From Cleaning Crime Scenes in the US to Roasting Coffee in TJ

One of the wonderful things about Baja is the people that live here and the stories they have to tell. I am especially fascinated by the young expats who have decided to leave their home countries and immerse themselves in their local communities, just like regular locals.

Benjamin Davis is originally from Seattle, but we could say that he is a “Tijuanense,” because by now as he has been around here for 15 years. He is happily married to Cynthia, a Tijuana native, with whom he has two children, Rhys and Samantha, both born in Mexico.

 

His story starts in Seattle, where he ran a janitorial business that serviced, among other clients, funeral homes. At that point he only did regular cleaning until he was approached by one of the owners of a funerary asking if he could provide cleaning services where someone had died; he was hesitant at first, but after seeing what those kinds of services charged, he went all in.

For 3 years he was cleaning it all with his bio-recovery service (a better name for cleaning after the dead), crime scenes, suicides and natural deaths. Although I immediately thought crime scenes were the hardest part of the job, he tells me the hardest were actually natural deaths, where the dead person was not found until a couple days after dying, leaving an especially hard to clean trail of bodily fluids behind.

In two days of hard work, he was making more money than his dad made in 2 months. “At those times, you could almost charge whatever you wanted for the service, as there were not a lot of providers for the service,” says Ben.

Business was booming, but he says he didn’t feel complete inside, he wanted something else from life. He had been sponsoring a child to go to school in Tijuana through a local Christian non-profit, so one day he decided to give them a call and ask if they needed any more help. They happily accepted.

That’s when he loaded his pickup truck and drove 1,300 miles to get to Tijuana. He started helping kids anyway he could until he founded Didaque ministries in 2009, focused on running the same private elementary school he was supporting from back in Seattle.

Four months ago, Ben decided to embark on a new venture, one that reflected two of his passions: Mexico and good coffee. That’s how he decided to open Ben Tostador de Café (Coffee Roasters), where he focuses on selling in-house roasted coffee beans from the Pluma region of Oaxaca and Veracruz, although he also offers espresso beverages and brewed coffee in his cozy Playas de Tijuana location.

He gets all his green coffee in small shipments directly from the growing regions.

Coffee prices are more than reasonable at 50 pesos for half a pound (actually 250 grams) of Veracruz coffee or 65 pesos for the Pluma, Oaxaca variety.

Drop by his store at Ave. Baja California Sur #688 in the Costa Hermosa section of Playas de Tijuana. He is open Monday to Friday from 6:00 am to 12:00 pm, and then from 2:00 to 8:00 pm, Saturdays from 3:00 to 9:00 pm. He has a Google Maps link in his website, www.cafeben.com.

If you want to help Ben support Tijuana kids in need, visit Didaque’s website at www.didaque.org, They are a fully registered 501(c)3 non-profit corporation in the US, making your donations tax-deductible.

Drew Juvinall Dead at 82 Years Old

There’s a lot of joy and laughter in heaven these days. Drew Juvinall just arrived!

We’ll all miss this one-of-a-kind, witty, candid, amusingly irreverent, real estate ‘guru’ – and remarkable man – forever.  Heaven’s gain is our loss!

Drew came into this world at San Francisco Children’s Hospital and spent the first two-thirds of his 82 years in the Bay Area.

He was bigger than life, incredibly energetic – and delighted in living.  And he did it his way!  He was passionate about real estate, fast cars, the 49ers and barbecuing.

He adored his daughter Leigh, and always said how fortunate he was to have found his soulmate, Lana, his partner in real estate, as well as in life.

He formed the commercial real estate company of Juvinall-Neiman, with offices in Santa Rosa and Marin, with 40 agents, which he sold to Grubb & Ellis before moving to Visalia in 1989.  He and Lana worked for the Fresno office of Grubb & Ellis until the parent company set up an unprecedented satellite office for him in Visalia.

Drew and Lana Jordan then formed Jordan & Juvinall Commercial Real Estate in Visalia. Then, after building their oceanfront “vacation” home in Baja, they moved there permanently, and established Rosarito Beach Realty, which became as successful as Drew’s many other endeavors.  Never one to be content with the status quo, in February, 2018, he opened a second office in the La Fonda-La Mision area, which Lana will continue, as Drew wanted.

In 1992, he gathered together a group of prominent Visalia business and civic leaders to found the Tulare-Kings Counties Business and Industry Forecast.  It was attended each year by more than 500 business persons. He qualified for the prestigious Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, was a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and Tulare County Economic Development Corporation.

