News from Mexico, Bulgaria and Argentina

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on November 13, 2012

MEXICO – New government to reconsider collaborative policies with U.S. amid new state marijuana laws

Mexico’s President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto

A top aide to Mexico’s President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto says votes to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state will force the Mexican government to rethink its efforts at trying to halt marijuana smuggling across the Southwest border.

Luis Videgaray, former general coordinator of Mr. Pena Nieto’s successful 2012 campaign who now heads the incoming president’s transition team [said] the new administration has consistently opposed the legalization of drugs, but the Colorado and Washington state votes are in conflict with his government’s longstanding and costly efforts to eradicate the cultivation and smuggling of marijuana.

“These important modifications change somewhat the rules of the game in the relationship with the United States,” Mr. Videgaray said. “I think we have to carry out a review of our [collaborative] policies in regard to drug trafficking and security in general.

“Obviously we can’t handle a product that is illegal in Mexico, trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different status,” he said.

More than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón began a military assault on violent drug cartels in that country in 2006.

During his presidential campaign, Mr. Pena Nieto vowed to continue that country’s fight against drug trafficking. The topic of legalized marijuana is sure to come up during Mr. Pena Nieto’s planned Nov. 27 trip to the United States, when he will visit the White House. …

Mr. Videgaray is expected to play a significant role in the Pena Nieto administration. In September, the newly-elected president, who will assume office on Dec. 1, said Mr. Videgaray would head the team that will set policy direction for the new government.

BULGARIA – Europe’s oldest prehistoric town unearthed

Archaeologists in Bulgaria say they have uncovered the oldest prehistoric town found to date in Europe.

The walled fortified settlement, near the modern town of Provadia, is thought to have been an important center for salt production.

Its discovery in north-east Bulgaria may explain the huge gold hoard found nearby 40 years ago.

Archaeologists believe that the town was home to some 350 people and dates back to between 4700 and 4200 BC.  That is about 1,500 years before the start of ancient Greek civilization.

The residents boiled water from a local spring and used it to create salt bricks, which were traded and used to preserve meat.  Salt was a hugely valuable commodity at the time, which experts say could help to explain the huge defensive stone walls which ringed the town.

Excavations at the site, beginning in 2005, have also uncovered the remains of two-story houses, a series of pits used for rituals, as well as parts of a gate and bastion structures.

A small necropolis, or burial ground, was discovered at the site earlier this year and is still being studied by archaeologists.

“We are not talking about a town like the Greek city-states, ancient Rome or medieval settlements, but about what archaeologists agree constituted a town in [5000] BC,” Vasil Nikolov, a researcher with Bulgaria’s National Institute of Archaeology, told the AFP news agency.

Archaeologist Krum Bachvarov from the institute said the latest find was “extremely interesting.”  He said: “The huge walls around the settlement, which were built very tall and with stone blocks… are also something unseen in excavations of prehistoric sites in south-east Europe so far.”

Similar salt mines near Tuzla in Bosnia and Turda in Romania help prove the existence of a series of civilizations which also mined copper and gold in the Carpathian and Balkan mountains during the same period.

BBC Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe says this latest discovery almost certainly explains the treasure found exactly 40 years ago at a cemetery on the outskirts of Varna, 21 miles away, the oldest hoard of gold objects found anywhere in the world.

ARGENTINA – Argentinians flood the streets to protest against President Cristina Fernandez

Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Brandishing banners and banging on pots and pans, thousands of Argentinians take to streets of Buenos Aires to protest against President Cristina Fernandez.

An estimated 700,000 people gathered around the city’s landmark obelisk and other main avenues to march towards the Casa Rosada, the Argentine seat of government.

High crime, inflation of roughly 25 per cent a year, and a possible bid by government allies to reform the constitution to allow Ms Fernandez to run for a third term are also stoking unrest, particularly among middle-class Argentinians. Her government has virtually banned dollar purchases and it limited imports this year, worsening a steep economic slowdown.

Protesters in neighborhoods throughout Buenos Aires waved signs demanding freedom, transparency and an end to crime and corruption.

The event, known in Argentina as 8N, for the 8th of November, was planned months in advance and was heavily advertised in social media networks.

The center-left leader won easy re-election a year ago but her approval ratings have slid since. A recent poll…puts her approval rating at 31.6 per cent in October, up 1 percentage point from a month earlier, while her rejection rating dipped slightly to 59.3 per cent.

Fernandez’s government spends heavily to stoke high economic growth and backs big wage hikes that tend to mirror inflation.

Supporters claim protesters merely represent middle and upper class frustrations with the left-leaning government and not the population at large.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at on Nov. 8,  BBC News on Oct. 31 and London’s Daily Telegraph on Nov. 9.)