Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bitcoin virtual currency is on verge of collapse

Major Bitcoin Exchange Said to Be Insolvent


February 25, 2014, 7:31 p.m.

It was supposed to revolutionize the global monetary system. Instead, the bitcoin virtual currency that has captured the imagination of investors and financiers is on the verge of collapse.

In a stunning blow to a novel way to buy products and services, the world's largest exchange for trading bitcoin currency shut down Tuesday, triggering a massive sell-off and sending many prospective investors away — perhaps for good.

"This is extremely destructive,"
said Mark Williams, a risk-management expert and former Federal Reserve Bank examiner. 

"What we're seeing is a lot of the flaws. It's not only fragile, it's fragile as eggshells."

The mysterious circumstances that triggered the failure of the exchange, Mt. Gox in Tokyo, is only adding to the renewed anxiety over the virtual currency, which just a month earlier had been gaining momentum and supporters.

After saying users could not withdraw their funds, Mt. Gox suddenly ceased all operations, including shutting down its website. Mt. Gox users may have lost more than $300 million worth of bitcoins in what was the latest and biggest in a series of recent setbacks for the virtual currency.

The currency exists only online, and its value is based on an algorithm. Investors buy bitcoins with dollars, euros and other real currency. A purchase with bitcoins typically involves transferring an amount from the buyer's bitcoin "digital wallet" to the seller's wallet on the Internet.

The blow to bitcoin's credibility has highlighted all the fears critics have been trying to raise. Because it is unregulated and anonymous, there is probably no way for users to know who may have seized the thousands of missing bitcoins — and no way to recover them.

This sudden reversal of fortune is particularly painful for enthusiasts who believed just a few weeks ago that bitcoin was on the cusp of mainstream acceptance because of growing support from venture capitalists, banks and regulators.

Instead of triumph, the bitcoin community is now focused on repairing the damage. Mt. Gox is nothing more than a "collapsed tower of toxic sludge," said Williams, who is also a finance professor at Boston University School of Management.

The recent weeks have been troubled ones for bitcoin. In late January, the chief executive of another bitcoin exchange was arrested on money-laundering charges, Russia banned the virtual currency, and Apple Inc. pulled a popular bitcoin app from its App Store over concerns about its legality.

But the fall of Mt. Gox trumps all of these stumbles in size and scope, and has clearly left many in the bitcoin community stunned and confused. Although there are other exchanges where people can buy and sell bitcoins, Mt. Gox was the biggest.

"Having Mt. Gox shut down is to bitcoin what having the New York Stock Exchange shut down is to our equity market,"
said James Angel, a professor of finance at Georgetown University.

Problems at Mt. Gox first surfaced earlier this month when the exchange stopped letting users make transactions because of what appeared to be a glitch that was also affecting other exchanges. But although the other exchanges came back online, Mt. Gox remained dark through last weekend.

On Monday, users noticed that the site seemed to be disabled and the home page was blank. Later that day, a "Crisis Draft Strategy" document was obtained by somebody and posted online, purporting to be from Mt. Gox.

The document, whose authenticity has been questioned, raised further alarms because it indicated that Mt. Gox may have lost 744,000 bitcoins to theft over several years. It also explored whether to shut down Mt. Gox completely or re-launch it under a new name.

What really happened? Mt. Gox issued only a short statement Tuesday: "In light of recent news reports and the potential repercussions on Mt. Gox's operations and the market, a decision was taken to close all transactions for the time being in order to protect the site and our users. We will be closely monitoring the situation and will react accordingly."

Across the bitcoin community, Mt. Gox faced swift and harsh criticism for its handling of the crisis.

"This tragic violation of the trust of users of Mt. Gox was the result of one company's actions and does not reflect the resilience or value of Bitcoin and the digital currency industry,"
read a joint statement from several bitcoin companies posted on the Coinbase blog. 

"As with any new industry, there are certain bad actors that need to be weeded out, and that is what we are seeing today."

Created in 2009 by a programmer using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin is based on a software standard that runs across a wide number of servers around the world for regulating the creation and trading of bitcoins. It is not controlled by any nation, governing body or business.

