Gringo Gazette

Gringo Gazette

Que Pasa In Baja?

Ensenada city workers going back to work. After a couple weeks of being on a sit-down strike, Mayor Novelo was finally able to convince them to go back to work by promising to pay the remainder of their Christmas bonuses before January 21st.

City workers are pretty pissed off, since the city has had problems paying their salaries, and now their Christmas bonuses, which for them amounts to an extra 2 months’ salary. By law, the Christmas bonus has to be equal to at least 15 days.

When he took control of the city, Mayor Novelo announced that the city was broke; since then, we have seen the effects of it. There are almost no streets in the city without potholes, and trash pickup services have been reduced to almost once a month now.

City workers don’t believe it, though; they say it’s not so much the lack of funds, but rather the inability to properly manage the situations that are affecting the city.

It has been a tough term for Mayor Novelo. He hasn’t been able to catch a break, and most people are pretty unhappy with the crises that the city is experiencing. This is probably the reason  he announced last year that he would not be running for another term.

The amount the city owes its workforce in Christmas bonuses alone is about $3.8 million USD, and this administration alone has already asked for about $11.3 million USD in loans to cover other expenses. This give you an idea how seriously the fiscal situation is for Ensenada.

AMLO comes to Baja. Our brand-new president visited Tijuana this past Sunday in order to announce the newly created free zone for the northern border along with our state governor Kiko Vega.

The president is scheduling visits to different parts of the country on weekends in order to have time during the week to attend to his presidential duties in his office in Mexico City.

He is famous now for travelling on commercial planes and even choosing the cheapest flights for his travel.

Migrants safe from police. Alma Migrante, a local non-profit group that helps immigrants know their rights, has won a trial making it illegal for local police to send immigrants guilty of committing administrative infractions to be sent to the National Migration Institute (or INM in Spanish) in order to be deported.

Representatives from Alma Migrante are stating that immigrants can only be sent for deportation if they commit a crime more serious than a minor infraction.

Although the line could be a little blurry sometimes between the two, an easy way to understand it is that an infraction would require you to pay a fine, but a crime would require jail time.

Snow is here! The civil protection office in the city of Ensenada has announced that both of our local sierras, Juarez and San Pedro Martir, have snow and are open for visits.

As always, they are recommended to drive there in a car in good condition, preferably 4×4, and bring warm clothes and supplies, especially gas and high calorie food, in case you get stranded up there.

San Pedro Martir, which always has more snow than Juarez but is also a farther away, is only open from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm every day, and is not available for overnight stays.

Jaime Nieto, head of the office, stated that the roads are not in the best shape right now, and emphasized the need for a car in good condition if you want to visit.

We’re getting more cruise ships. During 2018 a total of 270 cruise ships docked in Ensenada, carrying more than 650,000 tourists. About 70% of those tourists descended from the ship to visit the city, and they spent an average $54 dollars per person.

Tourism officials are stating that its very likely that we will get even more cruise ships this year, since some cruise liners have already booked more dates for this year. January alone has 26 arrivals in total.

Bring your own bags. Rosarito and Ensenada decided last year to eliminate plastic bags in retail shops and the new measure has been in effect since the first of the year. Steep fines were announced for offending businesses, but at least Rosarito has said that they will not issue fines until April of this year.

It is possible for you to not even notice the change if your favorite store decided to switch to paper or biodegradable plastic bags (which are almost indistinguishable from normal plastic bags). This will still be legal and an option for businesses if they want to keep offering customers this benefit.

Photo from: Sergio's Sport Fishing

Whale Season Has Started

Every year about 15,000 people enjoy the gray-whale sighting trips to the Todos Santos Island that local boat operators in Ensenada offer.

The whale season has officially started on December 15 this year and will run through April 15 of next year, stated Amador Arteaga head of the Tourism Promotion Office for Ensenada (Proturismo).

He also said that people will also be able to enjoy watching dolphins, sea lions, birds and other marine species that usually appear during the tour.

Arteaga is inviting tourists and residents alike to enjoy the daily tours that go out from the Ensenada malecon every day at 7:00AM and come back at around 3:00PM.

Reservations are highly recommended, and prices range from $350 to $500 pesos (18.5 to 28 USD) per person.

This same day tour should not be confused with the one that goes all the way to Laguna Ojo de Liebre where you can see the baby whales fool around with their folks and sometimes even touch them. That’s a great experience too but it takes at least a couple of days.

