COFECE Authorizes Lithium Exploitation/Spain-Mexico RelationsBy Paloma Duran | Tue, 02/15/2022 - 12:36
COVID-19 infections continue to fall. Deputy Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell announced that COVID-19 infections in Mexico had declined for a third consecutive week. López-Gatell highlighted that according to data from the Ministry of Health, the latest week saw a 48 percent reduction in cases compared to the previous week. “We have a third week of a sustained and large reduction in the COVID-19 epidemic. We are entering a period of certainty. In recent weeks, we have had reductions of more than 40 percent. In the most recent week, infections were down 48 percent. Almost half."
According to government data, 7,831 new infections were registered yesterday, bringing the total number of infections to 5,300,537. There were 146 deaths, bringing the death toll to 312,965. The Ministry of Health said that the country is recovering since the omicron variant is less aggressive and most Mexicans have been vaccinated. Currently, 89 percent of the adult population, 84,112,878 million people, have received at least one COVID-19 dose. Although the government is optimistic that the worst of the fourth wave is over, specialists say the number of tests has decreased in recent weeks, while cases have increased exponentially. As a result, specialists say that the government should not relax health measures.
COFECE authorized foreigners to exploit lithium. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador criticized COFECE for having authorized the exploitation of a lithium mine by a Chinese company without consulting the government. “They authorized a lithium mine to pass into the hands of a Chinese company without informing the head of the Executive. This is unacceptable because it is very clear that there is a defense policy for this strategic mineral resource, which we want the nation to have. In addition, we have a policy of no new concessions.”
Recently, COFECE has been heavily criticized for authorizing the acquisition of the Sonora lithium deposit by the Chinese company Ganfeng Lithium. COFECE has responded that it approved the purchase because it did not represent any risk to competitors or consumers. In addition, the commission explained that the country's laws allow national and international investments, for which Ganfeng Lithium had the right to request an acquisition. Despite this explanation, López Obrador has continued to disapprove of COFECE's actions. In addition, López Obrador stressed that the US had reproached the Mexican authorities for this purchase because China is considered the biggest commercial competitor for the US. López Obrador said he does not want to enter into international conflicts and that these permissions must not be approved to avoid misunderstandings.
Major Mexican television companies will pay taxes. López Obrador said that the country's tax collection has improved and applauded the fact that the largest television stations, Grupo Televisa and TV Azteca, will pay their owed taxes. “I have information that Grupo Televisa is going to pay for its merger, while TV Azteca will pay thanks to the lawsuit that has just been resolved in the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN). Companies are complying. We no longer allow tax evasion.”
According to government data, Grupo Televisa will pay MX$15 million (US$735,603) for its merger with the US company Univision, with which it will create a new media company in Spanish that will compete in the streaming market with Netflix and Disney+. Meanwhile, Ricardo Salinas, owner of TV Azteca, Nueva Elektra, Grupo Elektra and Red Azteca Internacional, will pay MX$2.636 billion (US$129 million) after the SCJN rejected its legal protection presented to avoid the payment of taxes owed since 2006. The government said that if TV Azteca does not pay the taxes, its assets will be seized.
Spanish-Mexican relations will continue. López Obrador assured that the Mexican government does not want to fight with the Spanish government but, rather, to create a better relationship where abuses by its companies are not allowed. Likewise, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard stressed that he has spoken with Spanish officials to ensure them that the diplomatic or commercial relationship between the two countries remains unaffected. “Spanish investment in the country will continue. There are no major conflicts with the Spanish authorities. All we want is a fairer relationship,” said Ebrard.
In recent weeks, López Obrador has highlighted the need to change the relationship with Spain, which he has said has taken advantage of Mexicans and their resources. He has stressed that Spanish companies must operate in accordance with Mexican law, so they do not have advantages over others. Head of Spanish Diplomacy José Manuel Albares said the statements had surprised the Spanish government but that the country’s relationship with Mexico is very important, for which it would like to have a more respectful relation where these accusations are not made without justification. Last week, Albares and Ebrad spoke by phone to discuss López Obrador's comments. According to both governments, the conversations were very respectful.