Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the only Latina fighting for a greener planet. Over in Mexico, Sandra Pascoe created a biodegradable, natural plastic that can make our shopping experiences a lot more eco-friendly. The key: The juice of the nopal cactus.
“The plastic is basically made out of the sugars of nopal juice, the monosaccharides and polysaccharides it contains,” Pascoe, a researcher at the University of the Valley of Atemajac, told EFE.
So far, the Guadalajara, Jalisco-based scientist has used the most popular type of edible nopal, the opuntia ficus-indica and the opuntia megacantha. According to her, the sugars, pectin and organic acids in the juice give it a thick, gummy consistency. This is then mixed with with Glycerol, natural waxes, proteins and colorants, which is dried on a hot plate to produce thin sheets of plastic.
Currently, the plastic can be used to make greener alternatives to shopping bags, cosmetic containers, accessories and toys. However, she is currently studying how much weight the plastic can hold to determine other possible uses for it. She also teamed up with the University of Guadalajara Center for Biological and Agricultural Sciences to test how quickly and in which cases the plastic will decompose.
“We’ve done very simple degradation tests in the laboratory; for example, we’ve put it in water and we’ve seen that it does break down [but] we still have to do a chemical test to see if it really did completely disintegrate. We’ve also done tests in moist compost-like soil and the material also breaks down,” Pascoe said.
In 2014, the process was registered with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), where Pascoe is now seeking a patent. When the innovation is patented, her process could be commercialized, offering companies a greener alternative to plastic.
Over the summer, Trump came down hard on Mexico and other Central American nations in an effort to make his base happy by reducing migration to the US. He threatened to slap tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Mexican goods bound for the US unless Mexico did more to stem the flow of migrants making their way to the US border.
Mexico agreed and implemented several of their own inhumane policies targeting migrants and deployed a new national guard force to its southern border with Guatemala. Now, as apprehensions at the US-Mexico border have dropped, the US is still pushing for a ‘safe third country’ agreement with Mexico. And Mexico is saying no thank you!
Mexico’s Foreign Minister rejected calls for a ‘safe third country’ deal because other policies are already working.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that Mexico doesn’t need to take any new measures to reduce the number of undocumented migrants bound for the U.S. because the current strategy is proving successful.
Ebrard said Mexico’s efforts have reduced undocumented migration from Central America by 70% and that he expects the trend to be irreversible. Ebrard said he also told Trump that a Safe Third Country agreement, which would make refugees apply for asylum in Mexico before the U.S. and has been sought by acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, doesn’t have support from Mexico’s Senate nor president.
The Foreign Minister led a Mexican delegation on Tuesday for meetings at the White House that included a brief conversation with President Donald Trump. Ebrard said that he explained the importance of the steps Mexico has taken since June, including the deployment of the National Guard, and also expressed concern about guns flowing south from the U.S.
Even Trump himself had praise for the ‘progress’ being made by Mexico.
Trump took to Twitter to tout the major decline in apprehensions at the Southern Border. Of course, in typical Trump fashion, he claimed credit for the decrease. Trump had threatened to slap tariffs on Mexican goods bound for the US back in June, unless Mexico played a more active role in preventing migrants from reaching the US border.
Since then, Mexico has bolstered its immigration enforcement, deploying newly formed National Guards units and other officials to its southern border with Guatemala. The government there has also worked with U.S. officials as the Trump administration expands the controversial “Remain in Mexico” program
A ‘safe third country’ agreement, like the ones agreed to by Guatemala and Honduras would put migrant’s lives at an even greater risk.
Although the two countries don’t have a safe third country agreement in place, Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is effectively the same thing.
A statement from Pence’s office after Tuesday’s meeting said the nations agreed to implement “to the fullest extent possible” the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico.” More than 42,000 non-Mexican migrants have been sent to Mexico to wait weeks or months for their U.S. legal processes since the program began in January, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Human rights advocates say this makes them vulnerable to the violence that plagues many of the cities on Mexico’s northern border.
And, meanwhile, the US court system has allowed the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy to resume for migrants who cross into New Mexico and Texas.
The Ninth Circuit court has temporarily lifted a nationwide injunction against President Donald Trump’s effort to deny asylum to immigrants who enter the U.S. after passing through another country.
The ruling basically lifted the injunction that was put in place blocking Trump’s expansion of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy. Now, with this ruling, Trump can expand his policy to the border states outside the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction – New Mexico and Texas.
One of the central arguments against safe third country agreements, is that it creates extra pressures on governments already struggling to help refugees.
