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Welcome To the Northern Free Zone

One of the campaigns promises that gained more supporters around here for our new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (or AMLO for short), was the proposal of a new “Free Zone” along the northern border that would reduce taxes, increase the minimum wage 100% and lower fuel prices to try and match those in the USA.

Since the first day of the year, this promise has become a reality, and you are now living in the new free zone for the northern border.

So, what does this mean for you? As a consumer, this means that you will now be paying 8% IVA on most products and services instead of the 16% you usually pay. For those of you unfamiliar with IVA, that’s the Mexican equivalent to the VAT in the US. Note that I said most; I will explain that later.

If you have a business, you will also have another benefit: Instead of paying the usual 30% on the ISR (income tax), you will now be able to receive credit for 10% of that. This means that you will only be paying 20% now.

Regarding gas prices, we have already seen some gas stations lowering their prices, since they have a special benefit in that they won’t be charging any VAT on gasoline and diesel; this reduced gas prices to exactly 16%. This reduction doesn’t actually match it to prices in the US, but it definitely closes the gap a little bit more.

Minimum wage was doubled to $176.72 pesos per day (about $9 USD); the older wage at $4.50 was a joke, and almost nobody was working for that.

Since the newly created Free Zone is defined by a decree and not a law, businesses must register for it and they will have to meet certain requirements; therefore, don’t shout bloody murder if you see 16% IVA in your ticket, since there is a possibility that some businesses don’t meet the requirements or just haven’t applied yet.

In order to be able to obtain the benefits businesses need to prove that at least 90% of their total sales are from the border region. They will also be asked to prove that they have a valid address in the region for at least 18 months. These two requirements are key in discouraging mainland businesses from establishing an address in the border just to obtain said benefits.

Businesses that are already established have until January 30th to file their application, and newly established businesses will have 30 days after registering their businesses with the SAT (which is the Mexican IRS).

The free zone objective is to increase competitiveness with the US, avoid migration and make it more attractive as an investment option.

If you were here back before 2014 you might remember that we already had lower taxes here in the border, but that benefit was removed by president Peña Nieto. At that time VAT in the area was 11%. This means that taxes now will be even lower than at that time.

Several analysts say that Northern Baja will benifit the most  from this new decree, as the biggest percentage of the population in the state lives near the border, and because all its municipalities are considered part of it.

For now, the decree will be valid only for 2019 and 2020. Surely, results will be analyzed after these two years and a decision will be made on whether to extend it or not.

So, What Is the Baja Blues Fest Doing With All That Money?

In November, the Baja Blues Fest President Jackie Alameda presented checks to the children’s organizations benefiting from this year’s annual Blues Fest event at a luncheon hosted by Bobby’s by the Sea.  Checks in the amount of $4,000 (USD) were presented to Rosarito’s Friends of the Library, the Los Angelitos Orphanage, and La Mision Children’s Fund/BECA.

Bev Wilburg, representing La Mision Children’s Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, stated that the money would be used for the La Mision food bank, which feeds over 1,000 children. Once a month, families pick up a small parcel of beans, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, cooking oil and flour,  the cost of which is about $12. In November and December, families also received a small amount of chicken. On the last Wednesday of the month, Rotary members help to portion and bag these foods for the families. It costs about $1200 (USD) monthly to make up these tiny bundles. Thanks to a sustainable water system that was donated to the group, they are recognized as the only clean, potable water near Ensenada, in case of emergency.

Teresa Savala, representing  the BECA scholarship organization, discussed the schools and their needs in the La Mision area. There is currently a waiting list of students interested in high school. Parents are getting more involved in their children’s education, and more classrooms are being constructed. The money awarded today will be used for tuitions. The fundraising event “Fandango” funds about 90% of BEA’s needs, but BBF’s annual check really helps.  Although BECA is not a 501(c)(3) organization, they are now partners with La Mision Children’s Fund and are under the same “umbrella,” working closely together.

