement proposal, said Emiliano Escobedo, APEAM’s U.S. representative in Los Angeles. “We had definitely hoped that the lawsuits were behind us, but they unfortunately are not,” he said. “What we really want is to sell more avocados and not have to fight anyone in court.”
The lawsuit states that less than two months after Mexico began shipping avocados into California in early 2007 the commission created significant disruption to the market and “severely damaged the ability of Mexican growers and packers to market their fruit,” according to a press release from APEAM.

The lawsuit charges that the California Avocado Commission spread falsehoods and disparaged Mexican avocados in ways that significantly reduced sales. Dale McNiel, Washington, D.C.-based lawyer for APEAM, said the lawsuit alleges trade defamation, interference with contractual relations, interference with prospective economic advantage, negligence and unfair competition. “The gist of the matter is that CAC made numerous public defamatory statements about Mexican avocados which contributed to the severe drop in demand during 2007 and to some extent continuing into the future,” he said.

Filed under Agriculture and Food, Mexico by

January 23, 2008

California sends Agricultural Trade Mission to Cuba

As reported by Reuters:

California, the top U.S. food producing state, has sent its first official agricultural trade mission to communist Cuba, looking to tap a potential $180 million food market. While other U.S. states have pushed ahead in selling Cuba an average $350 million per year in agricultural products, mainly grains, California is a late arrival. Californian companies sold products worth just $735,000 to Cuba in 2006.

“Some of us might be a little late in getting here, but we are here,” California Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura told reporters in Havana. Kawamura is leading a delegation of companies seeking Cuban contracts for dairy products, wine, grapes, figs, nuts and other specialty fruits. So far, Cuba has bought powdered milk and rice from California, and some wine and apples.

U.S. food sales to Cuba were allowed in 2000 under an exception to the trade embargo Washington has maintained since 1962 against Fidel Castro’s government.

Filed under Agriculture and Food, Cuba by

September 27, 2007

AT&T gives $500,000 to Mexican-American Opportunity Foundation

Press Release:

AT&T today announced a $500,000 contribution to be paid over the next two years to the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF), a community-based organization providing a wide range of family services to low-income residents throughout California. The contribution will fund a pilot program called “BeSchoolReady”, an Internet-based educational tool that introduces young children to computer technology through Internet-delivered learning modules designed to develop learning, language and cognitive skills. The purpose of the program is to prepare preschool students to begin their formal education and increase their chances of kindergarten success.

AT&T’s contribution will provide over 1,300 preschool students from low-income families within the next two years with the opportunity to use the BeSchoolReady program. For many children, and their parents, it will be a first-time experience with computers, so the project also helps to encourage technology literacy in the Latino community. MAOF preschool children are already using the BeSchoolReady web program at several Los Angeles County MAOF Centers.

“We are thrilled to partner with AT&T to help encourage technology literacy in the Latino community,” explained Martin Castro, MAOF President & CEO. “The launch of the BeSchoolReady program will help ensure our preschoolers are comfortable with computers and can be better prepared to succeed in the public school system when they enter kindergarten.”

Filed under Education and Training, Mexico, Philanthropy by

August 9, 2007

Disney buys Club Penguin for $700 million

Club Penguin, a virtual world for kids, has been bought by the Walt Disney Company. The deal is valued at $700 million: $350 million in cash now, and another $350 million if performance targets are met through 2009, according to a report in Venture Beat. The company, based in British Columbia, has more than twelve million total users — mostly kids 6-14 in North America — and including more than 700,000 paying subscribers. It says it is completely funded through subscriptions. Founded in March 2005, Club Penguin features avatars of animated penguins that live in an antarctic virtual world. Users can play games together, chat, and furnish virtual homes with virtual accessories. Subscribers choose to pay between USD$5.95 per month and USD$57.95 per year to “[d]ress up your penguin, decorate your igloo, be the first to discover new areas and lots more.” The purchase shows that Disney is hungry to get into online gaming, a market that is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. One analyst expects US spending to hit $725 million in 2008, up from $375 in 2006.

Filed under Canada, Media and Entertainment, Mergers and Acquisitions by

June 19, 2007

California Republican Party hires political director through H-IB Program

If this wasn’t so funny, it would be sad- or if it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny- I’m not sure which.  In any event, I thought America had an over-supply of right-wing political operatives- do we really need to import them?