The original computer code established the number of bitcoins in circulation and tracks ownership of the currency. The absence of government or corporate interference made bitcoin popular among technophiles with strong libertarian views.

But the same attributes that made Bitcoin so appealing to some may be its greatest weaknesses, critics say.

"Concerns regarding Mt. Gox's potential insolvency highlight the fact that one of bitcoin's most attractive qualities — rapid transactions that are non-reversible — are also flaws," said Alex Ferrara, a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, who has been exploring possible investment opportunities over the last year in the bitcoin industry. "If Mt. Gox or any of the exchanges are hacked and bitcoins are stolen, they cannot be replaced."

That bitcoin's reputation has been so badly battered is all the more painful for backers who had been seeing venture capital starting to flow to bitcoin start-ups.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen recently revealed his venture firm had invested about $50 million in bitcoin start-ups. Bitcoin incubators and accelerators had begun popping up around the country. On the very day Mt. Gox appeared to collapse, SecondMarket, a New York City firm, announced plans to create a new exchange with some major banks as possible partners.

Many Bitcoin backers insisted there was a silver lining to the collapse. Bad firms like Mt. Gox would be weeded out and replaced by trustworthy ones that would make bitcoin more credible and secure, they argued.

"It's a shame that many people lost money, but when underperforming businesses are replaced by innovative ones, the economy grows stronger," said Jordan Kelley, chief executive of Robocoin, which makes bitcoin ATMs, in a statement. "It's a good day as Bitcoin continues to grow up — a few blemishes along the way are natural and healthy. We expect Bitcoin to grow even faster in the days ahead."

But before it can do that and search for new converts, it's going to have to find ways to reassure the faithful. Ryan Galt, a bitcoin blogger, wrote a post expressing his fear that this could be a fatal blow.

"This is catastrophic, and I am sorry to share this,"
he wrote about Mt. Gox's problems.

"I do believe that this is one of the existential threats to Bitcoin that many have feared and have personally sold all of my Bitcoin holdings."

O'Brien reported from San Francisco and Tangel from New York

USA expels three Venezuelan officials in diplomatic row

25 February 2014 Last updated at 17:12 ET

President Nicolas Maduro accused US consular officials of conspiring with students who led protests

Venezuela protests

The United States has expelled three Venezuelan diplomats, in response to the expulsion of three of its own consular officials from Caracas.

Just over a week ago, Venezuela had accused the expelled Americans of having links with violent groups.

President Obama said the claims were baseless and false.

At least 13 people have been killed during weeks of protests in Venezuela, although the opposition puts the number of dead at 15.

The US State Department said Ignacio Luis Cajal Avalos, Victor Manuel Pisani Azpurua, and Marcos Jose Garcia Figueredo were considered "personae non-gratae" and had 48 hours to leave the country.

On 16 February, Venezuela said it was expelling three US diplomats for allegedly meeting students who had been involved in violent marches.

But the US State Department soon rejected the accusations in an official press statement, followed by remarks by the President, Barack Obama.

'Legitimate grievances'

He told reporters after a meeting in Mexico that Venezuela had been "making up false accusations" and that the government of President Nicolas Maduro should focus on the "legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people."

Consular officials Breann Marie McCusker, Jeffrey Gordon Elsen and Kristopher Lee Clark were accused of meeting students in private universities in the last two months.

Washington's diplomatic reprisal came on the same day the Venezuelan government named a new ambassador to the US.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said the move illustrated Caracas' willingness to maintain a political and diplomatic rapport with Washington, reports BBC Mundo's Thomas Sparrow in Washington.

On Tuesday, Mr Jaua said Mr Maduro had named Maximilian Arvelaez as the country's new envoy to the US. Mr Arvelaez was previously the ambassador to Brazil.

The recent unrest started in Tachira and the neighbouring state of Merida, when students took to the streets, angered by Venezuela's high crime rate and economic woes, including record inflation and shortages of some staples.

But the government has blamed the shortages on "saboteurs" and "profit-hungry corrupt businessmen".

President Maduro accused opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez of inciting violence, but his arrest triggered further demonstrations.