For more information about the different whale tours offered in Ensenada contact Proturismo at 646 178 2411.

Renters Beware: Baja Tom Does It Again

Over the last 3 years we’ve had about 7 people contacting us regarding problems with rent deposits not being given back after contracts are over. One of those people was so angry and felt so frustrated that decided to pay us to publish an ad in the paper for a couple of editions, since we’ve heard about this problem before we decided to keep printing the ad for free. The ad is still being printed in the classified section of our paper.

Today we received another complaint from another tenant, a lady that claims to have given notice to him that he was leaving the house on January before Tommy Springer just went ballistic on her, this is her original message on social media:

“Many of you know Tom Springer… I just told him January will probably be my last month in a rental… Hes giving me 24 hours to vacate before he comes in and changes locks, poisons my dogs, and takes off with my deposit and rent. I know rights are very different here… Does anybody have any advice??”

We’ve heard everywhere about Tommy’s victims in La Mision, we’ve written about it before and will continue to do it to try and help other people from falling victims to his scam.

He always refuses to give back the deposit by plain lying to people, saying he will get them their money whenever the property gets rented, which of course is not true.

In the latest complaint we got the tenant stated that Tommy threatened to hire guys to rape her. That’s typical from him. When we printed the “Renters Beware” ad on this newspaper, Tommy called and said he was going to murder the publisher of this paper stating that he knew the car he drove and his even his VIN number.

If you’re one of his victims or know someone that is, we highly recommend to go over to the police station and file a report for threats, it will not get him arrested but if we can get enough people to file reports he could sure get himself deported from Mexico.

We Get A New President

Tomorrow, Saturday, December 1, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador becomes President of the Republic in an investiture ceremony that promises to be lively.

Current President Enrique Peña Nieto will hand over the presidential sash to the president of the Chamber (similar to our senate), who will hand it over to López Obrador, who will then be sworn in. The new president will offer a speech that’s expected to go on for about an hour, and that will end with the Mexican anthem. This is all central time, which is two hours ahead of Northern Baja.

Expect protestors, who have vowed to jump around in a display of dissatisfaction over AMLO, as he’s popularly called, inviting Venezuelan President Maduro to the festivities, among other worries. Many people are afraid AMLO is going to lead Mexico down the same disastrous path as that country has gone.

Also, people are not happy that the son in law of the very unpopular Donald Trump is getting one of Mexico’s most prestigious awards, supposedly for helping to re-negotiate NAFTA.

And then there’s the garden variety dissatisfaction of AMLO leading the country for the next six years, although he won by a landslide.

To see the ceremony, tune in to any TV station at 9:00 am (11:00 am central time), as that part will be visually interesting. The rest of the day’s activities are going to require Spanish.

These will be tomorrow’s activities according to Forbes Mexico:

What’s Going On In This Country?

More hotels. Wyndham is expanding in Mexico because the country is a rising power in tourism, and the sector is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, declared their spokes dude. With eight new properties announced, the number of Wyndham hotels in Mexico will increase from 52 to 60.

Taxista run amuck. Taxi drivers are scary people for a lot of reasons. They have been known to change the price on you mid ride, then call in their buddies as enforcers if you don’t pay. They will take you around the long way if they think you don’t know the territory, and they initially quote you whatever price that will get them through that day. You will notice that most of them don’t even have a meter in their cabs. But this taxista went a little too far.

Bad habits such as texting and speaking on cell phones while driving us, we can maybe live with. Even watching them watch videos on dash-mounted screens is a bit unsettling.

But a couple of passengers in Puerto Escondido discovered last week it’s not such a good idea to complain. When they asked the driver to stop using his phone and focus on driving, he physically assaulted them. The passengers got out of the vehicle with the aid of passersby and their attacker fled the scene. The unidentified driver and his cab — number 02-968 — are being sought by state traffic police after a formal complaint was filed, but it’s doubtful anything will come of it. Unless he wants his car back, but it’s probably not his anyway, as most taxi drivers here in Mexico don’t own the taxi, they just rent it. The same goes for Uber, but in a smaller percentage.

For the record, traffic regulations forbid the use of mobile phones while driving, except when the driver is using hands-free devices or a speakerphone.

Got Netflix? Telcel, the largest cellphone operator in Mexico, is now offering household internet via its 4G mobile network. Spain-based Movistar was the first company to offer the service early this year, followed by the United States-based AT&T and finally bringing up the end of the innovation and service trend is our own domestic firm, Televisa under the name Blue Telecomm.

