BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama lawmakers are condemning the actions of Mexican armed forces after they seized a Birmingham-based company operating on Mexican soil.
Alabama congressmen and women say there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding last Tuesday’s seizure of the Vulcan Materials Company’s (VMC) limestone quarry in Quintana Roo, Mexico.
“Even before shutdown orders were issued, Vulcan was subject to public harassment and intimidation tactics from the president of Mexico,” says Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville.
Tuberville says for the past 30 years, VMC has owned and worked on a limestone quarry and deep-water port near Playa del Carmen. VMC says last year the Mexican government shut down its operations, leaving it unable to quarry and ship construction materials.
Vulcan Materials released surveillance video showing on March 14th, Mexican police as well as Cemex-labeled trucks entered the property. VMC releasing the following statement:
“Vulcan has been engaged in a NAFTA arbitration with Mexico since late 2018 regarding our investments in Mexico, including the Sac Tun (Calica) quarry near Playa del Carmen, and therefore we are limited in our ability to comment on this situation.
“Our first and foremost concern is the health and safety of our employees. We have confirmed that our Vulcan family members are physically unharmed and are focused on ensuring that this remains the case.
“We are highly concerned for our property and our business in Mexico. We have been unable to quarry and ship construction aggregate since the Mexican government illegally shut down our operations last year. We are shocked in CEMEX and in the Mexican government entities that supported this reckless and reprehensible armed seizure of our private property.”
Cemex also issuing a statement:
“Cemex has an existing contractual relationship with Calica, a Mexican subsidiary of Vulcan Materials, for the use of a marine terminal located in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo. This private agreement between both companies began more than 20 years ago, and since then, Cemex has continuously used the terminal to transport cement products.
“After months of negotiations and failure to reach agreement with Calica, Cemex filed a lawsuit before a local Civil Court, which granted injunctive relief granting CEMEX access to the terminal and allowing Cemex to continue its operations while the legal proceeding is pending.
“Calica disregarded the injunctive order by the judge allowing Cemex to access the facility. As a result, Cemex sought and obtained further relief from Calica’s contempt of a court order. As part of the proceedings, the Quintana Roo State Prosecutor’s Office granted Cemex injunctive relief and a legal warrant to access the property and continue operating. In both cases, all parties were officially notified of the injunctive relief and warrant.
“In light of these rulings and the applicable law, on March 14, the competent authorities enforced the relief and warrant to allow Cemex to reenter the property and reestablish its operations at the terminal.”
Alabama lawmakers say this seized quarry will have big impacts on not just state but regional construction projects.
“This type of thing we would never allow to happen on American soil and we must stand up for American companies and Alabama companies in this situation,” says Alabama Senator Katie Britt. “Making sure that we get answers, making sure that we right this wrong is important for me and we’ll certainly keep fighting until we do.”
“I don’t think this has anything to do with environmental concerns,” says Alabama Representative Gary Palmer. “I’m going to suggest to the delegation that we ask for a meeting with the Mexican ambassador ourselves. I think we really have to pursue this as aggressively as we can with the state department.”
Tuberville, Britt and Palmer all releasing official statements in support of VMC regarding the seizure. Tuberville’s reads:
“For more than 30 years, Vulcan Materials Company has operated a limestone quarry in Mexico that has created good jobs both in Mexico and in Alabama. Yet time and again, President López Obrador and the Mexican government have undermined Vulcan’s ability to operate in Mexico. Last year, I urged President Biden to confront President López Obrador about the Mexican government’s aggression toward Vulcan Materials. As usual, President Biden buried his head in the sand. President Biden’s failure of leadership has only emboldened Mexico to continue taking hostile action against Vulcan that puts employees at risk and jeopardizes our supply chains in the southeast region of the United States. The illegal seizure of Vulcan’s port facility is just the latest example of the Mexican government exploiting President Biden’s weakness, and the situation will only get worse until the President addresses it head on.”
Britt posted her statement on social media saying:
“At approximately 5:30 am local time on March 14, video footage shows the militarized seizure of Vulcan Materials Company’s port facility at Punta Venado in Quintana Roo, Mexico, at the hands of Mexican governmental forces. A Mexican federal district court on March 16 ordered governmental forces to vacate the premises within 24 hours, however the property remains under military occupation as of 7:30 pm CT on March 19.
“This forcible seizure of private property is unlawful and unacceptable. It is shameful that this Mexican presidential administration would rather confiscate American assets than the fentanyl killing hundreds of Americans per day.
“Mexico should be more focused on going after the cartels than law-abiding businesses and hardworking people. President Biden must raise this directly with President López Obrador and assure the American people that this will not be tolerated.
“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. My office and I will continue to monitor this situation and ensure this is not swept under the rug.”
Palmer released a statement that says:
“This armed takeover of Vulcan’s property shows just how corrupt the Mexican government has become. This is a gross abuse by the Mexican government to which President Biden must immediately respond in the strongest possible terms. The unjust takeover of a private American enterprise should cause every American company to reconsider locating in Mexico. If the Mexican government can do this to one company, they can do it to all. The Biden Administration should immediately respond to this assault against an American company and demand the Mexican government withdraw from the Vulcan Materials facility. It is essential the Biden Administration acts to protect America’s interests, or it will risk other actions against American companies.”