Que Pasa In Baja?

Did school start yet? Last week was supposed to be the start of the new year, but that wasn’t the case for more than 700,000 students from Kindergarten to high school that were left without classes since teachers from public schools are still on strike. Although the government has been paying most of the teachers that have a permanent position, they have been falling short on payments to retired and interim teachers.

The strike started while students were on their summer break, and it still hasn’t been resolved. The teachers union says the total amount owed to them totals $5.5 million USD.

Governor Kiko Vega said previously that the state government didn’t have any more money for them at that time since the federal government hadn’t fulfilled their promise to send the usual funds to our state. Federal authorities have vowed to send the money ASAP so students can resume classes starting in September.

Another excuse to drink! Like we needed more here in Baja. Recently, the state tourism office and Grupo Modelo (makers of Corona Beer here in Mexico), announced the “Beer Route” project. It consists of a website and an app for your phone that will enable you to see a map with the location of most of the craft beer breweries here in Baja.

A couple of years ago, the same office launched the “Ruta del Vino” project, which is basically the same but for wine, and it worked great for them. Now that craft beer is so popular here, they have decided to expand the idea for beer.

The app will launch at the end of September and will be available in both Spanish and English languages.

Possible new free zone. Since the lower taxes for the border have worked out, bringing an increased economic activity, Ruben Roa, incoming head of the economy office for our state, has stated that there is a plan to create a free trade zone with the US and Baja, where most merchandisers would not have to pay any import fees.

He already stated that Ensenada would be included if they go forward with this idea, although for other border states it would only cover about 20 miles from the border.

Ensenada will offer free WiFi for tourists and just about anyone else who is in the area. It is a new plan that the hotel association in Ensenada, along with the economic development council, have launched. The projects will offer free wireless internet in tourist areas of Ensenada, and although the project will be financed by the economic council, its maintenance will be self-sustainable with the sale of an ad space that will appear upon connecting to the network.

On its first stage, the areas covered will be from the start of Costero Boulevard (entrance to the city), to the Riviera Cultural Center and First Street from Ruiz to Castillo.

Bonilla vows to have the best police force in Mexico. Our incoming governor, Jaime Bonilla, has stated that Baja California will have the best police force in all of Mexico and that the head of it will be someone very well trained and without any ties to organized crimes.

“Our state will be a reference point for other states and for our president Lopez Obrador; my administration will be the first one elected during his governance, and for that reason he has stated that he is fully committed to Baja California. I won’t let you down,”  said Bonilla during a press conference. ,

One of his first strategies will be to correctly assign the police elements to each city: Tijuana needs about 800 more, Ensenada about 200 and Mexicali just 25. Meanwhile, Tecate has 40 more police officers than it should have and Rosarito is already at the recommended number. The number of officers needed per city is based on a norm established by the United Nations.

Que Pasa In Baja?

New cultural Plaza in Ensenada. Grupo Pando, the parent company of Santo Tomas winery, just got the approval from the city to close Miramar street to vehicular access, between 6th and 7th streets, in order to develop a plaza that will house an open-air forum, areas for art exhibits, gardens, and seating spaces.

The city agreed to let them use the street because the city lacks cultural spaces and also lacks money to develop them. This fixes both problems, since the city is not paying anything to establish this new plaza.

Grupo Pando already owns the lots and buildings on both sides of the street, and they were just waiting for approval from the city to use the street, as well as to develop the uninterrupted 27,000 sq/ft space.

Toll booths back to normal. You may think it is bad news that you have to pay the toll to use the scenic road again, but it’s actually excellent news. About two weeks ago, the federal police finally decided it was time to put their feet down and stop the illegal “toma casetas” (the people that were taking over the toll booths), and bring the law back into our state.

It was about time: We were hearing a lot of comments from tourists that were actually afraid of what was going on in the toll booths. We heard comments along the lines of “it looks like there is no law here,” or “people just don’t respect the police, they are 10 feet from them and they won’t do anything.”

Most locals were not unhappy with the situation, as they were saving money when using the road, but in the long run, it was affecting every one of us who lives here.

Jaime Bonilla, governor-elect, has already stated that he won’t allow for this kind of unlawful acts, and that our state will not be held hostage by groups that have ulterior motives.

It wasn’t me. That’s what our current governor is saying regarding the current financial situation that the state is in. Governor Kiko Vega recently stated that the federation owes our state about $500 million USD; this is money that used to come in from the federal government every month, but hasn’t been received here for the last 6 months.

The lack of funds has caused the state to get behind on payments for education, which amounts to 57% of the total budget for our state. Teachers are already on strike waiting for their payments.

State finances are managed differently in Mexico, as most of the revenue from taxes goes directly to the federal government and then the federation sends back what they see fit. This system has caused a lot of problems, since it undermines the autonomy of the state, especially when the government of a state is from a different party as the one from the federal government.