For about US $10 per month, we get speeds of up to 5 mbps but once you run through 100GB, they put the speed brakes on, and download speed is reduced to 1 lousy mbp.

The second tier offers up to 10 mbps with a data cap of 150 GB for about $17.50. The price of the modem is about $40. The moral to the story is, don’t get into a long series on Netflix, just view it in little chunks of little mbps’s

Banks’ bad day. Last month saw a day they’re calling Black Thursday on the Mexican stock market; bank stocks plummeted after senators from president-elect López Obrador’s Morena party unexpectedly proposed to rein in those little and not so little bank charges we all suffer with. The bill referenced a study by financial consumer protection agency Condusef that said that, on average, 30% of Mexican banks’ revenues come from commissions. That percentage, Morena argued in its proposal, is more than banks in other countries earn from those charges. If approved, the legislation would prohibit banks from charging customers for checking their account balances, withdrawing cash, requesting past statements and issuing replacement cards, among other services. They’re comparing Mexico to other countries as a benchmark on behavior? That practice, in this cat’s opinion, is ill advised.

The Mexican Stock Exchange index fell 5.81% due to the banks’ losses, its biggest single-day decline since August 2011. Proponents of this legislation claim bank charges generated income of more than US $5.3 billion for Mexican banks last year alone, 8% more than in 2016.

Shares in Banorte suffered the biggest drop, down 11.9% at the close of trading, while Gentera and Inbursa saw 10.23% and 10.08% wiped off their market value. The Mexico subsidiary of Spanish bank Santander slumped 8%. According to Bloomberg, the combined losses that day of Banorte, Inbursa, Santander, BanBajío, Gentera and Regional totaled more than US $4.2 billion.

The move served to further stir fears in the financial sector about López Obrador’s economic plans. But bank stocks recovered the next day after the new president walked that legislation proposal back. Guessing he won’t try that again.

Pemex. The decision to delay oil and gas lease auctions until the new administration officially takes office December 1st has alarmed investors, who fear that incoming president AMLO’s planned $10.5 billion rescue plan for the oil industry will increase Pemex’s debt burden. The Mexican state oil company is already the world’s most indebted national oil company, according to ratings agency Moody’s, with more than $100 billion in debt and about the same amount in pension liabilities. On October 19, Fitch, another ratings agency, revised down Pemex’s outlook rating to negative from stable, causing the peso to fall to its lowest level in over a month.

Pemex’s disarray is evidenced by Mexico’s gargantuan oil production decline over the past two decades. Oil production fell from 3.9 million bpd in 2004 to 2.5 million bpd in 2016, and slipped even further in 2017, dropping as low as 1.9 million bpd. Oil output has fallen during most months in the first half of 2018, standing at just under 2.1 million bpd in June.

The company is in dire need of partnerships with international energy companies that know what the hell they’re doing.  Such joint ventures would allow it to extract more oil from its existing fields, and to discover new fields. But two years ago, there was a new strategy put in place that has proven its worth, as Pemex recently gained $1.43 billion pesos of net profit for the third quarter of 2018, compared with a 101.8 billion pesos loss in the same period last year. Don’t get excited though, as AMLO has vowed to change things again, diverting oil investment funds to his many social programs.

More on airport. Around 5,500 people marched in Mexico City to protest the decision to cancel the new airport under construction there. One third, $5 billion into it, protesters argued the public consultation that led to the cancellation decision was unconstitutional and warned that president-elect López Obrador would hold more illegitimate referendums on other issues if they let him get away with this one.

“What’s going to happen is that he’s going to want to have ‘consultations’, little mini votes, scattered around the country, mostly in areas that voted for him, for everything, and they will be unconstitutional,” said protester Josefina Ruiz. The demonstrators also contended that cancelling the new airport would cost thousands of jobs and halt Mexico City’s economic development.

López Obrador has long criticized the project, charging that it is corrupt, too expensive and not needed. Says the man who is selling the presidential jet and vowing to fly commercial. He is going to regret both of these decisions as he discovers the Mexico City airport is truly a nightmare of last century technology, design, and use of space.

Policemen Protest And Take City Hall

About 900 municipal police agents from Ensenada took to the streets yesterday protesting that their salary, that was due on the 23rd, wasn’t paid yet. They were also complaining that their holiday bonus hasn’t been paid and is already two weeks due.