In Baja, he was instrumental in founding the Rosarito Chapter of AMPI (Mexican National Assn. of Realtors).  He was one of the first proponents for real estate licensing in the State of Baja California, and both he and Lana became licensed Baja brokers.  He always retained his California Real Estate Brokers License and continued as a member of NARS.

He delighted children in orphanages and in the hills above Rosarito in his Santa Claus suit, where he passed out presents with a hearty “Ho!Ho!Ho!”.

Above all, he was infamous for his “priest robes”, always saying “bless you my children” and relishing everyone’s reactions.  With that twinkle in his eye, he was equally believable as a benevolent priest and as jolly old St. Nick.

He leaves behind his wife, Lana Jordan Juvinall, daughter Leigh Konopka (son-in-law Jeff), as well as grandchildren, other close relatives, and many close friends.

A celebration of life to be announced.  Memories are welcome and may be shared at bajadrew@gmail.com.

Eyes in the Sky Assist First Responders

The first time I met with Gerardo Cervantes, local Operations Manager for the Bay Area commercial drone software developer Cape, he had just successfully completed a contract with the city of Ensenada for a test project of drone-assisted first responder enhancement in cooperation with the local police department.

Mayor Marco Antonio Novelo had approved the test project, and reported to the public in June 2018 that the result of that effort was a 10% reduction in crime and more than 500 arrests, notably by  apprehending perpetrators in the act of attempting home burglaries or other felonious activities.

Cape-enabled drones also proved invaluable in respect to the allocation of resources to assist first responders in many crisis situations, such as traffic accidents and critical medical emergencies.

Although Cape is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, they maintain a headquarters here in Ensenada, with an office in the Ensenada Business Center (on 4th Street in Zona Centro). They have a research and development team here, with Hector Elias (an Ensenada native) as the primary “test pilot” for Cape’s ongoing efforts to streamline and improve their state-of-the-art software.

Hector showed me some of the features of Cape’s technology that makes his company’s products superior to any other software on the market:

Drones equipped with the Cape Aerial Telepresence platform can be operated remotely from anywhere in the world.From his post near Playa Hermosa, he monitors a drone that is being teleoperated by an engineer in Redwood City, California.

Cape always utilizes the most sophisticated hardware available, including DJI M200 and M210 models, whose surveillance capabilities are second to none.

Currently, Cape is finalizing the details of a contract with the police department of Mexico City.

This arrangement was secured by Cape’s marketing specialist, Edgar Avalos, who I had the pleasure of meeting (along with Gerardo) on January 2nd.

Edgar told me that the cops there already have an operational drone program, but they are looking to improve their cybersecurity with the assistance of Cape’s software innovations. They’ll have Cape personnel present to train them and to assist them in any capacity necessary for rapid implementation of the new software to their existing (and additional) drones.

Both Edgar and Gerardo recall with pride the many situations in which they have interacted with local authorities to ensure safety and to improve response time in any critical event.

Cape provided surveillance for Peno Nieto when he came to Ensenada, as well as for AMLO when he was here campaigning.

They have been present at almost every activity where large crowds are present, such as music festivals and carnivals.

Notably, they provided aerial monitoring and drone security for the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 road races, from the starting lines to accident scenes along the routes.

In regards to the Mexico City implementation, Edgar said that the police department of that metropolis has such a massive number of personnel that Cape’s trainers will be training their trainers, and will have technicians present to assist in any manner necessary.

The benefit of having an R&D program here in Ensenada is primarily the absence of the air traffic regulations that are necessarily strict in the U.S. However (to my surprise), Edgar told me there is more air traffic here than most people realize, such as military and private helicopters, and the military air force base inside the city limits.

As a result, Cape maintains a 120-meter maximum to ensure the safety of other aircrafts, as well as of its own products.

Cape technology is versatile and impactful, and has repeatedly proven the ability to adapt expeditiously to the requirements of any given situation or event to which its assistance is requested.

As Gerardo says, “There is no competition.”

Cape is a dynamic organization, highly competitive, a close-knit team that is fiercely proud of its achievements, and is incessantly striving to improve upon its already remarkable software designs.

It is also transparent. As such, it offers to anyone who wishes to experience the thrill of flying a drone a program to satisfy that desire. It’s available weekdays from 8 am to 4 pm, and can be accessed through fly.cape.com.