Cruises on the rise. And that’s not only for Baja, but country-wide there has been an increase of cruise visits in all of Mexico’s ports. An estimated 8 million people are expected to visit this country through a cruise ship, and while the Mexican Caribbean has seen an 8 percent increase, it has been our Pacific that has had the most significant rise in cruise visits with a whopping 15%.

Arturo Musi, president of the Mexican association of businesses, focused on cruise ship tourism (yes, that is a real thing), said that the Pacific will be able to receive the scheduled cruises until 2020. However, he also said that investments in infrastructure will be needed in order to catch up with the demand for 2021.

Cruise ship passengers leave about 50 million dollars every year in our country, from goods or services that they buy while they visit our country. It may not seem like much, but considering that all cruises include food and beverages, and that not even half of the passengers get off the ship, it’s not really that bad.

Ensenada gets blacklisted. The center for the study of public finances, based in the federal congress, issued a report that qualified a total of 655 municipalities in the country based on their debt and payment capacity. Of those, 64 were blacklisted as having high deficits and a low payment capacity compared to their debt. Ensenada headed the list, meaning it’s the municipality from the list that is in the worst shape financially.

Of course, there are worst municipalities in Mexico, but a lot were not even analyzed because the researchers couldn’t even gather data on those places.

Baja still popular for tourism. Our state head of tourism, Oscar Escobedo, has stated that last year we received 27 million tourists, and that Baja has been one of the states that has seen the most growth in the tourism sector, thanks to a policy of “selling experiences” and not places.

He said that the new trend is not to promote visits for a specific place, but promoting how being in that place would make you feel or what you can do while there; this has brought great results for Baja.

The tourism growth has been seen in the hotel industry as well, as there have been 38 new hotels developed in Baja during the last 6 years.

The Cross Border Express bridge has also boosted arrivals in the Tijuana airport, going from 3.9 million entries per year before the CBX to over 8 million after it.

Another crucial area that keeps growing is medical tourism, which, Escobedo stated, is generating over $500 million USD annually.

And not only in tourism. The state office for economic development stated recently that our state was first in economic growth in the last quarter from the states in the northern border, and the third place in all of Mexico.

Baja’s growth in the last quarter was 2.1% and the national average was just 0.2%, so we were significantly higher than other states. We have been steadily growing for 36 of the last 37 quarters, with an average growth of 3.7% annually. That’s not bad at
all!

Que Pasa In Baja?

How long will the new state government last? Boy, has this been a toughie for our state. The standard governor term for each of the states in Mexico is 6 years and has not been changed for many years. This year, though, it was decided (before the elections), that the new government would only last 2 years in order to merge our next governor’s election with the federal midterms. The reason behind this change was supposed to be an economic one, as our state would be able to have fewer elections. This was seen as a good move, since our state had a whopping 5 different elections in the last 6 years, costing us millions of pesos.

The move was approved by Congress a couple years ago, but just a week ago (and after Jaime Bonilla from Morena was elected governor), the congress reversed that change and said that the government was going to last 5 years instead of 2, merging it with another election.

This was seen as preposterous by the federal congress, which said that the people had voted for a 2-year governor, which was now being converted into a 5-year term, and they deemed it anti-democratic. Local congress representatives were accused of receiving a million dollars each from Bonilla’s team in exchange for their vote in favor of extending his term, which is an entirely plausible assumption, considering representatives from all different political parties voted in favor of the move.

After much fighting between the state and federal congress, the actual governor has stepped in and said he won’t support the change, making it difficult but not impossible for the 5-year term to kick in.

Federal congress has gone so far as to saying that our state congress should be eliminated because of their anti-democratic spirit. All of the congress representatives that voted in favor are being threatened to be fired from their political parties.

We have yet to see how this turns out, as the state congressional term ends this month and a new one comes in, which could reverse the measure.

I’m doing my part, what about you? Hans Backoff, head of Monte Xanic winery and the current chief of the local wineries’ association Provino, stated that wine consumption in Baja has increased to 9 liters per capita, per year, although our national average is just 1 liter.

For comparison, the United States drinks 9 liters, Chile and Argentina drink 15 and 20 liters respectively.

Tijuana taxi companies pissed off. Taxis from Tijuana have threatened the city of Rosarito saying that they will stop taking tourists there, in retaliation of $400 USD fines imposed about 3 months ago for working there without the proper permits.

The fines are a result of Rosarito taxi companies pressuring the city to crack down on foreign transportation services, claiming that it’s unfair competition for them. For their part, Tijuana taxi companies say that they are not breaking any laws, because they don’t pick up tourists in Rosarito, they just take them there; also, other cities like Ensenada and Mexicali do not have any problems with this, because they deliver the tourists who will spend their valuable money in the destination they’re taken to.

Governor-elect promises cleaner beaches. Jaime Bonilla, our newly elected governor, has just signed an agreement with San Diego County that will allow them to work together in projects to clean local beaches.