The Mexican government does not fund either of these programs. Books are considered a luxury and unaffordable for most families in Primo Tapia and the neighborhoods in the hills. Authors Darren and Ruby Perman, along with the Baja Blues Fest, donated 20 copies of their children’s book “Wookivoo” to the LMCF/BECA. The Rotary of La Mision has been an excellent partner, but they can’t do it all. For those wishing to help, donations of clothing, foodstuffs, toiletries and sanitary supplies may be left at the La Salina Bar/Restaurant in La Mision.

Friends of the Library past President Susan Shea informed all of us that a UNESCO study rated Mexico in last place in reading, of the 30+ countries studied. That’s sad, but not unexpected from a country that expects students to graduate from the educational system at grade 7! The Friends of the Library promotes reading, not only in libraries, but in schools and in the home. Book donations service all five Rosarito area libraries, a pop-up mobile library that operated in the Reforma last summer, and a new reading room at CEART. FOL has just raised the funds to purchase a bus to be outfitted as a bookmobile, and the funds from the Blues Fest will be used to outfit this new bookmobile. Other forms of income are the spring Home and Garden Tour and the Holiday Home Tour before Christmas.

Los Angelitos was the singular orphanage to benefit from this year’s BBF. Ed Perry manages this home of 20 wards of the court in the Rosarito-Tijuana area, children with nowhere else to go, assigned by the Department of Social Services. Here they enjoy a non-institutional family-style quality of life. The children spend most of the week in their home in Tijuana in order to be closer to their schools. They spend weekends and vacations in their home in the hills between Rosarito and Tijuana in a much healthier atmosphere. Ed receives no government money but operates with donations from friends, the Rosarito Beach Christian Church, and his own monthly Social Security check. About 90% of the operating costs come from angels in the United States. The orphanage does not host fundraisers throughout the year. Mari Cruz, who grew up at Los Angelitos, is in her third year of university, earning a degree in Business Administration, and was very thankful for the opportunities provided to her.

For those keeping score, there wasn’t quite as much money available for the charities in 2018 as in years past. This year there was a major reorganization of powers at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, host hotel of the Baja Blues Fest, and the Hotel’s Board of Directors is now managed by Hugo Torres’ five children. Apparently they, and the HOA of the Rosarito Beach Hotel Condos, are not as charitable as patriarch Hugo has been. The use of the hotel grounds ran more than $8000 (USD) more than last year, and next year is looking even more dismal. Reportedly, the RBH declined to help defray some of the costs that they had helped to pay for in the past. As many of Rosarito’s community organizations have discovered, the RBH is harder to deal with now, and not quite as charitable as they have been in years past. But life goes on.

Needless to say, the BBF Board of Directors is searching for new venues for the 2019 music fest. The Friday night Meet and Greet Music Jam and Dance may be held at a location different from Saturday’s Blue’s Fest. The new venue does not have to be a hotel, as long as it is in the Rosarito area and has lodging nearby for the musicians and out of town guests. The new site will be a better opportunity for vendors and food purveyors, who were severely limited in their offerings this year, not being allowed to serve anything but desserts and sides. No flames allowed meant no spiral cut potato on a stick for me. I want my skewered fried potato…or six. The Blues Fest Board has decided to suspend the Sunday jam session (at least for 2019). This would save the cost of one day’s lodging, food, and venue rental.

The BBF Board is also seeking local businesses and community members as sponsors for bands (lodging, food, transport, etc.) or other costs related to the Blues Fest. Now is a good time to get involved with the Baja Blues Fest. It’s important to keep this an annual cultural destination. The BBF Mission Statement proclaims “promoting northern Baja as a safe and fun place to visit, bringing the residents from the northern and southern boundaries of…Rosarito together.”  Their purpose is to raise money for qualifying charitable organizations that cater to children in Baja California, “expand the cultural activities of our (Rosarito) area.” BBF’s tagline says it best: “Helping Kids with ‘The Blues’.”