Try it, you’ll like it! A trained technician will guide you through the 3-minute flight.

Ecological Patrol Attacked By Fishermen

The crew of one of 12 vessels operated by Sea Shepherd fell under attack by poachers inside the Vaquita Refuge in the northern part of the Sea of Cortez. Sea Shephard is an international conservation society dedicated to saving marine wildlife. Their mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans.

Dozens of angry fishermen in pangas raced alongside the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat, hurling objects and attempting to foul the ship’s propellers with their illegal nets.

Sea Shepherd for months has been patrolling, removing the gillnets set by fishermen catching totoaba. Totoaba bladders are sold on the black market in China for up to $10,000 per bladder.

Nets used to catch totoaba are a threat to critically endangered vaquita porpoises, and Mexico has banned gillnet fishing but allows Sea Shepherd to patrol the refuge as part of an effort to save the vaquita from becoming extinct. (The vaquita population is estimated at fewer than 30.) Totoaba are also threatened with extinction, mostly because of the damming of the Colorado river where they spawn. And the crazy Chinese believe they are a treatment for fertility, as well as circulatory and skin problems. The Mexican government pays the fishermen to not fish, but they can’t pay as much as the profit from selling the fish.

Sea Shepherd said in a news release that the tense incident involved 35 pangas swarming around the monitoring vessel until the Mexican Navy  zoomed in to help.

 Part of the news release reads:

 

The Sea Shepherd ship approached the pangas where obvious illegal poaching was taking place, as totoaba fishing gear was detected being loaded into a boat. The poachers attacked by hurling lead weights, anchors, trash, dead fish and even Tabasco sauce at the vessel and its wheelhouse windows in addition to Molotov cocktails they hastily prepared. They also sprayed gasoline at the ship and poured gas in the sea around the vessel.

Poachers then dropped one of their illegal gillnets in front of the bow of the moving Sea Shepherd vessel in an attempt to foul the ship’s propellers. Five angry poachers boarded the Farley Mowat and looted multiple objects from the vessel’s deck while it was temporarily immobilized.”

Sea Shepherd crew used fire hoses to keep poachers from entering the ship, while calls for assistance were made. Navy sailors stationed on the ship were under orders not to fire on the fishermen.

The fishermen began to disperse as a Navy helicopter arrived overhead. As the Farley Mowat got under way after its propellers were cleared of netting, the vessel was met by a Navy ship and the situation was brought under control. It was not clear if any arrests were made, or if anyone was injured.

Stated Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson: “Sea Shepherd will not be deterred by violence. Our mission is to prevent the extinction of the vaquita porpoise and we will continue to seize the nets of poachers in the Vaquita Refuge. Sea Shepherd salutes the quick responsiveness of the Mexican Navy in defusing a dangerous situation”.

Baja Neighbors Are Different

BY GEORGE JOBB

Neighbors here in the Baja can easily cross a broad spectrum of humanity. Anyone who has rented or owned down here for a few months or years undoubtedly has many stories about their neighbors.

A friend stopped by for morning coffee yesterday, standing high up on my deck, taking in the view of the adjacent neighbor’s yard. He observed that that was the largest hookah pipe he had ever seen! I gave him a “hmm,” and said I didn’t know what he was talking about. But when I peeked over, I saw It wasn’t a hookah pipe at all; it was what I would consider a large commercial still that they had built on their terrace. It obviously had just gone up in the last couple of days, since I hadn’t seen it before. The still itself stood about six feet tall, maybe seven. The girth at the bottom was about the size of a 45-gallon drum, but it was round and made of copper. They also had a copper bucket with a coiled copper line for cooling and condensing. My neighbors had put some time into this. I started getting flashbacks about all the movies or TV series I’d seen about moonshiners, and thought that maybe they were doing some filming, and that I was just overreacting. But I don’t think so, because usually things are pretty much what they appear to be. Judging by the five 25-pound propane tanks there, they were about to go into business!

I’m from Canada, and my parents at times used a still to ferment mash leftover from making wine which was turned into pure alcohol. Usually a liter or two at a time at the most. I also used to purchase a liter of moonshine about once a month back in the days when the kids were still in diapers and I was living from paycheck to paycheck. The Serbian who sold it to me was a regular workout partner. He brought the recipe with him and his family from the old country, a recipe made from raisins; it was quite tasty at about 70% alcohol. That’s a  pretty good kick for $10 a liter.

