The seizure of an American company's quarry facility in Mexico by the Mexican military and local state police has sparked outrage among former and current government officials, as well as appeals for the Biden administration and the Mexico's U.S. ambassador to intervene.
According to Vulcan Materials, a Birmingham, Alabama-based company and the largest producer of construction aggregates in the U.S., members of the Mexican navy, local state police, along with federal investigators, entered the quarry just south of Playa del Carmen in Mexico's Quintana Roo state on the night of March 14. They then forced the company to allow CEMEX, a Mexican-owned materials company, to unload a shipment of cement from a ship in the port.
Vulcan previously leased land to and provided offloading and handling services for CEMEX at the site, but the agreement expired last December and talks for a renegotiated contract broke down. The company said CEMEX completed unloading the forced shipment on Friday. However, the military and police have remained in control of the property and have given no indication they plan to leave, the company said.
"I am writing to request that your government immediately order its forces and officials to leave our private property," Vulcan Chairman and CEO J. Thomas Hill wrote in a letter to Mexican Ambassador Esteban Moctezuma Barragán on Thursday, two days following the initial seizure.
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"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. This occupation must cease immediately," he added.
Vulcan has been in tension with Mexico for months after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador forced a shutdown of the quarry's operations in May 2022. Lopez Obrador accused the company of trying to extract minerals from Mexico without the required permits and ship them to the U.S.
The government suspended Vulcan's customs permits on May 13, just days after shutting down the quarry, which the company says has put a strain on its ability to provide the stone construction aggregates to construct roads, bridges and other infrastructure in the U.S., and it has prompted lawmakers to request the Biden administration take swift action.
The quarry has remained closed amid legal proceedings in the Mexican courts, although Biden administration officials have been working with the Mexican government to find a solution, the company said.
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Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., a ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee, told Fox News Digital that she discussed the tensions between Vulcan and the Mexican government with Mexico Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard while on an official trip to Mexico City last month. She told Fox that the Mexican government needed to focus more on going after the cartels endangering Mexican citizens and the millions of tourists who visit the country each year.
Katie Britt, R-Ala. (Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images / File)
"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," she said.
"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," she added.
Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who served in the Trump administration, reacted to the apparent seizure on Twitter by calling on the Biden administration to defend Vulcan.
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"Getting pretty used to the Biden administration letting China and Russia kick sand in our faces (covid and fentanyl deaths, spy balloons, taking down U.S. MQ-9 Reaper)—but now Mexico, too?" he wrote on Twitter Sunday.
"The Biden administration needs to engage immediately to defend a U.S. company and to protect U.S. interests. This is the only deep water port on the Yucatán Peninsula. Significant geopolitical and economic implications," he added.
In this photo illustration a Vulcan Materials Company logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Rafael Henrique / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images / File)
Former Trump administration official Cliff Sims also reacted to the apparent seizure, expressing shock over the Mexican military's move.
"The Mexican military seized a U.S. company’s (Vulcan Materials) marine terminal in Mexico. This is insane," he wrote on Twitter, including the security footage video of the military entering the facility.
Security footage from Vulcan's Mexican quarry on March 14 obtained by Fox News Digital appears to show members of the Mexican military and Quintana Roo state police arriving at the main gate of the quarry and forcing the guard to allow them inside. The armed group was accompanied by what appeared to be CEMEX personnel.
According to Vulcan, the military told on-site personnel that they had an order to bring the CEMEX vessel into the port to unload its contents. The company said, however, that the military did not present or possess any court order allowing them to legally enter the property.
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The company also suggested the move could be Lopez Obrador's first step in taking control of its port under the guise of "national security" but with the intention of using it to import materials from Cuba to go toward a railway system called the Mayan Train currently being constructed in the region.
Vulcan also speculates that CEMEX will seek to occupy the property with the support of the military and police for an unknown period and distribute its unloaded materials to its customers.
This screenshot of a security video provided by Vulcan Materials shows Mexican police and military entering the company's facility in Quintana Roo, Mexico, on March 14, 2023. (Vulcan Materials)
In response to the seizure, Vulcan filed for federal civil and criminal protections and lodged a general federal complaint against the Mexican military, Quintana Roo state police, local prosecution authorities and CEMEX for acting without a warrant and for breaching a previous federal court injunction concerning the land. It also said it had been denied access to any of the files that supposedly supported the actions taken against Vulcan.
Vulcan provided Fox a copy of a subsequent March 16 court order by Judge Angélica del Carmen Ortuño Suárez, the Second District judge in the state of Quintana Roo that ordered the military to cease its actions, but says the force has still not left the premises.
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Fox News Digital reached out to the U.S. State Department for comment but did not receive an immediate response. Ambassador Moctezuma's office and the offices of CEMEX also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Brandon Gillespie is an associate editor at Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @brandon_cg.