Rosarito Informs Expats About Future Plans

Several representatives from the City of Rosarito met with the local citizens at the monthly FRAO (Foreign Relations Attention Office) breakfast meeting in November to discuss the future of Rosarito. The commissioners are taking opinions from foreign residents on matters that affect them. Mayor Mirna Rincon has made an effort to consult with foreign residents during her term in office, seeking their opinions on matters that would improve Rosarito. Known as the “Urban Development Program of Playas de Rosarito,” the effort is only in its initial stages, and the results of residents’ opinions today will make a difference in the in the direction of Rosarito’s short- and long-term future.

The survey is available online in Spanish at www.implanrosarito.mx. To obtain a copy in English please contact the FRAO office via email at FRAO@rosarito.gob.mx or through their Facebook page. The City would like to collect everyone’s response before the Christmas break, so get a move on! The City wants to hear from you.

Representatives from IMPLAN (the City Planning Commission) and COPLADEM (Committee Planning for Municipal Development) gave presentations on the future of Rosarito. Mayor Rincon was unable to attend, as she had her hands full with a few new “arrivals’’ in town. It was her wish to “put in touch the foreign community with the government of Rosarito, and vice versa.” But she has placed great importance on making Rosarito comfortable for Mexican and foreign residents, and that all cultures are to be celebrated. The security of Rosarito’s residents is of utmost importance, but there are other areas of concern.

The City, State, and Federal entities have a planning framework equal to the Constitutional extents of government; City is three years, with State and Federal being six-year terms. These are all short term planning periods. Urban development plans and programs have a planning framework of 15 – 20 years, exceeding the periods of all elected officials. This is sometimes where projects get a bit screwy. Let me direct your attention to the Machado Bridge. I’m not sure where the current “plan” came from, but I saw a rendition many years (and two mayors) ago, and the site showed a beautiful Los Angeles style cloverleaf of on and off ramps… totally maneuverable.

About that bridge… at this time the City is waiting for the State and Federales to fix the bridge, its ramps, and bring the whole area up to safety code. The Mayor and the City of Rosarito will not accept the bridge until everything is fixed and made usable, including handicap accessibility. The importance here is that the City does not want to be held liable legally for problems associated with the bridge. This is what the “hold up” has been; a big stalemate.  In the meantime, the City is being punished and people are getting hurt with the mismatched road markings and directions.

Other problems cited by residents were the deplorable shape of roads in the Primo Tapia/La Mision area of the city and the green plastic headlight-diverting barriers set up between Rosarito and Puerto Nuevo. Any roadway, signage, or traffic concerns may be directed to City Hall and the Roads department, or by contacting the FRAO office.

Regional and State planning include the planning for the two basic areas of Rosarito, the Playas de Rosarito Urban area which is about 27% of the physical area, and the Primo Tapia Population Center, including a new side bridge, which is basically everything south of the ‘’city’’ and incorporates the remaining 71% of the “suburban” zone. I’m not sure what happened to the remaining 2%…just blame it on the New Math.  On the horizon is a new branding of the Primo Tapia area, “Rosarito South”, which will be receiving upgrades in the future (one of the long-term plans). And in case you are wondering, the City of Rosarito includes six districts, 19 sectors, 69 boroughs, and 116 neighborhoods. A detailed map is available in the Planning Office, but it is nearly impossible to decipher.

The City’s new policies are focused on population growth, which globally could potentially double by the year 2050. Currently there are nearly two million inhabitants in the Tijuana area (which includes Rosarito), and another 3.2 million in San Diego, which means over five million people in the bi-national metropolitan area.

The Rosarito administration unveiled 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the New Urban Agenda, which include focus on the family unit, food production, education & literacy, intelligent urban planning, and sustainable power sources. Human principles being focused on include equality, democratic transparency, urban safety, accessibility and environmental sustainability.

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.

Mexican Gas Stations Seeing Changes

Costco opened its first gas station in the state of Guanajuato this week, its fourth in Mexico. The spiffy new station cost $3.3 million. They’re selling Costco’s Kirkland Signature gasoline brand, and sure it comes from the States, but so does most gas. Mexico has very little refining capabilities. Maybe that goes a long way toward explaining the cost of a gallon of gas costing about $3.65 a gallon.