The California Republican Party has decided no American is qualified to take one of its most crucial positions — state deputy political director — and has hired a Canadian for the job through a coveted H-1B visa, a program favored by Silicon Valley tech firms that is under fire for displacing skilled American workers.  Christopher Matthews, 35, a Canadian citizen, has worked for the state GOP as a campaign consultant since 2004. But he recently was hired as full-time deputy political director, with responsibility for handling campaign operations and information technology for the country’s largest state Republican Party operation, California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring confirmed in a telephone interview this week.

In the nation’s most populous state — which has produced a roster of nationally known veteran political consultants — “it’s insulting but also embarrassing … to bring people from the outside who don’t know the difference between Lodi and Lancaster … and who can’t even vote,” said Karen Hanretty, a political commentator and former state GOP party spokeswoman.

U.S. Department of Labor records show the state Republican Party applied for an H-1B visa to fill the job of “political consultant” and was granted a visa labor certification in March 2007. The three-year H-1B visa does not become valid until Oct. 1, 2007, government records show.

Party officials said Matthews has been working in the interim under a “TN” visa — a renewable one-year special visa for Canadian and Mexican professional workers created under the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Matthews was hired by Michael Kamburowski, an Australian citizen who was hired this year as the state GOP’s chief operations officer. But neither new official has experience in managing a political campaign in the nation’s most populous state — and as foreign citizens, neither is eligible to vote.

Kamburowski, a former real estate agent who sold property in the Dominican Republic, is a permanent U.S. resident in the process of obtaining American citizenship and does not require a specialized work visa, state GOP officials said. “There are talented Republicans in California, and the message that (party chair) Ron Nehring is sending is that there’s no talent pool here,” Hanretty said.  The state party and its 58 county operations face several challenges, Hanretty said, including “redistricting on the ballot, uncertain legislative races ahead of us … and a number of Republican congressmen who are under federal investigation and are going to be challenged by Democrats.  “Who will help these candidates?” she asked. “A couple of foreign transplants who don’t know the political landscape and don’t know the history of the complicated politics in California?”

Filed under California Politics, Canada, Immigration by

June 1, 2007

Undisclosed doners finance Schwarenegger’s Canada Trip

The D-Day Blog has weighed in on the Schwarzenegger Canada junket- and if you thought what we wrote was harsh this guy nails it:

This is about the eighth time I’ve seen a report similar to this one that undisclosed donors are financing a Schwarzenegger trade mission… The excuse put forth by the Governor’s spokespeople is always the same: this SAVES taxpayer money because they don’t have to finance these trade missions! Really? What about all the corporate welfare checks that get cut as a result of this access? What about all the watered-down regulations that cost taxpayers, not only with money but with public health and quality of life? What about the state contracts that could go to lower bidders who don’t have the same relationships (read: bribery poke) with the Governor? .. It should frankly be outlawed for a private company with business before the state to finance the Governor’s travel, especially when it’s supposed to be official business. This is government for sale from the guy who was supposed to be such a big reformer because he was richer than dirt. This is also why I’ve been so adamant about the CDP-Chevron donation. Influence peddling in the capital is an epidemic that needs to stop.

Filed under Business Events and Trade Shows, California Politics, Canada, Governor Schwarzenegger, Opinion by

Ebay buys StumbleUpon for $75 million

Venture Beat reports that eBay has acquired StumbleUpon.  Seems like a good move- Stumble Upon is a fun and interesting community:

Auction giant eBay has acquired StumbleUpon, an San Francisco company that helps people “stumble upon” and share new sites related to their interests, for about $75 million.  In a statement this afternoon, eBay said the acquisition will give it “exposure to a fast-growing community-based service” that has around 2.3 million users, and that StumbleUpon is attractive because it shares similarities with eBay’s concept of community.  The deal size is not large relative to other deals we’ve seen lately, but it is a big coup for the founders, who moved from Canadian to San Francisco more than a year ago, and were self-funded until March of last year. They raised a round of $1.5 million from Google’s founding investor, Ram Shriram, Lotus founder Mitch Kapor, Topic founder Ariel Poler, angel investor Ron Conway… Once people download is toolbar, StumbleUpon shows you Web sites that you can rate as good or bad. It starts showing you more of the types of sites you appear like, based on those sites have been rated highly by other people that have voted similar to the way you have. It does the same for videos, people and product information.  It makes money by showing an ad every hundred or so stumbles.  With no marketing, the StumbleUpon community has grown 150 percent from last year and delivers some five million new recommendations a day to its user base, the company said.

