Borderlands: Avocados from Mexico fare well during pandemic; Caterpillar’s Texas distributor hiring for new factory

FREIGHT WAVES: Avocados were in the middle of what was looking like a very good year when the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the market.

While prices and sales for avocados have not suffered like other fresh produce, the current restrictions on social distancing and shelter at home recommendations are still having an effect, according to avocado producers.

“One of the things that we’re seeing is a lack of liquidity in the market; there’s a concentration

on purchasing power among major retailers,” Aaron Acosta, corporate relations manager for Villita Avocados, told FreightWaves. “More than anything for us it is an uncertainty. we have to vet our buyers, and we still have to have some trust that in 20, 30 days, when those payments come up that they will have the liquidity to make them.”

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U.S. And Mexico Extend Coronavirus Border Restrictions For Another Month

NPR: The United States and Mexico are extending restrictions on nonessential travel across their shared border for an additional 30 days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The move comes on the heels of a similar announcement of an agreement with Canada over the weekend.

U.S. Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement the decisions were made “in close collaboration” with the neighboring countries.

“As President Trump stated last week, border control, travel restrictions and other limitations remain critical to slowing the spread and allowing the phased opening of the country,” Wolf added.

Mexican officials said the decision, which extends the border clampdown through May 19, was reached “after reviewing the development of COVID-19 propagation” in the two countries.

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Mexico can’t stop drug cartels from handing out virus aid

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Mexico’s president acknowledged Monday that drug cartels have been handing out aid packages during the coronavirus pandemic, and called on them to stop.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said such handouts have occurred “in several places,” but said the government can’t stop the practice.

“It is something that happens, it cannot be avoided,” López Obrador said.

“I don’t want to hear them saying, ‘we are handing out aid packages,’” he said. “No, better that they lay off, and think of their families, and themselves, those that are involved in these activities and who are listening to me now or watching me.”

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University of Texas study says peak in COVID-19 deaths is still weeks away

KEYE: The University of Texas has released a new study projecting COVID-19 deaths for all 50 states. The study shows it may be another several weeks before we see peaks in most states.

Researchers used geolocation data from cell phones to determine how social distancing will impact the mortality rate.

After simulating about 10,000 possible futures, they found an 80 percent chance the country’s peak in COVID-19 deaths will come May 7.

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New Mexico and Texas governors grapple with relaxing virus restrictions

KVIA: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said New Mexico is not yet at a point where it can relax social distancing measures and reopen the economy in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement Thursday of a three-phased approach for states to restore normal activity.

The first-term Democratic governor and former state health secretary said that the state is not yet at a point where it can safely reopen and that doing so prematurely would guarantee greater transmission of Covid-19 and lead to greater illness and death.

“Please know that my administration is working doggedly to develop robust economic recovery plans alongside a plan for a thoughtful, staged and flexible reopening of our state,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “But first things first.”

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U.S. to temporarily close border crossing in New Mexico amid coronavirus

LAS CRUCES SUN NEWS: Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection say the Antelope Wells crossing in southern New Mexico will be temporarily closed beginning Saturday afternoon.

Officials say the remote station has seen a significant reduction in traffic as a result of the travel restrictions that were imposed last month in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Before travel restrictions were enacted, border officers stations at the Antelope Wells port of entry were processing between 350 and 450 northbound vehicles per week. That’s down to 50 to 60 vehicles per week.

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Aid groups are trying to help asylum seekers stranded at U.S.-Mexico border. COVID-19 makes that much harder

ARIZONA CENTRAL: Migrant aid and advocacy groups that provide essential services to asylum seekers stranded at the U.S.-Mexico border are drastically changing the way they operateas the number of COVID-19 cases climbs in the Southwest and the pandemichas halted all asylum proceedings at the border.

Members living in the U.S.have stopped crossing the border and visiting migrantsto avoid the possibility of bringing the illness to these individuals, most of whom are living in vulnerable situations, many groups report. But their work is continuing.

Some organizations, such as the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona, arelooking into moving their counseling online. Others like Border Kindness in Mexicali, Mexico, continue working diligently to provide services like meals and medical care, even opening a specialized clinic to treat migrants.

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US, Mexico, Canada extend coronavirus travel restrictions for another month

FOX NEWS: The United States, Mexico and Canada are extending restrictions on nonessential travel for an additional 30 days due to the coronavirus crisis, the Department of Homeland Security said Monday.