But this still of my neighbor’s was obviously designed to produce five or 10 gallons at a time. Normally you would do this on a farm or ranch or somewhere less populated. Perhaps up in the hills, because there’s usually a heavy odor given off by the process. Also, if there’s a problem with the pressure release valve. they tend to explode. As you’re dealing with 100% alcohol, it tends to catch on fire easily.

I prefer not to be the teller of bad news to the new tenant, who appears to be a Gringa hippie girl, but a condominium in this high-density area is not the place to install a commercial still. I’m not sure at this point how this is going to turn out, as I’ve only told one of the gardeners that this is probably a dangerous situation, and perhaps he should let the neighbor be aware of it. Perhaps she might want to get a more rural rental house in a less developed area for her startup business. Even in  Baja you still need some common sense.

It’s been five days now and nothing happened so far. The still is still there, cooking away.  Maybe I should just knock on her door and see if she’s going to have a tasting.

Popotla Is Not Just Another Trailer Park

Most Rosaritenses know of Popotla Restaurant and the surrounding campo, but what makes this campo stand out is their Homeowners Association, which raises money throughout the year not merely to use on their property, but to benefit charitable organizations in Rosarito.

This year, two personal scooters donated to the HOA from Cruzzin’ Mobility Scooters of Palm Desert, California were auctioned off at the Popotla HOA’s Fourth of July and Labor Day party events.

In addition, cash donations were made by HOA Board members, including President Michael Holliday and Secretary Chris McGuinness, a little before Christmas to the Rosarito Club de Ninos y Ninas (Boys and Girls Club), and the Cruz Roja Voluntarios Americanos of Rosarito and Primo Tapia.

The Homeowners Association raises funds throughout the year in a multitude of ways, including the annual Super Bowl pool and park parties on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, chili cook-offs, auctions, etcetera. Businesses in Rosarito and San Diego are solicited during the year for goods and services, or event tickets. 50/50 raffle tickets are sold at every HOA event, which adds to the coffers. The Board then meets quarterly, assesses the results,  and decides how the funds will be distributed.

You may be asking yourself where the idea for this philanthropy came from. When the Popotla HOA was formally established in 1983, “charity work” was actually written into their Charter. Chartered as a Cultural Deportiva in Mexico, the Popotla HOA focuses on improving community relations through the support of local charities. Since the Club de Ninos y Ninas and Cruz Roja organizations were given preferential status this past year, the Board may authorize donations to any worthy Rosarito charitable organization for their end-of-the-year donations. Past donations have also been awarded to the Rosarito Bomberos, as well as annual holiday bonuses to the park’s employees.

We all have organizations near and dear to our hearts, especially at this time of year. Many of us belong to HOA’s, so let’s take a page from the Popotla HOA handbook and think about giving back to the community, by organizing charity fundraisers within your HOA or neighborhood group.

Pictured in the photo are Board Members Penny Hill, Jewel Donathan, Rosy Torres (Club de Ninos y Ninas President), Jim Zigler, Michael Holliday (PHOA President), Chris McGuinness, and David Atkinson.

Fuel Theft Brings Much Of The Country To A Standstill

Over on the mainland, where gasoline is delivered through underground pipes, there are gas shortages at the pump because the pipelines are being tapped and siphoned illegally. By the time the gas gets to its destination, it’s down to a trickle.

Thieves have taken so much fuel that the President of the Republic has closed the pipelines and tanker trucks guarded by federal police and soldiers are moving the fuel. But there are not enough tanker trucks, even though an extra 3500 have been pressed into service. Fuel is bound up in ships and pierside storage tanks. “There is no shortage of fuel in the country,” swears the president. “The problem is all in the logistics of getting it to the stations.”  Baja doesn’t have a dog in this fight, because we are not connected to the grid of pipes; our fuel comes here barged over to Rosarito, then delivered to us by tanker trucks or directly imported from the US by tankers too.

But the fuel shortage in places on the mainland is a crisis. It’s been going on for a couple of weeks, so delivery of critical goods have not been made, and store shelves are becoming empty. People are not getting basic needs like food and diapers, and are suffering the collapse of public transportation. Mobile police protection is impacted as police can’t get fuel for their vehicles and many officers are turning to patrolling on foot, horse and bicycle.

