What’s Going On In This Country?

Shooting. Despite campaigns and laws against shooting up, New Year’s revelers continue the tradition of firing guns at the stroke of midnight. And if you don’t have a gun, police in Sinaloa will lend you one, which proved fatal for a seven-year-old girl in Oaxaca after she was struck by a stray New Year’s bullet. The little girl and her family were seated outdoors and preparing to enjoy a New Year’s Eve dinner when she appeared to faint.

At about the same time that Vivian was hit, two local police officers loaned an automatic rifle to a New Year’s reveler, so he could join the fun and fire shots into the air. The two are under investigation after a video of the incident surfaced. After the video appeared, they were relieved of their weapons and put under investigation. Don’t expect more than a slap on the wrist.

General Motors has retaken the title of No. 1 automaker in Mexico after an eight-year hiatus inflicted by Nissan.

The United States manufacturer made more than 801,000 light vehicles in Mexico by the end of November last year, a 9% increase over the previous year. It was also the top auto exporter from Mexico, with over 775,000 of its new vehicles shipped out of the country. Japanese automaker Nissan, which was Mexico’s largest between 2011 and 2017, made 717,100 vehicles in the first 11 months of 2018, a 9% decline from the previous year.

GM on a roll. The numbers are a reflection of GM’s renewed manufacturing focus in Mexico and the difficulties faced by Nissan due to a contraction of the Mexican auto market. By increasing its production capacity in Mexico in the past two years, GM thumbed its nose at President Donald Trump. To add to Trump’s consternation, GM announced it plans to manufacture new models in Mexico, including the Chevrolet Equinox SUV, the GMC Terrain and the Chevrolet Blazer.

The new trade agreement late last year between Mexico, the United States and Canada will bring changes to the North American auto sector and push up manufacturing costs in Mexico, but GM and other U.S. manufacturers are well prepared. Among the changes agreed to in the new pact, known as USMCA, are an increase to regional content levels to 75% from 62.5% in order for a car to be given tariff-free status, and a requirement for 40% of content to come from high-wage areas where workers earn at least US $16 per hour.

The trade agreement, which may or may not pass Congress, will replace the 25-year-old NAFTA at the start of 2020. Or not. That $16 wage is about as likely to happen as Mexico paying for the wall, but by that time, if Trump is still president, he won’t be paying attention to the art in this deal.

Gas grief. The same night President López Obrador reported the pipeline that runs from Tuxpan to Azcapotzalco was fixed, it was breached again. “It was working and at 11 o’clock at night it was broken again, and it is being repaired again; I am informed that in an hour the supply will be re-established. As I have said, let’s see who gets tired of this bullshit first.” OK, so he didn’t say bullshit. If you want a word-for-word quote, you can learn Spanish and listen to him yourself. He gives press conference every morning at 7 am, which is carried live on Youtube.

This week, another pipeline was vandalized for three consecutive days. Security will be reinforced along the main pipelines of Pemex, and President AMLO announced new special bases chock full of soldiers ready to charge out and arrest the fuel thieves. Ja! Even a cat knows better than to expect to see that. There will also be aerial surveillance, he said. “Since yesterday and today begins surveillance in air force helicopters in all pipelines and special bases are being created every certain distance.” Forever? 9,000 extra soldiers and guarding the pipelines. For how long? The thieves will just lay low until AMLO gives up on this silly game.

More gas grief. The federal government’s fuel theft strategy has not only stranded motorists unable to get gasoline, but ships are stuck as well: at least 60 oil tankers are stranded in Mexico’s principal ports, unable to unload their fuel because Mexico is afraid to send the fuel they already have through the pipes. There are not enough tanker trucks to distribute it.

Que Pasa In Baja?

More taxis for Ensenada. A total of 224 permits for new taxis were given out by Mayor Novelo to work the city. The mayor congratulated the new taxi drivers who acquired cars to use as taxis, which he said will “benefit taxi users and the families of the drivers, who will now have their own patrimony.” Really? With new and efficient technologies like Uber emerging and growing every day, do we really need more plain old taxis? We all know all those permits get sold in a week and end up in the hands of a couple of monopolies around town; unfortunately, it’s the same thing all over Mexico.

Trash problem growing. Ensenada alderman Jorge Camargo is pushing the local government, for the second time in five months, to hire private trucks to help the city with the problem.

Camargo is saying that the city deficit in trash collection is around 150 tons daily. Yes, you read that correctly, that’s 150 tons that don’t get picked up every day.

The trash problem is so big in Ensenada that it has forced people to recycle, in an effort to not fill up their trash cans with plastic and cardboard. Many millions have been spent in educational programs to get people to recycle, but it never worked. Who would have known that leaving people with their trash for over a month would work even better!

Toll road corruption. The federal government has opened a formal investigation against CAPUFE Baja California, the office in charge of the toll roads here in Baja. The feds are saying that our state office has been looking the other way when contractors hired to work on the road overcharge millions.

To add insult to injury, some of these contracts have not been finished more than a year after their due date, and some of the ones that were finished were not done to the original specs.