The government blames Mr Lopez for the unrest and accuses him of conspiring against the government with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

There have also been large rival demonstrations by supporters of the government.

President Maduro has called for a "national peace conference" to be held on Wednesday.

More on This Story

Venezuela protests

What's behind the unrest?


Feb 25, 7:36 PM EST



AP Photo




MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexico made clear Tuesday it is determined to keep Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in its highest-security prison for the foreseeable future, putting off U.S. extradition in a move that could bolster President Enrique Pena Nieto's nationalist credentials but also shine a spotlight on the country's woeful judicial system.

Experts say Pena Nieto's administration and those of his predecessors have proven unable to match headline-grabbing arrests like Guzman's with complex, long-term investigations and prosecutions of deep-rooted criminal networks. Cases have stalled and cartels have continued to operate. Last year, one of Guzman's closest allies walked out of the prison where the U.S. said he was running drugs from behind bars.

The Mexican government says there is no way Guzman will repeat the 2001 escape that let him roam western Mexico for 13 years as he moved billions of dollars of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin around the world. Authorities here say they want to be the first to interrogate Guzman, and use the information to dismantle his Sinaloa cartel, a multibillion-dollar enterprise that dominates drug trafficking in much of Mexico and stretches into 54 countries.

Two federal judges ruled Tuesday that Guzman will have to stand trial on separate drug-trafficking and organized-crime charges in Mexico. And the Pena Nieto administration said the man widely considered the world's most-powerful drug lord until his capture Saturday will face at least six other pending criminal cases before it even considers extraditing him to the U.S.

"I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon,"
Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said in a radio interview. 

"This is the start of a full investigation that will allow us to fully eradicate his organization. It would be pointless to do anything else."

Mexico arrested another of the country's most-wanted men, Zetas cartel head Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, in July, but members of his organization continue to carry out murders, extortion, rapes, robberies and extensive thefts from Mexico's state-run oil company across a wide swath of eastern Mexico, said George Grayson, an expert on the cartel at College of William & Mary in Virginia.

"The sadistic violence continues, and the theft of explosives and chemicals continues,"
he said.

Experts on both sides of the border warned that keeping Guzman in Mexican hands could squander the opportunity to exploit his unparalleled knowledge of the country's biggest drug cartel. U.S. prosecutors have proven far more capable of offering captured drug lords the incentives to cooperate with law enforcement, experts said.

U.S. officials routinely use family members as tools to pressure defendants into giving up information, granting visas to relatives of cooperative prisoners while threatening to leave loved ones penniless by freezing assets of drug lords who refuse to play ball.

Mexican authorities arrested Guzman, 56, along with his 20-something former beauty-queen wife and twin toddlers, but let her go because there were no charges pending against her. Observers called it a staggering missed opportunity that wouldn't have occurred in the U.S.

"The U.S. attorneys have many tools. They're pretty good at flipping people. They can offer far more things than the Mexican authorities can offer,"
said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former official in Mexico's domestic intelligence service. 

"Right now the challenge is just to keep him in prison. That would be success enough. I don't think he's going to provide too much information."

U.S. officials in December filed money laundering and drug trafficking charges against Tomas Yarrington, the former governor of the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas, accusing him of taking millions of dollars from the Zetas to help smuggle narcotics into the U.S.

Yarrington's U.S. attorney, Joel Androphy, said he would have preferred to have faced the charges inside Mexico, where it's harder for officials to confiscate assets and prison sentences tend to be shorter and easier to change.

"If I had the same opportunities that Mexican lawyers did, I would get Tomas Yarrington's case knocked out," he said.

One of Guzman's closest allies and mentors, Rafael Caro Quintero, walked out of a federal prison in August after a procedural ruling that cut 12 years off a 40-year sentence for killings that included the murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena. A three-judge federal appeals court in the western state of Jalisco found that he should have been tried in state, not federal, court, and vacated his sentence in a ruling widely seen by Mexican and U.S. officials as inexplicable and likely corrupt.

Months earlier, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted more than two dozen people and companies that belonged to what it called a drug-running and money-laundering network that Caro Quintero ran years from behind bars.