San Diego’s port commissioner said that they can support the future government with 15 million dollars in 15 programs developed by them that will help put an end to beach contamination that originates in Mexico but affects San Diego county directly.

Beaches in Ensenada ready for tourism. The clean beaches committee in Ensenada stated that all the beaches in the city are suitable for swimming this year.

Officials from the local environmental agency said that contamination in local beaches are well below the norm, saying that samples were taken from La Mision, Playa Hermosa, Pacifica, Monalisa and La Joya, and all passed the test without any issues.

The city is encouraging the general public to avoid smoking on the beach, as in the 2018 international beach cleaning effort, the most common trash found in the sand was cigarette butts.

No more “chocolate cars.” Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it, but as of press time, the governor-elect Jaime Bonilla has stated several times now that he will fix the problem with illegal cars circulating here in Baja.

Nowadays is hard to see a legal car at any stop sign, especially in Ensenada, where some officials are saying that up to 90% of vehicles in the city are illegal (meaning they haven’t been imported or have current plates).

The problem has been left to grow worse for many years, as it will be a political blow to whoever decides to crack down on these cars. The only solution, which has been tried once before, seems to be making a special program to regularize illegal cars cheaply and after that start cracking down on the newly illegal vehicles. ,

What’s Going On In This Country?

Pacifying unions at what cost? Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, (AMLO) has said he was ordering the education, interior and finance ministries to suspend laws passed by the government of his predecessor, President Enrique Pena Nieto

AMLO says those laws belong to the “neo-liberal” era, his name for the three and a half decades that preceded his election. He has repeatedly blamed that period for aggravating poverty, corruption and violence in Mexico.

The repeal of this law is aimed at buying off the CNTE teachers union – a dissident breakaway group from the biggest union, the SNTE. These young people who call themselves student teachers, although they don’t go to school, have staged months of protests and blockades to pressure Lopez Obrador to dump the 2013 reform that requires new teachers to take a competency exam and forbids the buying and selling of teaching jobs. AMLO  also let the head of the teachers union out of jail, who was found to have $200 million USD in properties, as well as a private jet. AMLO just this week gave her back all of her ill-gotten-booty and she is running for president of the union again! If she wins, she will once again be able to sway elections by delivering 26,000 votes from her teachers.

Central Americans Getting Pushy. Trump is cranking up pressure on Mexico to stop the flow of migrants through that country and it seems to be working. A little bit. Detentions of undocumented migrants waiting for registration in Mexico increased to 12,746 last month, an increase of almost one-third compared to February, and two-thirds compared to January.

The INM says that migrants staying at its facilities are not detained but rather are being held for processing, but rights groups and the migrants themselves say they are not free to leave.

Thousands of migrants have been stranded in Chiapas as they wait to see if they will be granted humanitarian visas, or at least 20-day transit visas that allow them to legally travel through Mexico.

Some of the migrants have been staying inside a makeshift shelter set up inside a sports stadium for almost three weeks, while others have camped in a field. “It’s madness that they’re making us wait so long. For what? For nothing!” said Daisy Maldonado, a 26-year-old from Honduras who traveled to Mexico with her five-year-old daughter.

Immigration Commissioner Tonatiuh Guillén said in a recent interview that a stricter immigration approach was being adopted in the south of Mexico due to a large number of arrivals, but he denied that it was a result of pressure from the United States, although two large groups of migrants – 204 from Honduras and 148 from Cuba – were deported from Mexico in recent days after they were found traveling through the country without having first regularized their immigration status.

“Migration officials are grabbing us like pigs,” said Erick Morazan, a 28-year-old Honduran migrant who traveled at night in a “caravan of zombies” to avoid detection by immigration officials and the possibility of deportation.

In related news. As the number of Central American immigrants has increased, the welcome mat in southern Mexico is being withdrawn. One Mapastepec resident who said she helped provide food for migrant caravans last year told Reuters that migrants “are pouring onto our land” and regularly ask residents for money, rejecting offers of food. A recent poll of close to 500 adults by the Center of Public Opinion at the University of the Valley of Mexico (UVM) found that 83% believed that migrants could cause problems for Mexico, and 62% said they believed Mexico should be tougher on them.

A heads-up vendor. El Chuy is a street vendor with a cart in downtown Oaxaca city. He is done selling his elotes (corn on the cob) and esquites (corn kernels cooked in butter and topped with mayonnaise, chile and lime juice) in the zócalo, or central square, of the southern state’s capital, using Styrofoam cups. He now wraps his goodies in corn husks.

He started using corn husks, explaining he had heard a lot about the damage that Styrofoam causes “to the seas, marine animals and ecosystems.”

Alvarado said his environmentally-conscious decision made more work for himself because he has to get up early in the morning to cut and clean the corn husks, but it’s been worth it: in addition to helping the environment, the Styrofoam substitute has proven popular among El Chuy’s customers. “People say the [the esquites] taste better than with Styrofoam. Corn husks are very clean and they release a very sweet flavor,” Alvarado said.