The company assured customers that they will get what they pay for and won’t be short-poured here. Yes, he actually said that, acknowledging the elephant in the room where gas is sold. They will only accept credit or debit cards and members who use their Costco credit card get a 3% discount.

Meanwhile, The British oil and gas company BP continues its expansion into Mexico by opening its first ToGo convenience store in this country, where it also introduced its Wild Bean Café to customers. This station is in Guadalajara. The new store and its coffee is part of a strategy to transform the concept of service stations in Mexico, now that stations other than Pemex are allowed. BP operates the Wild Bean Café brand in 1,200 convenience stores in 11 countries. In Mexico, the company has more than 350 gas stations. And looking at the overall picture, it does appear that BP’s convenience store is a lot nicer than the OXXO’s.

Meanwhile, stodgy old Pemex appears to be running scared, as the government-owned oil company is sporting a new look. The new gas station design was officially inaugurated last week in the state of México. Poo. Always at the end of the line, Baja doesn’t get anything cool.

The head of the company’s industrial transformation division said the new design will be incorporated at 45 stations this year, eight new ones and 37 boring old stations will be renovated. Carlos Murrieta Cummings said the new concept “is intended to maintain the franchise’s leadership in the domestic market.” See? They just admitted they’re running scared.  “The new image breaks with the conventional and projects a new Pemex: a highly competitive business in an open market,” he said in the announcement.

Murrieta added that the new design reflects an eagle in flight, “a leader, strong and agile, with its wings extended towards new challenges.” Murrieta also said the company’s objective is to provide the highest standards of customer service, offering its clients experience, reliability, modernity and innovation. Ha ha ha! Since when? Since President Pena Nieto broke Pemex’s stranglehold on the gas monopoly and invited in competition! Since then they’re trying a tiny bit harder. They’re still short-pouring and short-changing, and they’re still losing buckets of money.

Well, the general manager of the first Pemex franchise to sport the new look did say its sales have doubled since the new design was incorporated in mid-June. With prices fixed, maybe appearances and service do count.

FRAO Office Brings Charities Together

Representatives of several of Rosarito’s charity organizations gathered together in the last FRAO (Foreign Residents Assistance Office) meeting to speak a few words regarding their functions. Robin Gunther was concerned that Rosarito’s 2012 Animal Law was not being enforced, which stated that tiny puppies would no longer be sold along the roadside. Baja California Spay & Neuter educates children in animal care, so that they are more aware of how to treat dogs and cats. To this date more than 20,000 animals have been spayed or neutered by this organization, and they receive no money from the City.

Susan Smith informed all about the Flying Samaritans mission to provide health care to over 300 persons a month who cannot obtain health care anywhere else. All doctors and volunteers are just that, volunteers. All money is from memberships, donations, and special events. Jackie Alameda mentioned that the Annual Baja Blues Fest provides funds for education, food, and transportation to many of Rosarito’s children. They also help with documentation for those deported into Mexico with no identification paperwork.

Jim Henshaw, soon to be elected to President of the United Society of Baja California (USBC), identified this group as being the hub of charities for the Rosarito area, and that the Society supports two students in medical university at this time. Mary Moreno, president of Cruz Roja Voluntarios Americanos of Rosarito described that all money received from the Rosarito Thrift Store goes to the Rosarito Cruz Roja Hospital and ambulance service and have just expanded the size of the store. Jeff Failing of Rosarito Sister Cities informed everyone that Sister Cities has been around since President Eisenhower’s creation in the 1950’s, and fully operated by unpaid volunteers, supplying police cars, vests and accessories to the police department, and books to children, pairing Rosarito to Cities in the US and around the world.