A U.S. law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said Caro Quintero, who has not reappeared in public since his release, was passing orders through prison phone calls as well as lawyers and family members who visited him, even as he was shifted between at least three Mexican prisons.

U.S. investigations found a number of upper-tier traffickers have been similarly able to run cartels from behind bars.

"For someone as powerful as Caro Quintero was, and is, it was certainly true,"
said the U.S. official, who agreed to discuss the matter only on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly. 

"Even without telephone communications you can transmit a lot of instructions that then are followed."

David Weinstein, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Miami, said the biggest concern in keeping Guzman in a Mexican prison will be his ability to continue running his global drug empire.

"It could be argued that he would be doing the same thing from a jail, and just bide his time," said Weinstein who previously ran the narcotics section in Miami.

Weinstein said Guzman almost certainly had some help from various corners of the Mexican government in evading capture for so long. That's likely information that could be helpful to U.S. prosecutors, but also potentially embarrassing to Mexico, a risk that Pena Nieto can manage with the drug lord behind bars in the Altiplano prison in the state of Mexico, a short drive from the capital.

Keeping hold of Guzman also appears to have become a point of national pride for the Pena Nieto administration.

"We think he's being perfectly guarded and watched, and we don't think it's necessary to do anything else,"
Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, the country's highest law-enforcement official, told The Associated Press.

"He will be very isolated. He won't be allowed to continue with his operations."


Associated Press writers Katherine Corcoran and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City and Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington contributed to this report.

NO MAS CUBAZUELA : Militares Declaran Su Descontento Con El Gobierno De Maduro

“A este gobierno no le queda mucho tiempo, depende de todos nosotros”, indica un manifiesto de 15 páginas que obtuvo DIARIO LAS AMÉRICAS

Ante la crisis que estremece a Venezuela, militares activos dentro de las Fuerzas Armadas Bolivarianas emitieron un documento manifestando su rechazo al gobierno de Nicolás Maduro y al mandato precedente del expresidente Hugo Chávez.

“Pueblo de Venezuela, estamos con ustedes, les pedimos perdón por los maltratos recibidos por la Guardia Nacional y policías, nosotros también queremos un país mejor”,
indicaron los militares en un extenso manifiesto de 15 páginas que obtuvo DIARIO LAS AMÉRICAS.


El comunicado reúne la opinión de 590 oficiales, además de 1.500 miembros de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana.

De acuerdo con la fuente que proporcionó el documento, la declaración representa el desagravio de 80% de las Fuerzas Armadas.

El texto comienza dirigiéndose al pueblo de Venezuela, afirmando que
“ es muy triste ver los días tan difíciles que estamos atravesando en nuestra patria, por culpa de malas políticas de estado, mala gerencia y mal asesoramiento del gobierno cubano”.

La misiva explica que estos uniformados son afectados por las recurrentes colas que deben hacer como la población civil y destaca que el aparato productivo ya no existe, pues fue acabado por las expropiaciones cometidas por el difunto mandatario.

Otras de las polémicas declaraciones se refieren al problema carcelario que enfrenta el país.

“Nosotros como expertos en la materia (GN), los que vivimos el día a día en una cárcel (comandantes de compañía, jefes del servicio de puerta, recorridas y los servicios de garitas), sabemos la realidad en las cárceles, que quienes mandan en ellas son los mal llamados “pranes”, orquestados por nuestra ministra socialista Iris Varela”.

También los militares reconocen la gravedad sobre la censura aplicada en medios de comunicación, acosados por decisiones y excesos del poder ejecutivo para acabar con el flujo informativo y evitar que los ciudadanos se enteren de lo que en realidad está ocurriendo en otros estratos, y reclaman un alto mando con autoridad que pueda negar a las órdenes de reprimir a los manifestantes.

“¿Creen que lanzándonos piedras, palos, bombas caseras, metras, entre otros, van a lograr derrocar un gobierno? No, lo que hacen es enardecer a un guardia nacional que tiene días sin dormir, sin comer bien, sin poder visitar sus familias porque lo más importante de todo esto es acabar con las protestas a como de lugar, con un salario mensual mísero”,
indica el documento.

La declaración pretende explicar a los venezolanos las verdaderas prioridades y problemas que enfrentan las fuerzas militares.