His sales have also improved, and despite the extra work he puts in, El Chuy continues to sell a serving of esquites at the same old price of 20 pesos (US $1).

Down, boy! Two women were attacked and mauled this week by their own family’s eight dogs — six pit bulls and two dalmatians. Police reported the dogs attacked a 46-year-old woman and her 26-year-old daughter at home. Authorities identified another daughter and her boyfriend, who live in the same house, as the dogs’ owners. The couple voluntarily gave permission for an animal control team to capture the animals.

One year ago two pit bulls killed a seven-year-old child in México state. He and his mother had left the house to go shopping but when they returned they discovered they had left the keys inside. The young boy volunteered to scale the entrance wall but when he descended on the other side the dogs attacked. Neighbors rushed to help but by the time they entered the home the child was dead.

Also on the mainland, a woman was mauled and partially eaten on her way to work by a pack of 11 dogs. Some of the dog’s owners refused to surrender them to authorities.

It gets closer to home: A boy dog riding along the Malecon in La Paz, in the back of a pickup truck, saw a pretty girl dog walking on a leash along the Malecon, just minding her own business. The boy dog leapt out of the truck and attacked. The boy dog’s owner leapt out too and tried to stop the fight the girl dog put up for her honor and the horny out of control dog turned around and bit his own owner in the face, enough that he had to have stitches!

The city of La Paz is trying to ban all dogs from the Malecon because even leashed dogs are biting, but they’re getting so much push back from dog owners, the law probably won’t work.

This isn’t working. Illegal taps on petroleum pipelines increased in both January and February compared to the same months last year despite the federal government’s crackdown on fuel theft.

The state oil company reported that 1,342 new pipeline taps were detected in February, an increase of 9.6% over the same month in 2018.

In January, a month when the federal government was implementing an anti-fuel theft strategy that caused widespread gasoline shortages, there were 1,519 new pipeline taps detected, a 45% increase compared to a year earlier. In Hidalgo, where more than 100 people were killed in January by an explosion at a tapped pipeline, the number of illegal taps still didn’t go down.

Three weeks after he took office on December 1, President López Obrador began implementing a strategy aimed at combating high levels of fuel theft, a crime that costs Pemex billions of pesos a year. The strategy included the closure of several major pipelines and the deployment of the military and Federal Police to protect fuel infrastructure. With pipelines closed, Pemex was forced to make greater use of tanker trucks to transport fuel, a situation that was blamed for causing prolonged gasoline shortages that affected more than 10 states.

The government’s claims that fuel theft has been significantly reduced appear to be not true.

Over $2 million in cash stolen. It took a group of armed men 3 minutes to steal $2.4 million worth of United States and Canadian dollars at Guanajuato International Airport in Central Mexico last Wednesday night, more than double the amount initially reported.

Between six and eight masked men in a truck disguised with a fake Aeroméxico logo breached security to enter the runway area, where they intercepted an airport service vehicle that was in the process of delivering the cash to a waiting aircraft.

The money had arrived at the airport in a PanAmericano armored truck at around 8 p.m. in order to be flown to Mexico City. The armed men stole 14 of 18 bags of cash from a sole unarmed PanAmericano guard and two airport employees traveling across the tarmac in a luggage transport vehicle. The thieves then loaded the money into their truck, drove to the perimeter of the airport property and knocked over a fence to escape.

Shortly after the robbery, police found the truck that was used in the robbery and recovered two of the stolen bags of cash. They later found two more bags of cash in another abandoned vehicle.

Federal and state police, as well as the army, conducted a joint search operation but there have been no arrests. Later, Federal Police set up checkpoints to inspect vehicles entering and leaving the Guanajuato airport as part of wider measures to bolster security at the facility.

The Outside Edge

The “outside edge” samples some of the outside activities available in northern Baja.  Each month a different activity will be reviewed with a focus on the ocean and mountains.  Reach me at davek@plasticclothing.com happy trails!

To travel or not to travel, that is the question.  Travel brings a sense of renewal, of energy, of change.  A good trip made of meeting new people, seeing new things, doing new activities- it all adds up to coming home with a charged up battery and a slightly changed perception of yourself and the world.  No one will argue these points, so why aren’t you coming to Mexico more often?

This newspaper targets northern Baja tourists and gringo locals.  Most of the locals agree with what I am going to say, so I’ll aim these points to the tourists and hope the locals can use it to send to their friends and family that have chosen not to visit Mexico in the last few years.  There is some bad news for sure out there- and the headlines sometimes sound even worse.  I have friends in San Diego actually think the Hondurans are attacking the border!

The issue is that these things happen in parts of Mexico, or parts in Tijuana.  Bad things happen all over the world, some of the worst in U.S cities; they just don’t make the news.  Everyone has heard a story about getting pulled over or even put in jail in Mexico.  If you dig deeper, those people were inevitably carrying small amounts of drugs, driving drunk, and/or drawing undue attention to themselves.  Don’t take my word for it, ask those questions next time you hear a story.  The last time I heard a bad story from a guy, it turned out he was looking for drugs in Cabo and had red mohawk at the time.  Go figure.