Dolly Duff took a few moments to introduce everyone to the DACA Dreamers Assistance Project that focuses on women and young adults who have been deported into Mexico with absolutely nothing, including identification, but primarily asks them to voluntarily deport themselves; and offers them housing, mentoring, job placement and skills to allow them a life in Mexico until they can legally return to the United States via Visa in the future. Mavourneen O’Brien mentioned a few words about the Club de Ninos y Ninas who supervise about 80 children aged 6 – 12, in the afternoons who have no other supervision. Volunteers with a hobby, talent or passion to share are encouraged to spend an hour a week sharing this entity with the children. They are now totally solar-powered.

FRAO meets every month, 10 am on the third Thursday at the Calafia Titanic Room (except December). The FRAO office is located on the ground floor of City Hall, room 108, open Monday – Friday, 8am – 3pm; 661-614-9600, ext. 1080. The office can help you with services including obtaining a driver’s license; residency, answer legal questions, and solve problems.

One of the main motives for this assembly was for foreign residents to complete a five-page survey entitled the “2018 Public Consultation.” Questions covered the topics of development in housing, business, government, and other factors. The survey is available online in Spanish at www.implanrosarito.mx. To obtain a copy in English please contact the FRAO office via email at FRAO@rosarito.gob.mx or through their Facebook page. The City would like to collect everyone’s response before the Christmas break, so get a move on! The City wants to hear from you.

Santas Needed!

This is the time of year to be thinking about giving. If you are still looking for a group worthy of your hearts and thoughts this holiday season, please consider adopting a Kumiai (Kumeyaay) or other local family for Christmas. There are 65 families in the Kumiai community, an Indian reserve one hour into the hills above La Mision, and so many other families also in the hills that have no one to think about them.

Food boxes will feature chicken, fresh produce (purchased the day before delivery), and dry goods, priced at $20. Blankets are $10. Or you can make up your own gift box of food, goods, and gifts, and bring to one of the drop off locations. In return, you will receive a Christmas Thank You card and photo from the family you have helped. You are even invited to accompany Sara and group to San Jose de La Zorra to deliver the holiday gifts.

The deadline is near! The last day to adopt a local or Kumiai family is December 10! For additional information, contact Sara Vega at 661-850-4855 or email to saraenmovimiento@hotmail.com, or contact her on Facebook on either of the pages “Sara Vega” or “Sara.enmovimiento.”

There are several ways to donate to this philanthropic cause: Cash donations may be made through PayPal by contacting Sara at her email address. Or you may make a donation at any local OXXO, into the account 4766-8403-0084-5794. Save your donation receipt and send a photocopy to Sara so she knows whom to thank.

You may donate non-perishable food items, blankets, jackets, or any other winter-related item to either Charley’s Place (k 37) or Betty’s Burgers (on the boulevard just south of the 7-11 / cuota on and off ramps.

Anyone wishing to join the caravan to the Kumiai camp, contact Sara Vega ASAP for cabin reservations, instructions, and logistics of the trip.

The need of the people is great and varied. If you are building your own donation box and in need of suggestions, please contact Sara. Merry Christmas!

Should You Get Dentistry Here?

Mexico is touted as a great place to get dentistry done, and most of that touting is from the industry itself. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great savings or it’s not safe, it just means slow down and do your due diligence. Find out who you’re going to trust your health to. Make no mistake, just because your mouth is kind of on the edge of your health, it is still your health. We know a woman who got a tooth so badly infected the pain went into her neck and shoulder and she went to a chiropractor, not even realizing the pain started in her mouth. It took her almost a year to find a doctor who figured out it was coming from an infection in a tooth she had had work done on in a Mexican border town.

The cost here is a fraction of what it is in the States, and you need to ask yourself why? OK, so we’re asking: Why? Because these dentists don’t carry insurance. Fine, if nothing goes wrong.

Another reason for cheap dentistry is they pay such low wages. As a friend and business owner told me when I complained about his lousy service, “Sorry about that but I pay peanuts, so I get monkeys.” Do you want someone making way less than $1000 a month drilling holes in your gums? Fine, that’s understandable. Dentistry is costly, we get that.