“Termina de despertar, Venezuela, así tengas ideologías chavistas, opositoras o apolíticas, que si cayeron los grandes dictadores del mundo, a este gobierno no le queda mucho tiempo, depende de todos nosotros”,
concluye el manifiesto.

ON A WING & A PRAYER : Ex-President Carter planning trip to Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is expressing concern about Venezuela's escalating political crisis and wants to meet with leaders on both sides to help ease tensions in an upcoming trip.

Carter made the offer in letters this week to President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

In the letter to Capriles, he urges the opposition to make clear its commitment to act within constitutional limits and strongly reject violence. He says the government must guarantee the right to peaceful protest and impartial justice for jailed protesters.

The Carter Center mediated talks between Venezuela's government and opposition after a 2002 coup against then President Hugo Chavez.

Carter says he hopes to meet with Capriles and other leaders during an April visit to promote a health program with Venezuela and Brazil.;_ylt=AwrBJSD1IA1TzEAAZnjQtDMD

GENOCIDIO EN CURSO: Siete de los 15 manifestantes asesinados recibieron tiros en la cabeza

@DolarToday / Feb 25, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

La evidencia está en las cabezas de siete personas asesinadas durante las manifestaciones ocurridas desde el 12 de febrero. Cinco recibieron tiros en el cráneo, a una le dispararon perdigones en la cara y otra fue golpeada en la cabeza hasta provocarle una lesión irreparable.

Embedded image permalink

Aunque las investigaciones sobre los crímenes se mantienen abiertas, expertos adelantan que la misión de los agresores ha sido clara: matar. ³Los perdigones son usados para causar el mayor daño posible, incumpliéndose el uso progresivo de fuerza. En el caso de las personas que han muerto por balas en la cabeza se evidencia que el objetivo de sus victimarios ha sido matarlas², dijo Rafael Uzcátegui, miembro de Provea, que considera que la intención no es neutralizar a los manifestantes.

El criminólogo y abogado Javier Gorriño indicó:
“No se dispara, en muchos casos, para dispersar, sino para ocasionar daño. No se lanzan tiros de perdigones al aire, sino en contra de personas. Se busca herirlas en zonas vulnerables del cuerpo”.

El general retirado Miguel Aparicio, miembro del Frente Militar Institucional, cuestiona la actuación de los guardia nacionales bolivarianos. “Hay personas en la FAN que me dicen que los grupos que han actuado en materia de orden público no parecen guardias nacionales, sino mercenarios. Los militares no fueron formados y preparados para reprimir de esta manera tan agresiva”, dijo.

Uzcátegui, y agregó que el discurso del presidente Nicolás Maduro ha acentuado las agresiones: 

“Mientras el gobierno avale la tesis de golpe de Estado, estará avalando que la GNB y los grupos armados enfrenten a los manifestantes como ‘golpistas’”.

9 de las 15 personas fallecidas desde el 12F eran manifestantes que fueron heridos por cuerpos de seguridad del Estado o paramilitares vinculados con el oficialismo.

Los 6 restantes murieron en circunstancias no claras, que la fiscal general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, relaciona con las guarimbas. Dos de ellos son Doris Lobo (Mérida) y Asdrúbal Rodríguez (Caracas).

Bassil Alejandro Da Costa Frías
El estudiante de Mercadeo de la Universidad Alejandro de Humboldt, de 23 años de edad, cayó entre las esquinas de Tracabordo y Monroy, municipio Libertador, en Caracas, luego de recibir un disparo en la cabeza, el 12 de febrero en la tarde. Se encontraba en las cercanías de la Fiscalía General de la República, en la avenida Universidad, después de participar en la marcha por el Día de la Juventud. Hay videos de la muerte de Da Costa. Siete funcionarios de cuerpos de seguridad del Estado, algunos del Sebin, serían responsables del homicidio.

