U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) says the Biden administration is “asleep at the wheel,” leaving the door open for Chinese influence in Latin America after Mexico seized the port of a Birmingham-based construction firm Vulcan Materials.
According to Vulcan CEO J. Thomas Hill, early on March 14, Mexican authorities seized control of a Vulcan terminal on the Yucatán Peninsula.
Hill claims that “heavily armed” Mexican military, police and state officials, accompanied by personnel of a Mexico-based building materials company CEMEX, informed Vulcan staff they had the order to bring a CEMEX ship to port and to unload cement.
The seizure has drawn the criticism of several Alabama lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Katie Britt (R-Montgomery), U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), Alabama State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger’s Island), and U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville.
Tuberville described the situation in Mexico and his thoughts on its potential consequences during a recent appearance on 1819 News the Podcast.
“It’s been an ongoing problem down in Mexico on the Caribbean side,” Tuberville said. “Vulcan, a big, big company there in Birmingham, also has basically gravel pits down on the eastern coast of Mexico, above Belize. And they’ve over the years, many, many years, they’ve been there, and they’ve built a port, a deep-water port. They ship gravel back to the United States and pretty much all over the world and have done that for a long time. [They’ve] employed a lot of people, a lot of people from Mexico. Brought a lot to the economy in Mexico, pay a lot of taxes.”
Tuberville said he had become friends with Hill, who has kept him abreast of the growing tensions.
According to Reuters, the port has been shut down since May 2022 due to a legal battle over the environmental impact of Vulcan’s limestone mining activity in the eastern state of Quintana Roo.
According to Global Cement, a local court ruled in favor of CEMEX in the lawsuit over its continued use of the Vulcan terminal on March 5. A high court intervened with an injunction in favor of Vulcan on March 16.
“[Hill] called me one day and said they’ve come in and shut him down. Told us to get out; the Mexican government’s going to take over the port, and they’re going to take over everything that’s involved with Vulcan there. So, here we go. And they left, and they’ve been fighting it ever since. And it looks like they were making progress. And then, lo and behold last week, the Mexican government comes back in, runs through the gates, showing a force of arms and even continues on with the theft of what Vulcan has started.”
The future of the Vulcan and its Mexican terminal is unclear. Tuberville claims Vulcan was utilizing an international law group to obtain relief. He also speculated that Mexico might be hurting itself in the long run by damaging an economically beneficial relationship with an American company.
“[I]t’s just unfortunate that a country like Mexico is able and willing to tear down something that’s actually helping their country, giving people jobs other than selling drugs and running human traffickers through our country,” Tuberville said.
He continued, “We’re going to fight with Vulcan. We’re going to fight the Mexican government all we can. That’s their country, though; they make up the rules. It’s just unfortunate they’re a neighbor that they’re doing something like that to an American country.”
Tuberville has sent multiple letters to President Joe Biden, claiming he has yet to get involved in the situation. He speculatively noted that the seizure of the port could leave the door open for the Chinese government to gain control of the port, opining on the increasing influence China is accruing in South America.
“We’re talking about Mexico, we’re talking about Central America, we’re talking about South America, all over South America, the Chinese are moving in,” Tuberville continued. “They are our adversary. They hate the United States of America, and they want to be the number one superpower of the world, and we’re asleep at the wheel. I don’t know whether our government and this White House is compromised, but something’s going wrong here.”