Image credits: SEMARNAT
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News Article

Albores to Lead SEMARNAT, Toledo Steps Down

By Alejandro Ehrenberg | Thu, 09/03/2020 - 09:53

President López Obrador declared that María Luisa Albores will replace Víctor Toledo at the helm of Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). The president informed that Toledo stepped down due to stress-related health issues. 

A renowned researcher with numerous books and papers to his name, Toledo led SEMARNAT for 15 months. La Jornada reported that his work as minister focused on Mexico’s most polluted regions. He promoted agro-ecology and authorized several federal government projects, including the Transisthmic Corridor and the Santa Lucia airport. La Jornada also highlighted that Toledo suspended glyphosate imports with the aim of eliminating the substance in Mexico by 2024. This confronted him with Minister of Agriculture Víctor Villalobos and with the head of the presidential office, Alfonso Romo, according to the newspaper.

El Universal informed that Toledo’s decision to quit SEMARNAT was in fact a consequence of a leaked audio where he criticized the Lopez Obrador administration. In the audio, Toledo says that the interests of several cabinet members are contrary to those of SEMARNAT. Furthermore, he pointed out that there is disarray within the government and that the Ministry of Agriculture promotes agribusiness in detriment of environmentally-responsible development.

President López Obrador commented that the contents of Toledo’s leaked audio are normal in a transformative political process, according to Excelsior. The president remarked that in his administration there is room for diverging opinions and that his role is to harmonize points of view for the benefit of the Mexican people.

Toledo also questioned the mining industry, particularly pointing out Grupo Mexico’s less than stellar environmental accident record. Additionally, the former minister attracted attention due to his stance over Mexico’s potential as a lithium producer. He underlined the battery metal’s strategic importance in the transition to a low-carbon economy, going so far as christening lithium as “the new oil.”

Controversially, Toledo proposed nationalizing lithium. The proposal, which did not lead to any action, baffled Mexico’s mining industry, as it evidenced Toledo’s shaky grasp on the law that regulates the nation’s mineral resources. It is worth remembering that the Constitution states that Mexico is the owner of all mineral deposits within its territory. The concession system’s point is to allow companies to explore and extract these resources on behalf of the country, in exchange of taxes and royalties. Put differently, lithium is already “nationalized.” Whether Toledo’s actual intention was to create a public company to exploit Mexico’s lithium deposits was never made clear.

Photo by:   SEMARNAT
Alejandro Ehrenberg Alejandro Ehrenberg Journalist and Industry Analyst