An 800-pound gorilla by any other name

Retail giant Wal-Mart Mexico (www.walmart.com.mx), the largest employer in Mexico, is building a new supermarket just a few hundred meters away fromthe world famous Teotihuacán Pyramids, about 25 miles northeast of Mexico City. The construction of the retailer's traditional big-box architecture has wreaked havoc among traditionalists who claimvestigesof theold Teotihuac·n civilization are being destroyed, and want to sue the anthropology authorities who okayed the building project.

The store, however, will not be called Wal-Mart. The retailer has a development plan in the region for what it calls Bodegas Aurrerá, stores painted a harsh green. The stores are already operating in nearby municipalities.

Aurrerá was a chain of supermarkets Wal-Mart bought in the last decade. It now owns the brand name, which it is developing separately. Aurrerá stores had been out of sight for a few years, but are now back, called "bodega," a word which in the old days referred to corner grocery stores and now refers to warehouses.

Some pundits see the use of the Aurrerá brand as a means to avoid confrontation with the Federal Competition Commission, Mexico's antitrust watchdog, since it is evident that Wal-Mart is beating back competition everywhere in Mexico.

The fear by conservationists and historians that a Wal-Mart sign would be placed atop the Pyramid of the Sun was unwarranted. The retailer says it will create a facade that's both inconspicuous and respectful of the ancient architecture of the township of San Juan Teotihuacán. The town has traditionally survived through agriculture, sheep raising and a large military base. The throngs of tourists visiting the pyramids have little economic impact on San Juan Teotihuacán.

Those who have a legitimate reason for concern, perhaps, are the numerous small shop owners whose stores line the town's two main streets. They are aware Bodegas Aurrerá will bring lower prices through its bulk purchasing. There's a real possibility the new stores will put them out of business just as Wal-Mart has done elsewhere.

Opponents claim that the building of Bodega Aurrerá is "in violation of municipal, state, federal and international law." But construction on the building continues, and should be open by December. LT

A legal imbroglio south of the border

New legislators in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies inherited a veritable quagmire from the last legislative body, which was unable to pass a transportation law to fit all carriers. Now new legislators will start virtually from scratch and will have to deal with the myriad vested interest sponsors who claim theirs is the only right way to do things.

Heading the Transportation Commission is Deputy Francisco Avila Camberes, who, along with deputies Ruben Figueroa and Arturo Alc·ntara, will have to fend off assaults from the carriers' brigades — the lobbying groups are becoming increasingly powerful.

For an idea of the kinds of issues with which the legislature has to deal, UPS, FedEx and DHL want truckload rights, which are currently the exclusive province of Mexican carriers. Too, there are problems with weights and sizes, intermodal interfacing, and so on. Unlike their predecessors, the current deputies have three years to find answers. The transportation industry can no longer function without clear-cut laws which offer fair trading practices for all.

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