And from the other side, we have a “no apology” narrative of how and why the fuel thieves have grown this activity into a career. First, the how:

Alberto and his accomplices now go out “at two or three in the morning to avoid [the police and military] operations,” explaining that everything’s “calm at that time.”

Alberto learned his dangerous and illegal trade in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz, while working with the Zetas drug cartel. He explained the entire pipeline tapping process. Pemex’s “no digging” signs make the pipes easy to find, he said, explaining that they are usually buried just a meter or so underground. Once a pipeline is located, Alberto gets to work to perforate it, with three halcones– hawks or lookouts – positioned strategically to warn of any approaching authorities.

“First you solder on a nipple . . . then you put on a carbon steel valve and a clamp . . .” he explained. Once the pipeline has been pierced, the fuel shoots up into the air, Alberto said, “. . .so we immediately have to connect a hose to start to fill the tanks.” The pipeline picador, who has 10 years’ experience in Puebla, Veracruz and Tamaulipas, said he has never received any instructions or assistance from employees of the state oil company, Pemex. “They have nothing to do with it, one just learns how to do it,” he said, adding that the method he uses to tap pipelines is safer and faster than the method they used 15 years ago.

Asked what he does if the authorities arrive during the course of his work, Alberto responded: “If they’re very close, well, we run.”

Each pipeline tap, which Alberto can complete in just half an hour, yields enough fuel to fill two 30,000-liter tanker trucks.

This expert driller, who works with different gangs of fuel thieves, charges 5,000 pesos (US $260) for his services.

The drivers of the tankers filled with the illicitly obtained fuel earn between 500 and 1,000 pesos (US $26 to $52) for each load they transport, Alberto said.

Fuel from San Martín Texmelucan, which is located about 40 kilometers northwest of Puebla city, sells for 10 pesos a liter. At legitimate stations here, we pay about 19 pesos per liter.

Three pesos goes to the owner of the land where the pipeline was perforated, three pesos goes to security expenses, and the remaining four pesos is profit for the thieves themselves. Part of the security cost is men roving on motorcycles to alert criminal gangs of the whereabouts of authorities.

A large portion of the population of Texmelucan is involved in the illicit fuel trade in one way or another. If the owners of land where pipelines are located refuse to grant access to fuel thieves, they are routinely threatened. Some landowners who have declined to cooperate have seen their properties set alight while others have been killed. At other times authorities have arrived to arrest thieves as they’re sucking out the fuel, only to have to deal with women and children thrust out in front of the confrontation as human shields. Most of these are not forced; people in these towns are complicit in the fuel thievery.

Fuel theft is estimated to have cost Mexico $5 billion at today’s exchange rate during former president Enrique Peña Nieto’s six-year term. Our current president has drawn a red line with this illegal activity, willing to put his followers through some pain to stop it. But combating the crime is one of the biggest challenges faced by the new federal government.

Gangs involved in fuel theft often clash with authorities and each other, causing the homicide rate in some parts of the country, such as Guanajuato, to surge. People are dying over a liter of gas.

Countering the statement from the President that we have no shortage of fuel, that it’s only logistics, is the Wall Street Journal’s report that Mexico imported 45% less gasoline from the US in the first 10 days of January, compared to last year. But the period in which they were cut back partially coincides with the fuel shortage the government has explained is the result of López Obrador’s decision to close several major petroleum pipelines as part of the strategy to combat fuel theft.

A report published by The Wall Street Journal cited data from Houston and New York-based ClipperData which shows that under the new government, seaborne gasoline imports from the United States’ Gulf Coast have averaged  a 28% decline on the quantity of U.S. gasoline imported in December 2017 and January 2018, when former president Enrique Peña Nieto was in office, according to ClipperData.

However, our ports are stuffed with gasoline, and can take no more. The tanker trucks simply can not distribute it nearly as fast as pushing it through underground pipes can accomplish.

There are other factors that appear to be contributing to the prolonged fuel shortage.

The Wall Street Journal claims the shortages have laid bare the inefficiencies of Mexico’s refineries. According to Pemex figures, the nation’s six refineries operated at a daily capacity of 46.1% last year through November. Monserrat Ramiro, a commissioner on Mexico’s Energy Regulatory Commission, said the current crisis is the result of years of insufficient investment in logistics infrastructure such as storage tanks, pipelines and fuel terminals.

President López Obrador, who has pledged to “rescue” Mexico’s oil sector by upgrading existing refineries and building a new one on the Gulf Coast in Tabasco, has said repeatedly that the current gasoline shortage is due to logistics rather than a lack of supply.