Filed under Canada, Information Technology, Mergers and Acquisitions by

May 30, 2007

More influence peddling on Schwarzenegger’s Canada Trip

The Sacramento Bee has covered Governor Schwarzenegger’s three day mission to Canada, and noted that of the fifty-two business delegates on the trip “a third of those going represent interests that have donated to Schwarzenegger’s campaign”. As with his other “trade missions” this has been funded by the “California State Protocol Foundation” a special “non-profit” set up by some of California’s major corporations to pay for these junkets. The trip includes many of the usual suspects- among those attending will be a lobbyist for Pacific Gas and Electric, former California Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim, and of course California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg, who is an officer of this “Foundation”.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said- apparently with a straight face- that the political donations “had nothing to do with the selection of delegates”, and Zaremberg expects us to swallow the same thing, “”There are people on the delegation who might have given to the foundation and people who didn’t give to the foundation,” he said. “It isn’t a part of the criteria to go on the trip.” Yeah, right.

It seems as if it doesn’t matter how many reputable publications cover the corruption that has crept into the State’s international business policy under the Schwarzenegger administration. They are not listening, and they apparently don’t care. It is important for people to know that this administration is not “pro-business” as they want you to believe – they are “pro-corporation” – and there is a big difference. The State government is absolutely sick with sole source deals and no-bid contracts, and this administration is completely closed to outside input and ideas. These guys are so administratively incompetent they can’t even manage to answer letters written to them by ordinary citizens. Don’t take our word for it, call or write them yourself and see what happens- if you are not a big shot, they are simply not interested.

The Schwarzenegger administration is driven by publicity- not by good public policy. They apparently have no concept of “the greatest good for the greatest number”. It is possible to organize a trade mission in the public interest, especially if it is part of a larger coordinated program, but that is not what this administration is doing- this Canada trip, and Schwarzenegger’s other “trade missions” really have been “junkets” – in the worst sense to the term. What the seem to want is more of that fawning media publicity that seems to feed this behavior. This time, let’s not give it to them.

Filed under Canada, Governor Schwarzenegger, Opinion by

May 5, 2007

Mayor cuts trade mission to address LAPD clash with immigration protesters

“Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who cut short his trip to Central America and Mexico in the wake of the May Day clash between Los Angeles police and protesters, is scheduled to speak this afternoon about the matter, into which the FBI has opened an inquiry. The mayor, speaking to reporters Thursday in Mexico City on a stop during a trade mission, said he would welcome the FBI’s investigation into the violence at the end of mostly peaceful immigrant rights marches and rallies. The mayor, who was seeking to stimulate trade and encourage international cooperation in fighting street gangs, announced late Thursday night that he was flying back to Los Angeles today”

Filed under Foreign Relations, Immigration, Legal and Criminal Issues, Mexico by

May 1, 2007

Villaraigosa To Discuss Gangs, Tourism In El Salvador, Mexico Visits

“Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will travel Tuesday to El Salvador and Mexico to discuss ways to boost trade and stem the rising wave of gang members who illegally enter the United States. Villaraigosa will meet with business leaders, elected officials and law enforcement officials from both nations during the four-city trip, according to Villaraigosa’s office. He is scheduled to return to Los Angeles on May 9. Villaraigosa will also speak with executives from airlines based in Mexico and El Salvador to chart out new routes that will involve all of the facilities operated by the city agency that oversees Los Angeles International, Ontario International, Palmdale Regional and Van Nuys airports. Villaraigosa is also expected to discuss clean air initiatives with port officials in both nations. Villaraigosa’s trip will begin with a two-day stop in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, where he and Los Angeles police Chief William Bratton will meet with President Elias Antonio Saca to discuss trade and transnational gang violence. El Salvador, with a population of 6.8 million, logged an average of 10 homicides a day in 2006, about 70 percent of which were committed by gang members, according to the FBI. In February, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Saca announced a joint cross-border effort to combat Los Angeles-based Mara Salvatrucha and other street gangs. Villaraigosa will travel on Thursday to Mexico City, where he will meet with President Felipe Calderon and business leaders to discuss investment and business opportunities in Los Angeles. Villaraigosa will then stop in Guadalajara on May 8 and conclude his trip the following day in Leon, according to the mayor’s office.”

Filed under El Salvador, Foreign Relations, Mexico by

Silicon Valley Startup to Build World’s Largest Photovoltaic Solar Power Plant in Canada

“A solar power plant in the Great White North? Thin-film solar startup OptiSolar has signed a deal to build a 40-megawatt photovoltaic power station about 180 miles west of Toronto. The project, to be rolled out in 10-megawatt stages, will be – for the moment – the world’s largest PV power plant. Canada isn’t exactly known for its sunny skies but it does offer something solar power companies won’t find south of the border: a premium price for green electricity. The Ontario government will pay OptiSolar 42 (Canadian) cents a kilowatt hour – nearly 10 times the standard rate. In this case, Ontario signed a 20-year contract at that rate with OptiSolar’s Canadian subsidiary.”