The border has improved and the line isn’t as long as it used to be.  The restaurants have the same great food and atmosphere as always, at half the price of San Diego.  There are a lot of checkpoints and security around, and most people speak English.  Start with lots of great mountain biking and surfing, throw in some of the best motocross and fishing in the world, mix in some great inexpensive and amazing wine tasting and affordable resorts and hotels… you get the picture.  Want to get more ‘out there’?  My article usually deals with day trips that are all about ‘out there’, start coming more often and pick up some good trip advice in future articles.  Baja is not even close to the population density as north of the border- ‘out there’ is as close as your hotel door!

Hope to see you on the trail!

Que Pasa In Baja?

Elections are here. Campaigns for governor, mayor, and state congressional seats have just started; that’s why you are seeing an excess of friendly looking faces on billboards and posters around town.

Elections are being held on Sunday, June 2nd, so on that day, you might see some lines of people where you usually don’t.

The elected governor for Baja will only last two years on his term; this is four fewer years than the usual 6-year term because we are trying to match the federal mid-term elections for the upcoming years.

This is causing a lot of unrest between supporters of Jaime Bonilla, the runner-up for governor from the Morena party (same party as our president, AMLO), who claims that his rights are being undermined with a shorter term in office. Bonilla is practically our next governor, with more than 60% of the preference in polls, while none of the others even get to 20%.

The PAN party has ruled Baja for more than 30 years, but people are not very happy with it, especially with the current governor Kiko Vega, who has been accused of corruption and plain old incompetence.

All 5 municipalities in Northern Baja will choose a new mayor, and although last year’s changes in the constitution allowed for city officials to be reelected, only Tijuana’s mayor, Juan Manuel Gastelum decided to compete for a second term in office.

Another whale dies. This past week the corpse of a grey whale appeared in Playa Hermosa, Ensenada. Since it was a Sunday and the weather was warm, lots of people who were there to enjoy the beach where amazed by the colossal animal lying on the beach. Some even decided it was a good idea to ride the dead animal for pictures, which pissed off some of the other beachgoers.

The federal zone authority (ZOFEMAT) was quick to bury the corpse; they said that they had to dig a hole 30 feet long and 12 feet deep so the animal could fit. Hopefully, no one had the great idea to dynamite it!

Wine pouring money. Officials from the state agriculture department stated that grape and wine production in Baja created about $18 million USD of revenue in our state.

Wine production was estimated in 8.1 million liters during 2018, and the most popular varietals being used were Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Tempranillo, and Merlot. The main buyers of our wine are Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, and the state of California in the US.

Although these are good numbers, there is still a long way to go: in comparison, last year California produced more than 64 million liters of wine. That’s almost 8 times our production!

Fake news scheme. A group of extortionists based in Tijuana was captured recently and then set free, after extorting money from several people with the threat of publishing fake news about them or their companies in several news websites that they managed.

A judge set them free, saying that extortion was not a serious crime and did not require preventive prison, thus allowing them to continue their process out of jail. The  day after they were set free, the leader of the group skipped bail and is now a fugitive.

He will probably be back in jail soon, since the FBI is now involved in the investigation because the group also extorted a couple of businesspeople from San Diego.

Bike Race Almost Here. It’s that time of the year again! The Rosarito-Ensenada bike race is being held on Saturday, May 4th. Mark it on your calendar, and remember not to take the roads that the riders will use during the event, since you could be stuck there for a long time.

The event is expected to bring about 7,000 competitors this year and 20,000 visitors, with a projected economic benefit for our area of $4 million USD.

Interesting proposal. One of the candidates for governor, Ignacio Anaya from the Party for Baja California (or PBC), has stated that if he is elected governor, he will start by pardoning 20 women that are in jail because they had an abortion in the past.

In Mexico and specifically in Baja, having an abortion is still a crime, although several activist groups have been fighting the matter. It is thought that it will be decriminalized soon, since the ruling party (Morena) is pro-abortion.

What’s Going On In This Country?

Teachers’ union goes nuts again.  The latest target of the teacher’s union members’ unhappiness with allowing their skills to be evaluated is the lower house of Congress, which they shut down. Camping out on the railroad tracks cost so many people so much money, that the tactic proved pretty unpopular. Nobody cares about Congress, so now they’re targeting them.

Stolen border fence. Some new barbed wire placed atop the border wall in Tijuana didn’t stay there long: it is now serving to improve security at several area homes on the southern side of the border. The wire was installed to reinforce the Mexico-U.S. border recently in response to the arrival of thousands of migrants in caravans from Central America. But the barbed wire is there no more, leading to the belief that thieves on the Mexico side removed it and sold it in nearby neighborhoods, giving residents protection from the border jumpers.

