Que Pasa In Baja?

Tijuana-Tecate Passenger Train Announced. Mario Escobedo, head of the state economy and tourism office, said that the Tijuana-Tecate passenger train is already in the works with an initial investment of $136 million USD for a 17-mile section.

He stated that the train would be a secure, sustainable option to connect with Tijuana and Tecate, with seven stations and two terminals. A minimum of 30,000 passengers are expected to use the train every day.

This project should not be confused with the existing tourism train that goes from Tijuana to Tecate (pictured above).

Initially, the project considered a route to Ensenada. And although the plan hasn’t been cancelled, Escobedo stated that “it’s not a priority right now”, mainly because the current state government administration will only last two years and will not be able to finish a project of such magnitude.

Ensenada Mayor Under Hot Water. Armando Ayala Robles, mayor of Ensenada, found himself in hot water this past week after local councilwoman Brenda Valenzuela protested about how he has been stamping his name in cement while still fresh in several public works.

Valenzuela stated that article 134 of the Mexican constitution clearly states that a person in public office cannot publicize himself in the public works they perform. “It’s also a very bad parody of the Walk of Fame in Hollywood”, said Valenzuela.

Baja Launches Tourism Campaign. In order to reactivate the local economy, which is being severely affected by COVID-19, the state of Baja California launched a promotional campaign named “Disfruta Baja California & Drive South” to attract tourists from California and Arizona.

“We are preparing for, when the time comes, promoting our state’s natural, cultural and gastronomic richness, in order to attract tourists that can drive over here and increase traffic to the most important tourist sites in Baja”, said Mario Escobedo, head of Economy and Tourism for the State.

The main objective of the campaign is to support the tourism sector in its reactivation, as well as to make people want to rediscover Baja or visit it for the first time.

Abandoned Ship To Be Unloaded Soon. The “Triumph” cargo ship, which has been abandoned since 2017 in the coasts of Ensenada due to a lengthy legal battle in England, is being finally unloaded soon, the Mexican Navy announced.

The Triumph has been reported to contain 47,000 tons of bauxita, a rock that is processed to obtain aluminum, and about 270 tons of high sulfur fuel. The ship has been all over local news lately as it was discovered that it has been slowly sinking due to the lack of maintenance.

It has been reported by local environmentalist groups that if the ship would completely sink, and the cargo and fuel would spill, a dangerous ecological disaster would ensue in the Ensenada bay.

Independence Celebrations Will be Online. The different independence celebrations in the cities of Baja California will be performed without public attendance, but will be available for viewing live online on social media.

Every year on September 15th, independence is celebrated with the traditional “grito” or shout, where mayors, governors and the president of Mexico go out to their balconies of their city hall and shout “Viva Mexico!” in front of a huge public audience that goes on to enjoy several cultural shows and dine on  traditional Mexican food.

On September 16th, a civilian and military parade goes through the most important streets of our cities, but this year it will be severely limited due to the pandemic, so authorities are encouraging people to watch it online instead.

Mexican Army Seizes Drug Load Valued at $16 million USD. Soldiers from the Mexican Army seized a massive load of  various drugs in the La Rumorosa area in Tecate.

The illicit drugs were found in an uninhabited area about 6 miles south from the town of La Rumorosa.

The army reported that 1 ton of crystal meth was found, along with 6 kilos of powdered fentanyl and 5,000 pills of that same drug. About 5.3 kilos of heroin and 4 gallons of marihuana (THC) oil were also found.

The army stated that the bust would considerably affect the financial structure of local crime organizations since the total street value of the drugs was about $16 million USD.

The drugs were found abandoned on a dirt road when the military was doing a surveillance drive through the area. No arrests were made in connection with the drugs.

No in-person classes for Baja. Governor Jaime Bonilla stated this week that students will continue with virtual classes at least for the remainder of the current school cycle, which continues until July 2021.

He said that public schools will use this time to maintain and improve school facilities.

Baja California has 639,452 students registered for virtual classes, from K to 12.

Labor Day increases hotel occupancy. There was a slight increase in occupancy in the Labor Day weekend of 11%, much less than the normal increase during that weekend, but a much needed increase for our area.

About 194,000 tourists visited our state, and brought just about $40 million USD to local businesses.