The announcement on Monday from Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf comes as the first order was set to expire.

“In close collaboration, the U.S., Mexicoand Canada have each agreed to extend restrictions on nonessential travel across their shared borders for 30 additional days,” Wolf said Monday. “As President Trump stated last week, border control, travel restrictions and other limitations remain critical to slowing the spread and allowing the phased opening of the country.”

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Workers are dying in US factories in Mexico, which stayed open despite the spread of coronavirus

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Throughout March, even as business and manufacturing slowed to a halt across much of the world in an effort to contain the new coronavirus, work in foreign-owned factories in northern Mexico carried on as usual.

Hundreds of thousands of workers continued to toil side by side in Juarez, Tijuana and other border cities, churning out electronics, medical equipment and auto parts.

Meanwhile, the virus was spreading.

At a plant owned by Michigan-based Lear Corp. that makes textiles for automobile seats, workers began turning up at the on-site infirmary about a month ago with fevers and coughs.

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Coronavirus pain: Declining US consumer demand hurts Mexico

ALJAZEERA: As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Mexico rises, an economic crisis experts warn will be worse than any downturn since World War II is showing signs of arrival.

Mexico, which now has more than 6,200 confirmed coronavirus cases, declared a health emergency on March 30 to contain the spread of the disease, ordering people to stay home and suspending all non-essential businesses. The government predicts a sharp rise in cases in the coming weeks.

The lockdown has ground bustling city centres and townsto a halt. Businesses have sent employeeshome. Restaurants, shops, and shopping centres have closed. And, while a vast sector of informal workers who live day-to-day continue to peddle goods and food in markets and roadside stalls, sales have plummeted.

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Oil price collapses to below zero as demand takes a dive during pandemic

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Oil futures collapsed to below zero for the first time ever as the deepening economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus crisis left traders desperate to avoid taking delivery of physical crude.

In an unprecedented day of trading, the price for the May contracts wiped out all value, breaking every low for oil prices since 1946. The exchange where WTI futures trade said the contract would be allowed to price below zero.

The extreme move showed just how oversupplied the U.S. oil market has become with industrial and economic activity grinding to a halt as governments around the globe extend shutdowns due to the swift spread of the coronavirus. An unprecedented output deal by OPEC and allied members a week ago to curb supply is proving to be too little, too late in the face of a one-third collapse in global demand.

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‘Cartels are scrambling’: Coronavirus snarls global drug trade

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The coronavirus is dealing a gut punch to the illegal drug trade, authorities say, paralyzing economies, closing borders and severing supply chains in China that traffickers rely on for the chemicals to make such profitable drugs as methamphetamine and the powerful opioid fentanyl.

One of the main suppliers that shut down is in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the global outbreak.

Interviews with nearly two dozen law enforcement officials and trafficking experts found that Mexican and Colombian cartels are still plying their trade, as evidenced by a bust last month in which nearly $30 million worth of street drugs was seized in a new smuggling tunnel connecting a warehouse in Tijuana to southern San Diego. But the stay-home orders that have turned cities into ghost towns are disrupting steps including production, transport and sales.

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These U.S. citizens won’t get coronavirus stimulus checks — because their spouses are immigrants

LOS ANGELES TIMES: She works as a film producer and her small business has ground to a halt, forcing her and her husband to eat red beans and rice most nights, scramble to find small business loans and apply for medical assistance for their two children.

So the 44-year-old woman from the Midwest, who asked that her name not be used to protect her privacy, has had to bite her tongue as friends have celebrated the arrival of economic stimulus checks.

As a U.S. citizen whose children are also U.S. citizens, she is excluded from the government’s $2-trillion coronavirus financial relief package because she files her taxes jointly with her husband, a Mexican citizen from Guadalajara.

“It’s the biggest slap in face that the government left us out,” she said. “It’s already such a stressful time. This just increases the stigma and feeling of shame. It feels like a very big betrayal.”

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White House, GOP face heat after hotel and restaurant chains helped run small business program dry

WASHINGTON POST: The federal government gave national hotel and restaurant chains millions of dollars in grants before the $349 billion program ran out of money Thursday, leading to a backlash that prompted one company to give the money back and a Republican senator to say that “millions of dollars are being wasted.”