“We know about the theft of barbed wire because United States authorities have requested our help,” said Tijuana police chief Marco Antonio Sotomayor Amezcua. Houses near the border are now clearly protected with barbed wire of a similar size and what’s more, a type that is not sold in Mexican stores.

So. It’s necessary to protect one’s home, but not one’s country. Got it now. Not saying we understand it, just saying we got it now.

Shot over the bow. Canadian mining companies operating in Mexico should be on notice that the sector is going to face increased scrutiny on its environmental practices and treatment of Indigenous people, according to Mexico’s new ambassador to Canada.

“President Lopez Obrador has been very public about this, that we really want a strong, profitable mining sector – and Canadian mining companies are large investors in Mexico – but we expect them to operate in this country with exactly the same standards as they do in Canada,” Juan Jose Gomez said enforcement of Mexico’s existing laws will be increased under the government of new president Lopez Obrador.

The most pressing task when he gets to Ottawa will be the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, the text of which was completed nearly six months ago but has yet to be ratified by the partners.

No More Tourist Promotion. The private sector will assume responsibility for marketing Mexico as a tourism destination in light of the federal government’s decision to disband the Tourism Promotion Council (CPTM).

“It’s an effort that must be done together to promote Mexico as a country,” said José Manuel Campos. However, Campos didn’t reveal the size of the budget the new organization will have.

The government’s decision to disband the CPTM shortly after President AMLO took office last December has been widely criticized by members of the tourism and business sectors, including union boss Gustavo de Hoyos, who said it “makes you think that tourism has stopped being a priority.”

Well, yeah. AMLO would rather have his bullet train than tourists speeding into Mexico.

Dead turtles! More than 110 sea turtles have been found dead on beaches in Guerrero so far this month, causing widespread alarm. But a marine biologist says it’s a natural phenomenon that salpa, a zooplankton, sometimes carry high levels of toxins which, when they come in contact with the turtles, paralyzes and kills them.

In 2009 between 500 and 600 dead turtles were found and a similar number perished in the same way in 2016.

The biologist added that illegal fishing techniques, especially using nets in which turtles get trapped, have also been responsible for many deaths.

So far, dead sea turtles have been found in Coyuca de Benítez, San Jerónimo, Tecpan de Galeana, Acapulco and the Costa Chica region in Guerrero, all on the mainland.

Are You Outta Your Mind?? The government of Spain has “vigorously” rejected a request from Mexican President López Obrador that Spain apologizes for its conquest of Mexico that occurred about 500 years ago. López Obrador wants an apology for the indignities suffered by the native peoples during the period of the Spanish conquest.

2021 will be known as the Year of Historical Reconciliation when Mexico celebrates 200 years of independence and 500 years since the taking of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. It appears Spain will not be part of the festivities.

Que Pasa In Baja?

Germans interested in our wine. A group of Bavarian businessmen visited the wine valley last week in order to analyze the production potential of the area and the possibilities of collaborating with local wineries on different projects.

Specifically, local wineries were invited by the German company Nuremberg Messe to participate in upcoming beverage fairs from the Bavarian region that will include a section of international wines this year.

The executives visited several local wineries, including Roganto and Decantos, and also had a chance to enjoy the wine museum.

Baja safe for tourists. But very dangerous for criminals, at least that’s what our state tourism honcho, Oscar Escobedo, is preaching around Baja. He also stated that Baja has a lower crime rate among tourists than the state of California in the US. When asked about the spiking murder rates, he was quick to give the now official response “the majority of those cases are from folks in illicit activities.”

Off-road museum still no go. The controversial off-road museum in Ensenada still hasn’t been able to break ground, even though the state government says that the project is funded and the construction project done.

The state is saying that the project needs to be executed and managed by the local business groups, focusing on making the museum self-sustainable from ticket sales or trinkets sold at its gift shop.

The museum has been controversial because a big part of the community in Ensenada is against the project. The biggest issue is that the building would be just next to CEARTE, the local art museum, in a piece of land that was initially destined to build classrooms for art students.

Meter wars go on. Ensenada doesn’t make up its mind regarding the placement of parking meters around downtown; first the council approved the proposal to put up the meters, and now, after a contract has already been signed with a private company, the city is saying it wants to back out of the deal because of the enormous backlash they got from the citizens of Ensenada.

At this point, it’s cheaper to just install the parking meters and let the contract run its 18-year course than to pay the millions of pesos the company will demand if the council prohibits its operation; but of course, there is a political cost of approving such an unpopular move that no one wants to pay.

Baja Speaks English. That is the name of an initiative presented by congressman Carlos Torres, with the support of educative authorities and business groups, for concrete actions to take Baja all the way to the number one in the list of states with higher percentages of bilingual folks.

“Today, there is a language that can open doors to our kids and young boys and girls. A tool that allows us to even the opportunities between the privileged and the ones that have had less opportunities”, said Torres.

Baja California is the 57th region in the world with the most people that are able to speak a foreign language; Mexico as a country is 14th on the list.