Reason three that dentistry is cheaper here is that most Mexicans can’t afford to pay even the price you think is so cheap. Therefore, dentists are hungry for business from foreigners. The price you’re chortling over is a godsend to them.

Do they have the same training as US dentists? No.

There were 83 dental schools registered in the last official national count in 2007. Half are public, half are private. Admission to dental schools in Mexico requires a high school diploma, and to obtain a license in Mexico, dental students must complete a 3 to 5 year program plus a year of community service. But this  is scary: No formal nationwide standard curriculum exists, so who knows if your dentist went to a Mickey Mouse stay and vay or to a tough school where they had to learn their craft? And did you just notice we said that dentists here have four fewer years of school than US dentists? Of course a case can be made that those four years our dentists spend in college before they get to dental school are wasted since they never see a tooth.

There are 195,000 dentists in the US, and 153,000 dentists in Mexico. There are 312 million Americans and 129 million Mexicans. Clearly there are too many dentists here, especially considering how many of the very poor people never open wide for a dentist.

So, why are so many Mexican dentists trained in the United States? Look closer to that diploma on the wall they’re so proud of, especially if it says graduated from a US school. Most of them are a course lasting a week or two on a specialty. No doubt the dentist wants to improve his craft, but being able to say he’s US trained makes that couple weeks a very good investment.

And who over sees dentists in Mexico? Nobody. In the US, a dentist must pass three tests in the state he/she intends to practice in and show a hepatitis B test, finger prints, a course in infection control, and oh yes, “be of good character” whatever that entails. And they belong to the American Dental Ass., a trade organization where you can start the process of complaint.

Good luck suing a Mexican dentist if something goes wrong. There is no tort law in this country. (Tort law provides relief to injured parties for harms caused by others, and to impose liability on parties responsible for the harm).

All of this sounds negative and is not meant to be, it’s just a counter point to the one big, huge, and very good reason to get dentistry done here: Price. You can save a bundle.

Big Fines for Small Tools

Drones can invade privacy, they can cause accidents, they annoy birds, and they can really piss off pilots in actual airplanes. They can also be incredible tools for scientists, photographers, and anyone in the tourism industry. In some countries, licenses are required. The International Civil Aviation Organization insists on a license too. And, of course, there are regulations. But that doesn’t stop anyone from buying a drone off the internet, and those drones are high-tech.

For example, the DJI Phantom 4 is a model from a few years ago but still very popular. It fits into a piece of hand luggage. It has the ability to fly 20 meters per second, reach 6000 meters above sea level, and fly for about half an hour on a single battery. The drone costs around 840 USD. The DJI Inspire 2 is an up-to-date professional machine. It also has a flight time of about  half an hour, but a range of 7 km and a max speed of 58 mph. Inspire 2 costs a little over 2,700 USD. As tools, these drones have great potential. Their cameras are capable of getting great still shots as well as video.  Mexico has some rules on the books in regard to flying drones, but now the government is pushing ahead, full throttle.

New regulations, which go into effect in December this year, will require all drone users to obtain a license. However, getting that license might be tricky. First, you must be 18 years or older, then you need to be Mexican by birth (sorry Gringos), you need to provide your military release card, have a high school diploma, and be in good health. If those rules don’t sound ridiculous enough, then the fine that goes along with flying without a license (in a country that hardly gives out parking tickets), is enough to have you rolling on the floor.

If the police catch you flying, and you can’t show your license, you’ll be fined as much as 20,000 USD. Of course, you could probably give the officer a few 500 peso notes and a quick flight lesson and everyone will walk away with smiles.

The Mexican government has identified a problem: Drones have the capability of killing people in manned aircraft, so they are taking steps to solve the problem. But more than likely a cop will not even stop you, especially if you’re in the middle of the desert 100 kilometers from the nearest town. The police need to cover huge spaces with few resources (they most likely don’t have a drone).  Also, they probably have better things to do, like setting up speed traps to catch unsuspecting Gringos. Although it might not be completely necessary, it’s always good to follow the rules when in another country. And that’s our disclaimer.

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