Monserrat Ramiro wrote on Twitter, “Mexico’s gasoline supply is paralyzed by closed fuel pipelines, but there are other factors: Pemex refining and downstream infrastructure are a mess, AMLO has stopped importing U.S. light crude, that is necessary for mixing with Mexico’s heavier crude)

Now that the pipelines are empty, the huachicoleros (fuel thieves), drill the pipelines not for milking, but to damage the pipes and prolong the shortage to force public opinion to pressure the government to stop fighting them. The criminals intend to take citizens as hostages in the situation, with the intent of making the government resigned to their illegal practice.

But AMLO was elected on the platform of ending corruption, and he is saying now it’s time to draw that red line and suffer for a little while, in order to show who’s boss in this country: The citizens or the gangs.

A poll by the newspaper Reforma confirmed  73 percent chose to fight and 18 percent chose to give in to the corruption. For now. If this shortage drags on, those numbers could reverse.

And the huachicoleros could succeed if they manage to continue sabotaging the empty pipelines. Many more people will prefer to have gasoline despite the fact that Pemex continues to be robbed, so for the authorities it is a race against time to restore acceptable levels of supply.

Everyone is saying this is temporary, but how long can those 9,000 soldiers be deployed along the pipeline, and how long can those helicopters be hovering over the pipes? And what happens when they’re gone? The huachicoleros will surely be back for this easy career. The one thing that will stop it isn’t even under discussion: putting these thieves in prison for a long time. This is all about impunity. The realistic expectation that getting caught is not a big problem. Without a reliable and honest judicial system, this is never going to end.

Cruz Roja Primo Tapia Hosts General Membership Meeting

The Board of the Primo Tapia branch of the Cruz Roja Voluntarios Americans invites the public to join them for their 2019 General Membership Meeting Saturday, January 12, 11 am at El Pescador Restaurant (just north of Puerto Nuevo). Coffee, tea, and sweet pastries will be offered during the meeting and El Pescador Restaurant will be open for lunch after the meeting.  There will be several mini-raffles sprinkled throughout the meeting, between the reports including financial, ambulance, and Thrift Store totals. You won’t believe how much money this little store donates to the Rosarito Cruz Roja Hospital an ambulance service each month.

The Cruz Roja Primo Tapia Board is seeking new members and persons interested in joining the Board in a variety of positions, including Membership, Technology, and Fundraising.  Some of next year’s fundraising events include a Paella Fest sometime in the spring and the popular Oktoberfest event in October. They wish to thank this year’s sponsors: Judith Douglas Spa, La Mision Fitness, Blue Gallery, del Valle Café, The Shack, Ollie’s Pizza, Happy Hour, Encanto, Splash, Mision Viejo, and Sprouts Chula Vista.

Even though the official title of the organization includes the word ‘’Americanos,’’ the Board and membership is open to all, including Mexican nationals. And the Cruz Roja Primo Tapia is actively seeking Mexican residents  as well as foreign residents to join the Board of Directors. Technically, we are all “Americans,” right?

One big change for 2019 is that all monthly meetings  at El Pescador (held the second Friday of the month at 10 am) will be open to the public.

Whereas, membership dues will remain at $20 per person annually, there will be several membership options available starting January 1.

You say you aren’t Board Member material? he Cruz Roja Primo Tapia Thrift Store is in need of volunteers to keep this venture able to support the hospital and ambulance service; even a couple hours a month would help tremendously. If a monthly commitment doesn’t work into your busy schedule, please consider volunteering for one of this year’s special fundraising events.

You do not have to be a current member to attend the general meeting. Membership forms will be available, and processed on site. And if you aren’t a member yet, why not? If the 50% discount on ambulance service to the US border (valued at $100 or more) isn’t inducement enough, remember that all visits to Rosarito’s Cruz Roja Hospital are discounted 10%. In November I walked into the Hospital without an appointment, was seen by a doctor who diagnosed an ear infection, wrote a medical scrip, gave me an injection to prevent an allergic reaction to mosquitos that I needed for an upcoming trip…all for about $5 US.  What a deal!

For more information, please see the Cruz Roja Primo Tapia website: www.CruzRojaPrimoTapia.com, and check out some of the Thrift Store’s best deals on Facebook at Cruz Roja – Primo Tapia Thrift Store.”

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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.

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