Mexican officials have seized a Mexican port facility owned by Birmingham, Ala.-based Vulcan Materials Co. following a string of tensions between the government, Mexican cement company CEMEX and the U.S. manufacturer.
A Vulcan spokesperson deferred to a statement from the company, which says CEMEX, aided by armed Mexican police and military, forcibly entered Vulcan's facility near Playa del Carmen, on the eastern Yucatan Peninsula coast near Cancun, and are still occupying the property.
Vulcan’s statement says there is no contract permitting CEMEX’s use of the port facility since a lease agreement between the two companies expired Dec. 31, 2022 without renewal. Prior to that expiration, the statement says CEMEX was made aware that a new contract would be necessary and that Vulcan remains open to renegotiating the lease.
“Rather than looking for a mutually agreeable solution, CEMEX officers threatened to seek the aid of the Mexican government, including its armed forces, to use Vulcan’s port facilities,” the statement says.
Vulcan says Mexican federal courts have ordered CEMEX, and military and police personnel, to leave the property. Vulcan serves customers in the U.S. from the facility through ports in Texas and Mobile, Ala.
“The Mexican government continues its illegal shutdown of Vulcan’s quarrying, processing and shipping operations,” the statement says, which adds that the company owns the four parcels making up its Mexican operation, and lawfully holds the port concession.
In a March 16 letter to Mexican ambassador Esteban Moctezuma posted by Fox News, Vulcan Chairman and CEO J. Thomas Hill said “heavily armed Naval forces, state police, and special investigative forces answering to the state prosecutor, along with CEMEX personnel, arrived at the gates of Vulcan/Calica property at Punta Venado in Quintana Roo.”
Hill said those personnel informed unarmed Vulcan security guards they had orders to bring a CEMEX vessel into the port to unload cement, and entered without “any court order, warrant or other official justifications for the action.”
He added that the company still had not been presented with any legal documents justifying the act and asked the Mexican government to leave the company’s private property.
“The government’s participation in this gross violation of our property rights is yet another example of the government’s arbitrary and illegal treatment of Vulcan and its investments in Mexico,” Hill wrote. “This occupation must cease immediately.”
In a March 19 statement, Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) called on President Joe Biden to intervene on behalf of Vulcan, describing as "unlawful" the seizure by the Mexican government.
“President Biden must raise this directly with President [Andrés Manuel] López Obrador and assure the American people that this will not be tolerated,” Britt said. “The ramifications of this illicit seizure extend into the United States, significantly hamstringing important American infrastructure, energy and other construction projects that currently rely on Vulcan’s operations in Mexico for materials.”
Britt said security video shows the facility “being breached and confiscated at gunpoint by Mexican military and police forces.”
The move is the latest event in the string of tensions involving Vulcan, CEMEX and the Mexican government, with the U.S. firm telling AL.com in a statement that it has been in NAFTA arbitration with Mexico since 2018.
The Associated Press reported in May 2022 that the Mexican Environment Dept. closed a limestone gravel quarry owned by Vulcan Materials also near Playa del Carmen, on the country’s Caribbean coast, saying it had been excavated below the water table and was threatening water quality and subsoil conditions.
But AP said that the timing was questionable, since Lopez Obrador wants the water-filled quarry turned into a water park and for Vulcan to construct a cruise ship dock at its freight terminal. The Mexican president has pressured Vulcan to sell the property to the government, or open a water park itself, according to the report.
López Obrador also wants to use gravel from the quarry as ballast for another project, the 950-mile Maya Train that would run in a loop around the Yucatan Peninsula, connecting the coast with resorts and archaeological sites, according to AP.
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