Torres stated that a person who is fluent in English has the opportunity to earn 30% more than his non-bilingual counterparts.

The program will consist of a special set of benefits for companies that offer English class scholarships for its workers, and also by providing these benefits to English-language schools.

Hell breaks loose in San Felipe. After the Navy “accidentally” shot a Totoaba poacher in San Felipe, several fishermen protested violently at the Naval base and the protection agency office by burning cars, pangas, and buildings. Two more people were shot when protestors started throwing Molotov cocktails at the naval base buildings.

Fishing for Totoaba has been illegal in San Felipe for several years now because of its protected species status, and also because the area is declared as a protected space in an effort to save the Vaquita porpoise.

Better think twice about that beach bonfire. Rosarito officials from ZOFEMAT (the ones in charge of the federal zone at the beach), stated that they will be coordinating with the local police to crack down on beach fires; they are saying the activity is now prohibited because of the high level of contamination that the fires leave on the beach.

They also said that 110 new trash cans are being installed in local beaches so tourists can easily take their trash to the can and not leave it in the sand.

We’re going to be rich! A new initiative by state congressman Alejandro Arregui will allow citizens to collect damages when something bad happens because of the condition of the road.

If the law is passed, you will be able to sue the local government if you bust a tire, or your suspension when you fall in one of those enormous potholes that abound around here.

If that doesn’t seem far fetched, Arregui also proposed that the government has to take into consideration the amount of money “not earned” because of the time lost due to the accident, and says that it all has to be resolved in a maximum of 30 days by city or state officials.

If this initiative passes, our cities will go broke in 5 minutes, probably 2 for Ensenada!

What’s Going On In This Country?

Border emergency. You want to talk about a border emergency? Grab your passport and take a quick trip with me around the world. Look at the tensions between Israel and Syria. India and Pakistan. Iraq and Iran. Colombia and Venezuela. South Korea and North Korea. Now, closer to home, look at this relationship: United States-Mexico.

Thank goodness for good neighbors.

Can we have one of those? Groundbreaking took place Monday near Cancún for a US $312 million mall that will offer major brands. The Grand Outlet Riviera Maya will employ its “malltertainment” concept as nearly half the square footage will be allocated to entertainment attractions. The malltertainment concept consists of offering an all-round experience to the consumer. They even get an ice rink.

Construction started this week and is expected to take 18 months. There will also be a 7,500-seat auditorium, water features, an amusement park, a go-kart track described as the largest in the world and a hot air balloon ride. And three hotels.

Vanishing dolphins. Only 22 vaquita type of porpoises remain in the Gulf of California, a biology professor said yesterday, warning that the species could become extinct within months. The only place they can be found is the upper Sea of Cortez.

How do they know this? It’s a big sea, how can they be sure they’ve counted them all? Because 22 vaquitas were heard over a network of acoustic monitors. Ha! Maybe some vaquita were there and had nothing to say.

Vaquita huggers want more vigilance by the Navy but after angry fishermen who are accidently catching the little dolphins in their nets attacked a ship, Navy vessels have been too scaredy able to stop the illegal fishing.

Who doesn’t like Oxxo? Some residents of Oaxaca claim Oxxo is a threat to Mexico’s heritage. A movement calling itself anti-Oxxo, (less than imaginative but descriptive), erected blockades on several streets to prevent the mega-chain from constructing a new store in front of an elementary school. The group hopes to get all the locations in the city closed down. Members demand that the city government review every location’s construction permits and prohibit the franchise from opening more stores. Whoa, this is serious if they’re demanding permits. No way Oxxo, or any sophisticated chain spreads its tentacles legally.

At least five Oxxos are already located in the city center, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is a very cute town.

Electricity is terrorism now? For the second time this year the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) cut electricity service to the Acapulco water and sewer system, a move described by the water utility as “terrorism.” 600,000 residents were without water, no word on the sewer system, shudder.

The utility had been making daily payments, trying to catch up on the $3.5 million they owe. The day before the “terrorism” against the water/sewer system, they cut off the lights.

Walmart uprising. More than 8,500 Walmart employees in 10 states are seeking a 20% pay increase and a fat bonus. The mainly female cashiers and other low-ranking employees earn on average between US $7 to $7.50 per day, (minimum wage is about $5 a day). They are not enrolled in medical insurance or retirement, their union claims. This is illegal.

In addition, they charge that Walmart doesn’t respect the right to an eight-hour work day, doesn’t pay overtime in accordance with the law, discriminates against pregnant women, and has dismissed workers unfairly. Workers at 121 Walmart stores as well as 56 Sam’s Club outlets and an unspecified number of Bodega Aurrera stores are prepared to walk off the job and in some states they are supported by governors who have acknowledged the “abuse” to which Walmart employees are subjected. Uh, well, why didn’t they stop it then?