Thousands of traditional small businesses were unable to get funding from the program before it ran dry. As Congress and the White House near a deal to add an additional $310 billion to the program, some are calling for additional oversight and rule changes to prevent bigger chains from accepting any more money.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House, a chain that has 150 locations and is valued at $250 million, reported receiving $20 million in funding from the small business portion of the economic stimulus legislation called the Paycheck Protection Program. The Potbelly chain of sandwich shops, which has more than 400 locations and a value of $89 million, reported receiving $10 million last week.

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Trump’s push for more small-business money hits last-minute snag amid fight over virus testing

WASHINGTON POST: A new small business rescue package taking shape on Capitol Hill is expected to include $25 billion to expand coronavirus testing, but how to structure that money emerged as one of the final sticking points on Monday.

Amid an outcry and finger-pointing over the availability of tests, Democrats were pushing for a “comprehensive national testing strategy,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said over Twitter. The Democrats were seeking “free testing for all, and expanding reporting and contact tracing,” Schumer said.

But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other Trump administration officials were seeking a “state-driven approach and flexibility,” according to a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private talks.

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In Race for Small-Business Loans, Winning Hinged on Where Firms Bank

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The small businesses that received aid under the federal government’s $350 billion rescue program weren’t always the ones with the greatest needs or the best chances to survive the coronavirus pandemic. Whether a firm made the cut often came down to how and where it banked.

Some recipients were publicly traded companies that already had significant loans with big banks. Others were customers of community banks that had long made loans through the Small Business Administration, which is guaranteeing loans made through the government program. Thousands more that lacked the right ties weren’t approved.

Before the federal Paycheck Protection Program was launched on April 3, Alan Edelson had worked with his accountant to prepare the documents needed to apply for a $120,000 loan for Metropolitan Furniture, his nearly century-old furniture retailer in Allen Park, Mich. He was never able to submit his application before the money dried up because his bank, Comerica Inc., is still working on an online portal to take applications.

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New Face of Mexico Charity: Drug Lord ‘El Chapo’

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The daughter of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán is doing well by doing good.

While her father serves a life sentence in a super-maximum security prison in Colorado, Alejandrina Guzmán is distributing food and other supplies in packages bearing her father’s likeness to the poor and elderly in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city.

Her initiative shows the enduring popularity of a notorious criminal whose violent exploits and daring prison escapes provide inspiration for television movies and traditional ballads in a country now struggling with rising economic hardship amid the coronavirus pandemic. A majority of Mexicans survive day by day working in an underground economy of small businesses that has been destroyed by social-distancing measures.

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Drive-thrus and free pencils: Texas plans for July elections with in-person voting

TEXAS TRIBUNE: There will be an election in Texas in mid-July, apparently with polling sites, election workers and voting machines in place so people can cast their ballots in person. How many voters might be willing to risk a trip to the polls during a pandemic, though, remains unknown.

AsTexas Republicans work to block the expansion of mail-in ballotingduring the coronaviruscrisis, local election administrators across the stateare deciphering how to safely host voters for the July 14 primary runoff elections — and eventually the November general election — under circumstances unseen byeven the most veteran among them.

Lookingto expand curbside voting, some election officials are consideringretooling parking garages or shuttered banks with drive-thru lanes. Rethinking contact during a process that requires close proximity, others are toying with the ideaof buyinghundreds of thousands of pencils that voters would take home after using the eraser end to mark their ballots on touch-screen voting machines.

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Changing Courses: Families adapt to schooling at home

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: When Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District announced that the district was extending spring break by a week as a precaution against COVID-19, Jennifer Ramirez, a single mother of two and district teacher’s aide, wasn’t concerned.

“I thought, ‘Okay well they are going to disinfect and — because that’s what they were doing at the school — we should be able to go back,’” Ramirez said.

It’s also something of a joke in the community, the district’s habit of being open in the face of events that other school districts close for. “I’ll believe it if Los Fresnos closes” is the quip that Ramirez often hears.

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Official: Cameron County COVID-19 cases may be peaking

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: Cameron County’s number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus may be peaking — if residents continue to follow federal guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, officials said.

Of the county’s 279 confirmed cases, about 40 percent stem from two Harlingen nursing homes, from which four residents have died.