Juan Montoya
El miércoles 12 de febrero, pasadas las 4:00 pm, falleció Montoya tras recibir tiros en cabeza y pecho, en la esquina de Candilito, en Candelaria, Caracas. El hombre, de 40 años de edad, era funcionario de la Policía Municipal de Libertador, adscrito al Departamento de Inteligencia y también era miembro del Secretariado Nacional del 23 de Enero, un grupo que reúne a varios colectivos. Su muerte también se atribuye a funcionarios de los cuerpos de seguridad del Estado.

Roberto José Redman Orozco

El miércoles 12 de febrero en la noche murió el piloto de 31 años de edad, en la avenida Arturo Uslar Pietri, entre la avenida San Ignacio de Loyola y la calle Monseñor Juan Grilc, de Chacao, en Caracas. Recibió un balazo en la cabeza mientras manifestaba, luego de haber socorrido horas antes a Bassil Da Costa. Según testigos, varios hombres que se desplazaban en motocicletas pasaron por la manifestación y le dispararon a Redman y a otras 30 personas. Ese día se registraron cuatro heridos de bala en el lugar.

Génesis Carmona
La Miss Turismo Carabobo 2013 y estudiante de Mercadeo en la Universidad Tecnológica del Centro, de 22 años de edad, falleció en la Clínica Guerra Méndez de Valencia el miércoles 19 de febrero. La joven recibió un balazo en la cabeza cuando un grupo de motorizados se acercó a la marcha que realizó la oposición en la avenida Cedeño, en el centro de Valencia, el martes 18 de febrero. Un día antes, el gobernador de la entidad, Francisco Ameliach, colocó un twit en el que convocaba a sus adeptos a un “ataque fulminante” a los “fascistas”.

Wilmer Jhonny Carballo

Ayer en la mañana, el hombre, de 38 años de edad, murió tras recibir un balazo en la cabeza, en la urbanización Corinsa de Fundacagua, en el estado Aragua. Habitantes del sector Carballo relataron que estaba protestando cuando un grupo de motorizados pasó disparando. A pesar que trató de resguardarse, una de las balas le impactó en la cabeza. Cayó frente al estacionamiento de una vivienda, donde se desangró. Familiares aseguraron que no estaba en la manifestación, sino que salió al oír el ruido de las motocicletas, al parecer tripuladas por integrantes de colectivos del oficialismo.

Geraldine Moreno Orozco

La estudiante de Citotecnología en la Universidad Arturo Michelena, de 23 años de edad, murió el 22 de febrero, luego de ser herida por perdigones en el rostro y cabeza, en Naguanagua, Carabobo, el 19 de febrero. Testigos aseguran que funcionarios de la GNB le dispararon directamente en el rostro, y murió por desprendimiento del globo ocular derecho y de la mitad de la masa encefálica.

José Alejandro Márquez

El ingeniero de Sistemas, de 43 años de edad, murió el domingo, luego de ser golpeado en la cabeza el 19 de febrero en la noche. Fue atacado por la GNB en la avenida Urdaneta, a la altura de la parroquia Candelaria, en Caracas. En un video se observa cuando Márquez intenta escapar de los funcionarios que le disparan y querían quitarle el teléfono con el que grabó la represión. Los militares lo golpearon en la cabeza hasta fracturarle el cráneo, lo que le ocasionó muerte cerebral.

Otros seis fallecidos

-José Ernesto Méndez murió al ser arrollado en Carúpano, estado Sucre.

-Julio González, fiscal del MP, falleció en accidente de tránsito presuntamente al evadir una barricada en Valencia.

-A Arturo Alexis Martínez le dispararon en Barquisimeto cuando retiraba una barricada.

-Elvis Rafael Durán murió luego de caer de su moto, tras chocar con una guaya, en Caracas.

-Danny Joel Melgarejo Vargas fue apuñaleado en Táchira, supuestamente en una guarimba.

-Jimmy Vargas falleció en San Cristóbal, tras ser golpeado por una bomba lacrimógena en la cabeza y caer de una mezzanina.

El Nacional

~ El Dolar Today

MEXICO MANGO MAFIA : Importers expect slow March build for ataulfos

02/24/2014 11:43:00 AM
Mike Hornick


Courtesy Ciruli Bros. LLC

Ciruli Bros. LLC expects volume of its ataulfo mangoes to hit in April this season, says partner Chris Ciruli. 