The group marched from the Macroplaza mall in Transpeninsular all the way to City Hall with signs and banners demanding the payment of their salary.

“Policeman live day to day, if we don’t get paid, we don’t have means to feed our family, I say this so citizens of Ensenada can understand us, we are not doing this because we like it, we need that money in our homes and delays in our salary can’t happen” said Rafael Ruiz, local agent.

A local cop salary starts at about $650 USD per month. Of course it can be more, depending on their rank and seniority.

Other policeman complained that their credit score was affected when the last city administration didn’t make payments on loans the agents got, even when those payments where directly discounted from their paychecks.

Before the day ended, their salary was deposited into their bank accounts but not yet their holiday bonus.

City officials said they were doing everything in their power to get more resources in order pay the amount they owe the police and that they were hoping to make the payment on the holiday bonus this coming Friday.

 

With information from El Vigia

Reflections on the Baja 1000

Congratulations to Justin Morgan of El Cajon, CA, whose Honda (Pro Moto Unlimited Class) crossed the finish line 28 seconds ahead of Second Place Winner Cameron Steel of San Clemente, CA, in his SCORE Trophy Truck.

In all, there were 285 entrants, most of whom were from SoCal, although there were a few from widely scattered places such as Las Vegas, NV, and other regions such as Utah, Alabama, Colorado and New Mexico, plus Mexicans from places such as Mexico City, Puebla and yes, Ensenada!

The Baja 1000 is a grueling event, and the only vehicles that make it to the finish line have been constructed to withstand severely rigorous conditions. It’s not a sport for the faint of heart: The drivers take a beating along with the pounding endured by their cars or trucks.

Not everyone affected by the presence of the racers and their entourages is a fan of these events (the Baja 1000 is held annually in mid-November, while the Baja 500 begins May 30th and ends June 3rd), but like it or not, these events appear to be traditions that are here to stay.

In their defense, they bring a voluminous amount of revenue to the city coffers. The hotels, motels, restaurants, cafes and bars are filled to capacity, prior to and during the events.

Contrarily, they cause local traffic mayhem that raises the blood pressure and tries the patience of the local residents, who still have to go to work, school or place of worship, and have to do so in many instances by adjusting their schedules and their usual routes. Blvd Costero (the coast road), from Playa Hermosa to the end of town is the focal point of the race, and is especially constricted in the area bordered by the Riviera, CEARTE and Museo Carocol. That’s where the racers set up their trailers and pits and retail kiosks. Local vendors also set up food carts. Musicians roam the area. Foot traffic is heavy, vehicle traffic is highly restricted.

As a result, many motorists choose to use alternate roadways, such as Pedro Loyola and Reforma, thereby causing congestion on those arteries as well.

Ultimately, there is a traffic burden testing everyone’s patience from Zona Centro to Playa Hermosa, and all primary routes into and out of  the city.

I used to experience angry meltdowns when caught in one of these traffic traps, but eventually I learned to roll with it.

Now I actually enjoy the festive atmosphere and the period of lucrative exchange that the local vendors enjoy serving our strange but wealthy visitors from other worlds.

The operative word is “wealthy.” In case you hadn’t noticed, the vehicles that are trailored into town to compete in these big events are expensive, and their entourages include pit crews, mechanics, family members, support vehicles carrying spare parts, etc.

The drivers themselves are either rich and/or have sponsors with deep pockets.

Anyway, my change of heart came about a couple of years ago. I was in the parking lot of a Calimax in Zona Centro, preparing to use their ATM, when one of those monster trucks pulled up next to me and parked.

When its driver went into the store, I got out of my car to take a close look at the thing, marvelling at all the expensive hardware adorning it. I noticed a skinny, pimply-faced teenage boy sitting shotgun, watching me gawk at the truck.

“Wow, quite a machine,” I offered.

“Yeah, it’s my Dad’s! He’s really proud of it. He works on it all the time. It’s kind of his hobby,” the little geek replied.

“Hobby?!?” I thought. “Wow…”

Well, who am I to judge? There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy and building a great big gas-guzzling monster truck, is there?

And heck, who’s to blame the guy for taking it to a foreign country, tearing up a few thousand acres of desert, perhaps accidentally killing a few indigenous and/or domesticated animals (and the occasional human being), for sport and profit?

Welcome to Baja! Thanks for coming! See y’all in a few months, when we can all share and enjoy the desert together.

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