Que Pasa In Baja?

Local University Gets Paid. After numerous problems with the last State Government, the UABC autonomous state university system is finally receiving the 81 million USD that was pledged to it by the federation but was held up by the state in the past administration.

Governor Bonilla announced that he not only would he pay up the money but that he would offer space in the government center in Zona Rio to create a new campus.

Coronavirus Update. Oscar Perez Rico, head of the state health office, stated that Baja California is already “flattening the curve” of new coronavirus cases, as it has consistently had fewer infection cases in the last week.

Although the state, as a whole, has seen a decrease in cases, the city of Ensenada has been increasing the number of infections. In response to this, Perez Rico called upon the people of Ensenada to respect social distancing and to try to stay home as much as possible.

“We want to be one of the first states to get to the new normality, and our focus is not only to have a green light to restart everything, but to reactivate our economy in an orderly manner. If we start reopening prematurely we will only cause economic and health problems in the long run”, said Perez Rico.

Musicians get some relief. Baja’s State Government announced that about 400 musicians from Mexicali have received alimentary support from the State, as they are one of the many professions that hasn’t been able to do almost anything to support their families.

Jesus Alejandro Ruiz Uribe, delegate for the State Government, announced that they will continue to support up to 6,000 musicians, waiters and taxi drivers at this stage.

“Musicians give us joy and they cheer up the population; we shouldn’t leave them alone in these tough times,” said Ruiz Uribe.

Ex-Mayor charged for embezzlement. Gilberto Hirata Chico, former mayor of Ensenada, and a very controversial one, has been charged along with his treasurer Samuel Aguilar Jaime for allegedly misappropriating federal funds amounting to $165,000 USD.

This is the first time a Mayor of Ensenada has been officially charged for crimes committed during his tenure.

This is the first allegation of a couple that were made that was accepted to be tried in court.

Justice is coming slowly to citizens of Ensenada in this case, as the first accusation was presented in May of 2017, and although it has already been accepted into court it has yet to be tried.

La Mision museum catches fire. A classroom in La Mision’s elementary school that was being used as a local museum, caught fire last week and was reduced to ashes.

The community museum was founded in 1938 by the then president Lazaro Cardenas.

“Unfortunately, it looks like we lost all of that heritage that encourages and fosters future generations to recognize their ancestry, culture and effort from this town”, said Isidro Escobar, a resident of La Mision.

Arturo Rivera, local representative for the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History), stated that residents have already displayed an avid interest in rebuilding the museum.

Baja 1000 confirmed. Ensenada Mayor and Score International authorities signed an agreement to celebrate the Baja 1000 Off- Road race from November 17th to the 22nd, beginning and ending in the city of Ensenada under strict sanitary protocols.

Although the Baja 500 is moving to San Felipe this year, local business groups and authorities worked to make sure that the Baja 1000 stays in the city.

Score announced that the race this year will not be having meet and greet events, press conferences, opening ceremonies, and that the mechanical revisions won’t be open to the public.

State Congress wants to reduce local wine taxes. A new proposal has been submitted to state congress that would allow local wines to pay only half of the IEPS taxes which today amounts to 26.5% of the sales price.

Congress also wants to keep the remaining half of the tax, to be used specifically to support the wine industry in different projects, instead of having to send it to the federation.

This would make local wines more competitive, as one of the main concerns of local producers is that their prices are not competitive compared to other foreign wines because of this tax.

Playas Toll Booth Free for Residents. Although the complete removal of the toll booth was not achieved, the state government along with a local residents group were able to negotiate free transit with electronic cards for residents of Playas de Tijuana.

A total of 18 neighborhoods, where 10,000 families live, will be benefited with these actions as they won’t have to pay any more to exit or enter their homes.

The fight for the removal of the Playas toll booth has been ongoing for decades by residents, and was one of the commitments of governor Bonilla’s campaign.

Que Pasa in Baja?

Same-sex marriages not approved in Baja. The reform that would have allowed same-sex couples to be legally married did not get enough votes to be approved by the State Congress.

The controversial reform would have needed at least 17 votes in order to be passed but it only received 15 supporters. There were 3 votes against it and 7 abstentions.