As the spring mango season approached, shipments of the ataulfo variety out of Mexico were expected to climb more gradually than in some recent years.

“In the past we’ve had some pretty aggressive marches as far as volume,”
Chris Ciruli, partner in Nogales, Ariz.-based Ciruli Bros. LLC, said Feb. 3.

“I don’t think we’re going to see that early volume hit in March. You’re going to see more of an April crop.”

Ciruli Bros. markets the yellow variety under its Champagne label, which it ships from facilities in Nogales and Donna, Texas. 

As production gains steam, they’ll become more of an alternative to the South American kents that retailers have been buying lately.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture scheduled its first f.o.b. report on Mexican ataulfos for around Feb. 23. 

Light crossings only were expected until then, without an established price.

 One-layer flats of kents size 7s and 10s shipped from Peru and Ecuador for about $8 on Feb. 10, up from $6 the year before.

Ciruli Bros. will start ataulfos in its southernmost region, Chiapas, Mexico.

 Between Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico, production will continue until mid-May when the sourcing moves up to Nayarit, Mexico.

“It looks to be a crop of moderate size,”
Ciruli said.

Other varieties — like tommy atkins and kent — won’t be on offer out of Mexico until June or early July.

“Overall we’ve gotten used to these deals pushing faster early on,”
he said. 

“You keep seeing guys push early for February. We used to never get any fruit then.”

That trend was not entirely welcome.

“February is one of those months where you don’t want to see a lot of fruit,”
Ciruli said. 

“It’s tough to promote tropical fruit when it’s snowing and blizzarding on the East Coast. When we hit those first couple of weeks of March, people are thinking about warming up and about springtime. It gets easier to move fruit.”

- See more at:

MYSTERY SOLVED : A 30-foot-high mango 'stolen' in Australia has been found

Allison Jackson

February 24, 2014 14:42Updated February 25, 2014 16:50

The disappearance of the 'bloody big mango' was part of a publicity stunt.

The mystery of the missing mango in Australia has been solved. 

A chicken fastfood chain on Tuesday confessed to picking off the 10-ton, three-storey high Big Mango from the tourist information center in the Queensland town of Bowen in the early hours of Monday and hiding it in a nearby paddock.

Nando's issued a statement saying it would “take good care of the mango, and would return it to its rightful position soon(ish)."

Security camera footage posted on a Facebook page for the Big Mango showed the alleged thieves armed with heavy equipment and a mobile crane removing the fruity landmark in the dead of night.

The fiberglass statue was erected in 2002 at a cost of $90,000 to attract more tourists to Australia's mango production hub.

Soon after the story broke on Monday morning it emerged that the tourism bureau had not reported the mango's disappearance to police, raising questions about whether it was genuine theft or a publicity stunt

It turns out to have been the latter. Nando's posted this video on YouTube showing how it borrowed the monster mango.

"At the end of the day it's a bloody big mango and I'm sure someone will see it and we'll find it anyway,” Bowen Tourism Chairman Paul McLaughlin said on Monday.

"I think it'll definitely turn up, no doubt about that. We're not sure what has happened but I'm sure we'll get it back."

McLaughlin denied he had staged the theft and it seems he was telling the truth, sort of. Although he didn't arrange the Big Mango's disappearance, he was aware of the plan. 

The Big Mango is one of many “big” landmarks built in Australian towns over the past 50 years to attract tourists and boost the local economy.

They usually represent the main product or attraction of the town. 

There’s the Big Merino, the Big Pineapple, the Big Prawn, the Big Potato, the Big Banana, the Big Koala, the Big Croc and even the Big Earthworm. 

And the list goes on.

The Big Oyster

The Big Oyster in Taree, New South Wales. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Big Merino

The Big Merino in Goulburn, New South Wales. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The Big Pineapple

The Big Pineapple in Nambour, Queensland. (Ashlee Ralla/Getty Images)

The Big Prawn

The Big Prawn in Ballina, New South Wales. (Getty Images)

The Big Potato

The Big Potato in Robertson, New South Wales. (Will Jones/Getty Images)

The Big Banana

The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. (Torsten Blackwood/AFP)