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Sex, lies and the Catholic Church

A law allowing same-sex couples to wed and adopt children goes into effect. The founder of the Legionaries of Christ is posthumously accused of fathering and abusing children. FBI agents arrest the alleged head of a cross-border sex trafficking ring. Resorts overcome the economic crisis with all-you-can-drink tequila. Drug-related battles in border towns continue. And an exhibit celebrating Mexico's 200th birthday opens in the capital.

Top News: Mexico City marked a Latin American first on Mar. 4, when it brought into effect a law passed in December that allows same sex couples to wed and adopt children. The law was made possible because the Mexican capital has powers to approve its own civil codes and has had a leftist majority in its legislature for the last decade. Several couples immediately went to city offices to apply for licenses and the first weddings are expected in April. But officials from the Roman Catholic church have condemned the measure and promised to campaign to get it overturned. 

Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church is dealing with other problems as well. On Mar. 3, a Mexican woman went on national radio saying the deceased founder of the conservative Legionaries of Christ had fathered two children with her and sexually abused them. Blanca Lara Gutierrez said that Rev. Marcial Maciel had posed as an oil worker, a private investigator and a CIA agent to keep his family a secret. One of the sons, named Carlos Skertchly, spoke graphically about how Maciel had repeatedly raped him. The Legionaries of Christ responded by publishing a letter in which Skertchly asked them for $26 million dollars to keep quiet.

Another sex abuse case also broke news this month. On Mar. 1, Mexican police said they had arrested a man wanted in Houston for allegedly running a depraved sex trafficking ring. Gerardo “El Gallo” Salazar was nabbed in his home-state of Tlaxcala  after being on the run from justice for almost five years. FBI agents say Salazar enticed young Mexican woman, including minors, to the United States and then forced them into prostitution through beatings, threats, and rape. The arresting Mexican officers say Salazar offered them a house and car to let him go.

Across the country in the resort of Cancun, everything looked a lot more rosy. Hotel occupation for the month of February was over 85 percent, showing that the resort had made a speedy recovery from a depression in 2009. Last year, visitors were dissuaded by the triple whammy of swine flu, drug violence and the U.S. recession. But this year, cheap airfares and special package deals that include all the tequila you can drink enticed many spring breakers back to the party on the Caribbean beaches.

Up on the U.S.-Mexican border it was a different story. Spring breakers in Texas have long enjoyed going into Mexico for a few days of  beer and tequilas. But on Mar. 4, the Texas Department of Public Safety warned them not to head south because of an uptick in drug-related violence. “Parents should not allow their children to visit these Mexican cities because their safety cannot be guaranteed,” the director said.

That warning came as the U.S. consulate on Feb. 25, temporarily closed its offices in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, because of the cartel fighting. An alleged battle between two factions of the local drug running organization caused prolonged shootouts and dozens of deaths around Reynosa, according to local reports. The fighting sparked fear across the region, with many families pulling their children out of schools and staying indoors as much as possible.

Money: Final GDP figures released on Feb. 22, found that Mexico’s economy had shrunk by 6.5 percent in 2009 compared to 2008. The slump, recorded by the government statistics agency, was a little better than expected, with analysts predicting the economy may have shrunk by up to 7 percent. The final figure was improved slightly  in the fourth quarter, when the economy contracted by 2.3 percent. But overall it was still the worst slump since 1932, so it was nothing to celebrate. The economy was hit hardest by a dip in exports to the United States.

To try to get capital flowing back in, the Mexican government plans an extra $1 billion dollars in government bonds, it was revealed on Mar. 4. The bonds should yield 1.39 percent above U.S. Treasury Bonds, officials told the media.

Cross border trade could also be given a boost if Mexican trucks are allowed into the United States. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said on Mar. 4 that the two governments are close to reaching a deal on a new program that would allow Mexico’s 18 wheelers north of the Rio Grande. The United States had agreed to allow Mexican trucks into its territory under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but pressure from the Teamsters union has kept them out.

Elsewhere: To celebrate 200 years since Mexico first declared Independence from Spain, the government on Mar. 3 opened an interactive exhibit in its central square or Zocalo. The museum, which would make an interesting trip for anyone sweeping through the Mexican capital, includes interactive displays of the nation’s geography, history, culture and spicy gastronomy. It is free and open seven days a week.