Saturday, March 2, 2024

Cemex and Vulcan Materials reach temporary agreement over port facility

Building materials companies Cemex and Vulcan Materials have reached a temporary agreement that will allow the former to use the latter’s marine terminal in Quintana Roo.

Announced Monday, the agreement was struck almost two weeks after navy personnel, state police and Cemex employees seized control of Vulcan’s port facility south of Playa del Carmen.

Mexican military arrival at Sac Tun facilities in Punta Venado, Mexico
According to the U.S. company Vulcan Materials, a group of soldiers, Cemex employees, police and “special investigation” officials arrived at the Punta Venado marine terminal of its subsidiary Sac Tun at around 5:30 a.m. on March 14. (Internet)

Vulcan, an Alabama-based construction aggregates firm, denounced the “illegal” takeover and occupation of its terminal, while United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the seizure could have a “chilling effect” on future U.S. investment in Mexico.

Cemex spokesperson Jorge Pérez said that the two companies had reached a “provisional agreement” and were working on a long-term pact.

Cemex used to have an agreement that allowed it to use Vulcan’s terminal, but it expired at the end of last year and negotiations for a new contract reportedly broke down.

Cemex said it subsequently obtained a court order that allowed it to use the facility but Vulcan countered that it never saw the document.

In light of the takeover of its asset, Vulcan also said that “a Mexican federal court ordered Cemex to vacate the property, and another Mexican federal court order requires military and police forces to leave the property immediately.”

Cemex and the security forces didn’t immediately comply with the orders, but have now vacated the marine terminal.

Senator Katie Britt – a member of a group of Alabama lawmakers who met with Mexico’s Ambassador to the United States, Esteban Moctezuma, on Monday – said that she was “happy to hear that Mexican governmental forces have now heeded our request to withdraw from Vulcan’s port facility, following a nearly two-week unlawful takeover.”

“There was never a legitimate reason for Mexican military and law enforcement personnel to forcibly occupy this Alabama company’s private property,” she said in a statement.

Meeting between Ambassador Moctezuma and U.S. lawmakers
U.S. Senator Katie Britt and a Congressional delegation from Alabama met with Mexico’s ambassador, Esteban Moctezuma on Monday. (@SenKatieBritt/Twitter)

“I personally reiterated my objections to this unacceptable behavior to Ambassador Moctezuma today at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., and asked him to convey to President López Obrador that aggression towards American interests will not be tolerated.”

López Obrador indicated last week that he believed that the security forces and Cemex employees had done nothing wrong by entering Vulcan’s facility because judges had “authorized” its use by the building materials company.

The federal government last year shut down Vulcan’s limestone quarry in Quintana Roo, and López Obrador has repeatedly accused the company of committing “ecocide” on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

Federal Environment Minister María Luisa Albores last year presented a complaint to the United Nations about the “environmental disaster” allegedly caused by Vulcan.

In 2018, Vulcan filed a case against the Mexican government with the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), alleging unfair treatment. That case has not yet been resolved.

The latest incident added to tension between Mexico and the United States, which are involved in ongoing disputes over the Mexican government’s energy policies and plan to phase out genetically modified corn.

Mexico is also facing pressure from some United States lawmakers to do more to stop the flow of narcotics, especially fentanyl, to their country.

López Obrador claims that his government in fact does more work than its United States counterpart against the synthetic opioid, which causes tens of thousands of overdose deaths annually in the U.S.

With reports from Reforma, El País and Bloomberg

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