Filed under Canada, Energy Industry, Silicon Valley by

April 5, 2007

Cherokee signs licensing agreement with Mexican firm

“Cherokee Inc. has entered a multi-year international licensing agreement for its Cherokee brand with Comercial Mexicana, the company said Wednesday. The deal with the Mexican retailer covers a range of categories including men’s, women’s, children’s clothing, footwear, accessories and more, the company said in a release. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Van Nuys-based Cherokee Inc. is a marketer, licensor and manager of a variety of brands it owns, including Cherokee, Sideout, Carole Little and others, and is a consultant to the brands it represents.”

Filed under Fashion and Apparel, Mexico by

March 22, 2007

Outrage growing over rigged trial of California expat in Nicaragua

The Wall Street Journal covered the situation of Eric Volz on their front cover on Monday. Mr. Volz had been a student of Latin American studies at the University of California, San Diego, when he moved to San Juan to pursue a dream of starting a bilingual magazine. Something went horribly wrong with his dream, however, as he was charged with the murder and rape of his girlfriend and given a sentence of 30 years after an obviously grossly unfair show trial complete with anti-American mobs outside the court room:

In Nicaragua, the Volz case became a tabloid sensation with headlines cheering the near lynching of the Gringo. There were declarative statements from prosecutor Peña labeling Volz’s alibi as false, as well as misrepresenting evidence, demands for “justice,” cries to not let the Gringo buy his way out… On the day before Eric’s preliminary hearing, announcements were made via loud speakers throughout the streets of San Juan encouraging San Juan residents to attend the hearing so they can “Stand up for their rights and bring justice to the gringo. An angry mob, numbering in the hundreds and wielding machetes and clubs, waited outside the courthouse chanting, “Send out the gringo, we’ll kill him!”

There was strong evidence that Mr. Volz wasn’t even San Juan at the time of the crime but was in Managua over two hours away. Judge Ivette Toruño Blanco, however, threw out all the defense evidence, which included testimony of multiple alibi witnesses, cell phone and computer records, signed credit vouchers, and more. Two other men – native Nicaraguans – had also been arrested and charged with the murder and rape but the first judge to hear the case dropped all charges against the two Nicaraguan defendants. The only testimony allowed was from one of the men who had also been accused of the murder and this was used as the sole basis of the conviction. The family of Mr. Volz, with assistance of the State Department, is now trying to arrange an appeal in another city where it is hoped there will be less bigotry towards Americans and the actual facts of the case can be considered.

Filed under Foreign Relations, Legal and Criminal Issues, Nicaragua by

March 20, 2007

Governor to lead Trade Mission to Canada

Governor Schwarzenegger will lead a trade mission to Canada on May 29, 2007 and return May 31, 2007, his office announced today. The Governor will be visiting the cities of Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, and his press release says he will focus on promoting California trade and tourism, discuss ways of reducing the effects of climate change while boosting economic growth and look at creative ways to finance infrastructure: “I am very excited to visit Canada – our state’s second largest trading partner. Californians share so much with our neighbors to the north – whether it is a desire to protect our environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions or our entrepreneurial spirit. I look forward to meeting with Canadian government officials to share the benefits of our state’s burgeoning cleantech industry, promoting California as a travel destination and encouraging Canadians to buy California’s goods and services,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. The Governor also claimed that his previous trade missions had been a success: “We have already seen great success from our past trade missions to Mexico, China and Japan, and this mission will continue on in that tradition of success”. There was no information on the Governor’s site about who will be participating in this trade mission.

Filed under Canada, Environment and Climate, Governor Schwarzenegger by

Mexicali group challenges plans for All-American Canal

“Mexico and the United States are in the middle of an international dispute over the 82-mile (132 kilometer) All-American Canal as a group of citizens in Mexicali, Mexico, is fighting to stop a 23-mile (37 kilometer) stretch of it from being lined with concrete. The Imperial Irrigation District (IID), the entity that provides water and energy to the Imperial Valley in California, have decided to line the All-American Canal as part of a water conservation project that would increase San Diego County’s water supply but decrease the supply to Mexicali farmers… he fight against the lining of the All-American was started by the business community of Mexicali, a border city in Baja California, Mexico. Entrepreneurs, lawyers and people involved with economic development started the litigation against the United States without any monetary or legislative support from the Mexican federal government.”

Filed under Mexico, Water and Wastewater by

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