Many experts say that Guatemala and Mexico lack the resources to handle so many asylum claims and point to State Department warnings that asylum seekers are at risk of violence in both countries. Many also say that such agreements don’t address the root causes that push people to flee and may just encourage them to find different routes to the United States.
Crimes against migrants largely go unsolved and unpunished.
The State Department’s own advisory for Tamaulipas (a state where migrants are returned to under the ‘Remain in Mexico policy) warns against all travel here. “Federal and state security forces have limited capability to respond to violence in many parts of the state,” it says.
“For us, for everyone, it’s very dangerous,” agreed Pastor Aarón Méndez Ruiz, who runs the Casa del Migrante Amar, a shelter in Nuevo Laredo.
Migrants have long been frequent targets of crime here. The risks are high enough that rather than let Mexican deportees walk from the border bridge to the state migrant reception center nearby, officials transport them in vans.
Criminals were making such easy prey of migrants coming and going from one migrant shelter that the federal police posted a permanent, round-the-clock sentry across the street.
Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador came out with an appeal recently to the country’s cartels to think about their mamás. And, if we’re really honest, it almost sounded like the kind of lecture we’d suffer from our own mamás if we decided to act up. But, unlike the earful we get from our mamás, it seems unlikely that Lopez Obrador’s speech is going to create the guilt trip it needs to, in order to get Mexico’s cartels to clean up their act.
Okay, tell us what AMLO’s impression of a mamá-lecture sounds like.
During what was a relatively routine kind of visit at the Tula rural hospital in southwestern Tamaulipas on Saturday, Lopez Obrador commented on recent gang violence. “They are in the wrong, it shouldn’t be like this, I call on them to find other things to do, to think about themselves, their families, their mothers: they know how much their mothers suffer because of the sublime love they have for their children, and they need to think about that,” he said to the locals.
And, okay, he didn’t just say that and then that was the end of it. Lopez Obrador’s comments were part of a larger statement about crime and violence in the state of Tamaulipas. While he didn’t make any specific statements about what and whose violence he found most concerning, it was implied that the biggest challenge on the horizon has appeared in the form of the Cartel del Noreste – a splinter group formed from the Los Zetas cartel. “To hell with crime,” Lopez Obrador said. “It’s gross! Disgusting!”
So what’s the Cartel del Noreste been doing that’s got everyone so worked up?
It was only a week ago reports had surfaced that gas stations towards the north of Tamaulipas were refusing to fill the tanks of army and police vehicles. The reason? Cartel del Noreste had threatened to attack any service stations that sold gas to the military and police. At the time of writing, the debacle is being investigated as a criminal case of refusal of service, with authorities seeking to address the issue without punishing the gas stations themselves.
Recently, cartels have stepped up their violent attacks – including ones on the police and military.
The incident is only the latest that’s come from the cartels operating in the area. In fact, gang members have been responsible for direct attacks on army bases and patrols. It’s not uncommon for the cartels to wear counterfeit military uniforms, travel in large convoys, drive armored trucks and even redirect traffic, mimicking military activity. Believe it or not, in some areas of Tamaulipas, the cartels have set up their own surveillance systems in the streets in order to monitor the activities of local officials. Ultimately, while it’s great to see Lopez Obrador publicly putting his voice behind the authorities, gang activity has become considerably sophisticated.
Surely AMLO doesn’t think that his speech is going to make that much of a difference to what’s been happening?
At this stage, it’s a little late in the piece to start lecturing gang members on their activities, and bringing their mothers, of all people, into the conversation. If the cartels were that concerned about the effect their illicit activities were going to have on their mamás, then they wouldn’t be involved in the scene in the first place. And in all frankness, it’s more likely that the gang members stay in the cartels because they would be more afraid of retribution from gangs for trying to leave, than potential punishment from the government, should they choose to stay.
Many feel the President was trying to make a point that his administration doesn’t condone crime.
Unfortunately, it would seem that Lopez Obrador is most likely making these comments to try and drive home the message that his administration doesn’t condone crime. It was only a few days beforehand that he was publicly talking about how the current administration has eliminated corruption within the government … since he’s come under fire for not doing enough to lower the crime rate in Mexico. However, it is worth noting that part of the reason why authorities are having issues cracking down on gang violence is because of the threat of violence against the officials friends and loved ones. And, of course, the kind of stunts that see businesses refusing to deal with authorities for fear of attracting attention from the likes of Cartel de Noreste.