Several groups of people from both sides protested outside of city halls all over Baja to get exposure for their cause.

Two of the absentee voters, Claudia Agaton and David Ruvalcaba, were heavily criticized as opportunists and traitors because they had been supporters on social media against homophobia.

 

Rosarito desalt plant project canceled. The newly created “State Water Commission of Baja California” announced that it had decided to cancel the huge desalt project that was being built in Rosarito because it was too expensive for the State and they wouldn’t be able to bear the monthly cost of almost 8.5 million dollars.

The project was being built by a group of companies that had a contract with the state government to sell most of the water to them, with the remainder going to the Otay Water District. The State government is trying to get out of the contract on the basis that there was a breach of contract when the construction didn’t advance as planned.

“For starters, the project was just too big, it’s like buying a bus to take your kids to school, it’s a massive solution”, said Salomon Faz from the State Government.

The government is already in talks with the company to reach a mutual agreement, while it also looks for another place to build a new desalt plant with a smaller capacity.

Faz stated that even with the cancellation of this huge project, Baja had its water supply assured for the time being.

 

Ensenada police protest. The union for city police officers said that their members were going to be working under protest because their most basic needs hadn’t been met.

They are asking for wages that have not been paid and the lack of monetary support from the force when they have to be relocated to another district.

In order to avoid affecting the population directly, they decided to protest by not writing any traffic tickets, which they are hoping only lasts a few days or until their demands are met.

 

No wine parties this year! Provino, the association that unites most of the winemakers of the Guadalupe Valley, has released a statement saying that because of COVID-19, they won’t be able to hold any wine parties this year.

The wine parties would be celebrating their 30th anniversary this edition.

Santiago Cosio Pando, head of PROVINO, stated that these activities generated over $37 million USD last year alone, that will be lost this year to the Coronavirus.

 

Controversy over Playas toll booth stirs fight. Just one day after Governor Bonilla successfully “took over” the Playas de Tijuana toll booth while stating that it was going to be free for everyone passing through it, federal forces from the National Guard took them back from State Authorities and said they were not closing the toll booth.

Governor Bonilla said that the toll booths were put in place originally to pay for the development of the scenic road, but that by now the road should have been paid for by 4 or 5 times its value.

 

Baja 500 finally canceled. After going back and forth between the city and SCORE International, the city has finally put its foot down and decided to cancel the event completely.

SCORE had already announced that the Baja 500 race was being moved to August but got reprimanded by the city because they said they had not authorized that.

The plan was to have a no-spectators race in August, but the city government was afraid of fans and visitors’ agglomerations which could spark a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases.

This, along with the cancellation of the wine parties, will be a hard blow for the local tourist industry which were looking forward to these events in order to keep their businesses afloat during this tough pandemic.

 

Baja popped up in the Trump-AMLO meeting. According to the multinational company Sempra Energy, their $2 billion USD investment planned to expand operations on the “Energia Costa Azul” project was one of the main topics discussed by the two presidents.

The investment will be applied in a project to store, transport, liquify and distribute natural gas that would come from the USA and would be exported to several countries via Ensenada.

The complete project is expected to generate about 30,000 jobs, and bring much needed prosperity to both sides of the border.

 

Baja Congresswoman under fire. Montserrat Caballero, State Congresswoman from the Morena party, has been under heavy criticism this last week when she was caught drinking a can of Tecate Light beer while on a virtual congress session.

 

Rosarito closes beaches on weekends, again. Just a couple of days after the city had decided to reopen beaches for sports activities every day from 6:00 am to 10:00 am, city officials decided to completely close access to the beach on weekends.

The decision came after several beaches got packed with families that were clearly not there to participate in any sporting events.

The city said that they didn’t have enough personnel to monitor the beaches constantly while open, so they decided to close them on the weekends.

They are still open for sports activities, Monday to Friday, from 6 am to 10 am.

 

Sharp Healthcare offers FREE webinar. Dr. Andres Smith, global patient services medical Director at Sharp Chula Vista and President of Cruz Roja Tijuana, is offering a free online one-hour webinar this coming Wednesday, July 29 starting at 10:00 am.