Meanwhile, family households help make up the county’s second-largest case cluster.

“They should be going down,” Esmeralda Guajardo, the county’s health administrator, said of the county’s confirmed cases.

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Pandemic clouds future for Valley agriculture industry

VALLEY MORNING STAR: There’s an onion patch here, just on the edge of the city.

Off in the distance to one side there’s a hospital. On the other, there’s a strip club, just up the road from a couple of houses. Those are the only signs of civilization you can see standing in the middle of the onion patch, except from the traffic buzzing down Owassa and Jackson.

If you don’t look close, there’s no signs of the coronavirus pandemic here in the middle of the onion patch. Men and women still walk stooped along the rows, maybe 50 of them, plucking up onions, snipping off the roots and dumping them into buckets and tow sacks.

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As mail voting pushed, some fear loss of in-person option

MCALLEN MONITOR: Scrambling to address voting concerns during a pandemic, election officials across the country are eliminating polling places or scaling back opportunities for people to cast ballots in person — a move raising concerns among voting rights groups and some Democrats who say some voters could be disenfranchised.

In Nevada, election officials will open only one polling place per county for its June primary. In Florida, county officials warn they may have to consolidate polling places across the state. In Ohio’s primary next week,only the disabled and the homelesswill be allowed to vote in person.

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Laredo City Council set to discuss city manager’s contract, extending stay-at-home order

LAREDO MORNING TIMES: City Council will meet virtually Monday afternoon to discuss amending the city’s COVID-19 emergency order, the city’s budget and finances as it responds to the pandemic, the border wall, the contract and salary of the newly-appointed city manager and a contract extension for the city’s health authority.

Laredo Health Authority Dr. Victor Treviño was appointed to a two-year term, from March 1, 2017 through April 30, 2019, with the option to extend the agreement for another year.

The city was technically without a health authority from May to September 2019, City Attorney Kristina Hale explained, as the city reviewed all physician contracts. However his oath of office was signed again on Sept. 26, 2019, for a term that will expire April 30, 2020.

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El Paso-area state parks remain closed due to COVID-19 conditions; others elsewhere reopen

EL PASO TIMES: The COVID-19 situation in El Paso is keeping state parks in the vicinity closed, despite the governor’s directive that Texas state parks reopen for day use.

On Friday, TexasGov. Greg Abbott directed state parks to reopen on Monday, April 20, with strict guidelines to reduce transmission of the coronavirus.

On Friday evening, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo announced that due to conditions in El Paso, Hueco Tanks State Park and Franklin Mountains State Park would remain closed.

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Coronavirus in Mexico: Number of cases top 120 in Juárez, deaths rising

EL PASO TIMES: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 121 with29deaths fromCOVID-19 in Juárez, Chihuahua public health officials said Monday.

There are 54patients hospitalized withCOVID-19 in Juárez, public health officials said during a daily online briefing Monday morning.

Across the border in El Paso, there have been 531 confirmed cases, 29 patients hospitalized and eight deaths as of Sunday evening.

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Protesters adapt to continue activism amid COVID-19 pandemic

EL PASO MATTERS: El Paso protesters are transforming their public action toolkit in response to COVID-19, finding socially distanced ways to express solidarity and pressure for change.

A cacophony of car honks filled the air around the Immigration and Customs Enforcement El Paso Service Processing Center this past Thursday afternoon. Car after car drove slowly past the entrance to the immigrant detention facility, emblazoned with messages for ICE agents, public leaders, and the detainees themselves. “Free Them All,” “Detention is Deadly,” “ICE is Inessential,” and “No Estan Solos.” These neon painted words were scrawled on demonstrators’ vehicles in an emergent form of protest, the car rally.

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As Juárez COVID-19 death toll reaches 29, a maquiladora worker’s family shares his fight for life

EL PASO MATTERS: As he struggled to breathe in a Ciudad Juárez hospital, Raul Rosales and his wife Claudia exchanged messages saying good-bye. Their daughter Monica texted heart emojis and photos of his grandson Matias.

“My baby is 14 months old. He loved him and he always laughed with him,” Monica Rosales said.

Raul Rosales, 57, is a quality control supervisor at Juárez maquiladora who has tested positive for COVID-19. “He’s not breathing by himself. He’s with a ventilator. He’s very sick,” Monica Rosales said in an interview about her father.

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