The threatened strike follows widespread job actions in several other states where thousands of factory workers have won 20% pay increases and annual bonuses of as much as US $1,650. And they got this within days. However, those were manufacturers who had big contracts to deliver product and would suffer badly if they didn’t deliver. Maybe Walmart can go a few days or weeks without selling a pair of socks.

Que Pasa In Baja?

Hurraaay, we’re getting parking meters! Said no one ever, especially the citizens of Ensenada, who are pretty pissed about a new ordinance passed by city council that will allow a private company “Iberparking S.A. de C.V.” to install the meters in downtown Ensenada.

The city will get 30% of all income generated by the 3,500 meters that are going to be installed downtown, while the other 70% goes to Iberparking. The parking fee will be 10 pesos per hour (about 55 cents US).

Most business groups have already stated their displeasure at the new ordinance, saying that at only 30% of income it’s a bad deal for the city and a potential problem for their businesses.

The reality is that the city is strapped for cash, looking at every option to make an extra penny without having to spend one and this looks like a good option for them. Not only will they get income from the meters themselves but also from the parking tickets generated from people parked at expired meters.

State Congress representatives for the city of Ensenada have already stated their displeasure with the new ordinance and are planning to create a commission to analyze the deal and find some way to revoke it.

Money for infrastructure. Although Ensenada was publicly recognized last year as part of the Tijuana, Tecate, Rosarito and Ensenada metropolitan zone, it wasn’t until last week that it was declared part of it in the federal law.

This will allow the city to access a piece of the 180 million USD in funds available for metropolitan zones in Mexico this year. The fund has allowed cities like Tijuana and Mexicali to fund major infrastructure projects.

It’s now up to the state government to integrate a local metropolitan development council to submit projects to get the funds. First on the list, road repairs.

Wait a minute! Just a couple of days after the Citizens Council for Public Security stated that Tijuana was the most violent city in the world, based on its murder rate, our state governor Kiko Vega came to the rescue stating that “no way TJ is that!”.

Governor Vega said that Tijuana has seen steadily lower rates in vehicle theft, commerce theft, violent robberies, and kidnapping.

He minimized the murder rate stating, “Violence should be measured based on the total of crimes and not only by one”. He also said that 90% of the murders in the city are directly related to drug trafficking, so it doesn’t count. Well, maybe those weren’t his exact words, but that was the idea.

So that’s what it was. After a big backlash by the local chambers of commerce regarding the change in the start place of the Baja 500 off-road race from downtown Ensenada to the Estero Beach Hotel (owned by Ensenada’s mayor’s family), Score officials stated that it was all an honest mistake because they were wrongly informed that the local elections would be in July, and by the time they found out they were actually in June, exactly on the last day of the race, it was already too late to make any changes in the calendar and they had to change the venue to avoid any disruptions in the election process.

In order to keep the local businesses happy, and get the $30,000 USD that they get from the local tourism board, Score has agreed to have their Tech and contingency event in downtown Ensenada on May 30th.

Monkeys announced in the Valley. The Jersey Zoo and Kids Park in the Guadalupe Valley announced that its currently building a new attraction called the monkey island, and although they don’t yet have an opening date, they say the island will hold from 12 to 20 monkeys that visitors will be able to watch from a distance.

The zoo already hosts about 250 animals and it has become an interesting attraction for locals and tourists alike. The entrance fee is $50 pesos per person plus $30 pesos for parking, if you want to use the pools inside your entrance fee goes up to $130 pesos. The park is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.. Keep the beers in the car as they won’t allow any alcoholic beverages inside the park.

Lower taxes working for Baja. It looks like the lower taxes for the border zone is working, as the Metropolitan Center for Economic Information (CEMDI) stated that sales had increased for the month of January in a whopping 25% compared to the same month last year.

Although the tax break isn’t for everyone, most major retailers were quick to reduce their taxes, reducing final consumer prices by about 8%.

CEMDI also stated that Baja California lowered its inflation rate by -1.52%, making it the biggest decrease in inflation in the entire country.

New mayor guaranteed for Rosarito. Mirna Rincon, current Rosarito Mayor, lost the nomination for the PAN party to Maria Ana Medina Perez in the internal election of the party this past March 3rd.

With 312 votes in favor, Ana Medina is now the confirmed candidate for Rosarito Mayor in the coming elections.

Hang in there. Spring  Break has started for US schools and at least 2,500 students are expected to visit Rosarito during the school break. Yes, we know it’s not super nice to have all those people drunk in our streets, shouting and singing, but remember, we’ve all been there!

Dinora Soto, head of the tourism and conventions committee for the city of Rosarito, stated that “For me Spring Break is an indicator that foreigners still trust Baja California and especially Rosarito. This weekend we will receive lots of students and whoever accompanies them and we already have 4 major concerts scheduled.”

Dinora also stated that this is the third year that spring breakers have come back to Rosarito, after several years of not having any major groups here in town. “Some of these young people come to our city with their whole families, and this means to us that Rosarito is still an attractive destination, and that is important for us”, she concluded.

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