Dr. Smith will discuss COVID-19 updates for the U.S. and Mexico, including current border status, what to do if exposed or have a positive COVID-19 result, and what to expect when seeking medical care.

For information or to register for the webinar contact Minerva Santos at (858)-499-4962 or email her at Minerva.santos@sharp.com

Que Pasa In Baja?

State Employees “Seize” Kiko Vega’s House. About 250 state workers gathered in front of Baja’s former governor Kiko Vega and symbolically seized his residence.

The angry mob displayed gigantic signs that said: “seized, because of his debt to the state hospital system, pensions, medicine and even toilet paper”.

The unhappy protestors first marched to the offices of the state prosecutor, where they filed a lawsuit against him for the misuse of about $46 million USD that belonged to the state workers union.

“There are over 5,000 retirees who haven’t received their pensions,” said Jose Luis Parra, spokesman for the protestors.

Meanwhile, in social media, news of the ex-governors arrest in Mexico City’s airport as he supposedly tried to board a plane to Spain with over $2 million USD in cash, quickly went viral, but turned out to be a complete fabrication.

San Quintin Could Become Its Own Municipality. Baja California’s State Governor, Jaime Bonilla, asserted that as early as January, San Quintin could become independent from Ensenada. Bonilla said that this process had already been advanced and that previous work regarding this subject is just being resumed by his administration. Furthermore, he emphasized the full support from the state congress, and that Rep. Miriam Cano Núñez is working on the commission to attend to this matter, confirming that soon San Quintin will be determining its own destiny.

Also, during his visit to the southern area of Ensenada for the presentation of the concert “Baja California, Tierra que Sueña,” the song of the same name was performed, having been composed by Enrique González Medina especially for the occasion, the governor mentioned that the construction of the desalination plant that has been held up for some time now will be reviewed and continued in San Quintin. He said that water is not only important for agricultural productivity, but also for urban social development.

Foreigners In Baja react to the LeBaron family attacks. Many American citizens reacted to the LeBarón family massacre during interviews with Telemundo 20 about the violence in Mexico and whether or not this makes them want to return to their native countries from Mexico.

“It’s heartbreaking to see how people can hurt a 5-year-old boy,” said Ramón Salcedo of Indiana, who has lived in Tijuana for 3 three years.

Others said, “This level of violence is something that anyone can experience, regardless of their nationality; Mexicans, Americans, Hondurans, Haitians. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a safe environment. ”

However, despite the video where a car can be seen on fire, those interviewed say they do not want to return to North America. They recognize that violence is part of the sacrifice of living in Tijuana or elsewhere in Mexico.

Ensenada and Rosarito count up the damages done by recent fires. More than 21,000 acres were burned by the wildfires in various places around the Ensenada and Playas de Rosarito municipalities, affecting mostly bushland and scrubland zones.

According to the civil protection office, the southern part of Rosarito was the most heavily affected, primarily in Santa Anita, Alisitos, El Morro, Villas San Pedro and La Mision, where one person died, and livestock were lost due to the fires driven by strong Santa Ana winds.

Other affected areas in Rosarito were Morelos neighborhood, Lomas Altas I and II, El Aguajito, Huahuatay, and Constitución. The fires left a total of 41 burned houses in southern Rosarito and another 15 in the city. Meanwhile in Ensenada, a total of 53 houses were consumed by fire and unfortunately, two people died.

Uber Eats Delivers Goods. A group of voluntary Uber Eats drivers from Tijuana came to Rosarito to deliver much-needed goods to those affected by the recent fires.

At the same time these guys were helping out those in need, Uber drivers were being harassed by local authorities because they say, Uber is not allowed in Rosarito. One of these drivers was fined by no less than 6 police officers while his car was towed away.

Backup Arrives. 200 elements from the National Guard arrived last week to the Tijuana airport in order to help with intelligence and investigation matters in Baja.

Violence in Baja has been on the rise and this military presence represents an extra effort by the Federal government to achieve containment of the situation.

“They aren’t coming here to be on the streets, they are coming to do intelligence work, to help integrate cases correctly and stop violence in the state,” said Ruiz Hernandez, lead prosecutor for Baja California.

50 of those national guard elements are working exclusively on firearms traffic, independently of the agreements between Mexico and the US regarding this matter.

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.

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