The feds say the contractors, along with corrupt officials, stole about $11 million USD from the government on these projects, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! And just because this is Mexico, the guy in charge of all these contracts is still heading his office, although authorities say “he is being thoroughly investigated.”

Local movie in theaters now. The new horror movie “Belzebuth” just got to theaters last week. The movie was completely filmed here in Baja (Mexicali to be exact), and was co-produced by our very own University of Baja California, or UABC. The movie starts Tobin Bell, better known for the “Saw” movies, and Julian Cosio, a Mexican actor widely known here. The movie is in English, so you shouldn’t have a problem understanding it. Hopefully, it will still be here when this paper hits the racks.

TJ Migrant caravan down to 700. The head count last week in the Tijuana shelter that was set up for Central American migrants that came here was down to 700 people from 6,000 that had arrived in Tijuana back in November.

The Mexican government gave humanitarian work visas to 2,900, and those are thought to be already working here in Baja, while another 2,600 are said to have been arrested by the border patrol in San Diego. Others have decided to go back to their home countries.

More caravan havoc. Just when we thought that was over, another caravan of 2,500+ central American immigrants has just crossed over to Mexico in Chiapas. From those, just under 1,000 crossed the border legally, and the other ones just barged right in when no one was looking; it was said on the news that the border was open; no federal police were there to guard it, as was previously claimed.

Members of this new caravan have already stated that they are on their way to Tijuana, so expect more problems in the near future, and probably border shutdowns from Trump when they get here.

Don’t worry, it’s just another drug-related murder. Our state governor, Kiko Vega, stated that up to 85% of Baja’s 2,570 murder count during 2018 was drug related. Baja ended the year with the record for biggest increase in murders from 2017, with an increase of about 500 murders from last year.

Vega said that Baja has seen bigger quantities of drugs arriving to our state in the last year, which has caused an increase in violence from that illegal activity.

“We need to reform the Federal Penal Code so that people that carry firearms without permit go to jail”, he said.

Meanwhile tourism is growing. During 2018 we received more than 26 million tourists in our state, which brought about $1.6 billion USD to our state. 58% of our tourists were from other countries, most of them from the US, and the other 42% were Mexican nationals.

Tourism has been recovering its importance in Baja, and it now represents 8% of our GDP.

Zona Libre reminder. I have received a couple of complaints  from people who are thinking that they’re being robbed because they are gringos when they see their sales receipt showing they are being charged 16% sales tax (or IVA). People, go back and read my article from last edition; not all businesses qualify for the Free Zone tax break, thus making them ineligible to charge 8% tax.  The Gringo Gazette North (that’s us!) is one of those companies that doesn’t qualify, meaning that we still have to charge 16% IVA tax. A lot of small companies are in the same situation; please keep that in mind when you receive your ticket.

On the other hand, most of the big stores like Costco, Walmart, Calimax, Soriana and Florido all qualify for the tax break and are already charging 8% instead of 16%. Enjoy the discount!

Cooking Like a Mexican

BY ALEJANDRA BORBOLLA

Buñuelos

December in Mexico is about eating, sharing and caring. One of the most important things about Mexican food is dessert, and even though I don’t write much about it, I think it’s a good opportunity now, calorie counting being tossed to the winds and all.

Buñuelos is a recipe as old as colonized Mexico. One of the oldest known recipe books belongs to Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a poet, dramatist, scholar and nun who was born around 1651. Her mother was a creole, and her father Spanish, but they did not have a large income. From when she was a little girl, she was hungry for knowledge, mostly self-taught from burying her nose in whatever book she could find. She also taught herself to read when she was three years old, or so the story goes. This was a time when girls were not allowed to go to school. Her mother knew she was bright, so she sent Inés to Mexico City to live with relatives. She was called to be a lady-in-waiting in the court of the viceroy’s wife.

A few years later, she was at the point where she either married or became a nun. So, she became the latter. We don’t know what was going on on the boyfriend front, but apparently not much. She joined the barefoot carmelitas but only stayed there four months, because she became sick. After recovering, her stark room at her new convent became the meeting point for intellectuals and poets, and Luisa Manrique, another viceroy’s wife (who, rumor has it, had a huge girl crush on María Inés). In her room, she also performed scientific experiments and had an amazing collection of books.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, woman with too many names was a poet, a dramatist, a scholar and a nun who invented  buñuelos, which got her on the 200 peso note. But didn’t get her a husband, which oversight got her into a convent.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, woman with too many names was a poet, a dramatist, a scholar and a nun who invented buñuelos, which got her on the 200 peso note. But didn’t get her a husband, which oversight got her into a convent.

Sor Juana was well known for many things, most of those controversial. Most men who were in the same niche as her would publish “pseudonymous” letters trying to convince her to stick to her religious duty rather than using her brain. She wrote mostly poetry, about love, erotism, (She’s a nun, what does she know? Possibly her reason for going into the convent should be looked into.) She also wrote about morals and psychology. (One of her most important poems is written in tiny mice type on the 200 peso note, along with her portrait, which we’re hoping was taken on an unusually bad day).

But today we’re talking about this iconic woman because along with her other talents, she was a great cook. Her recipes were perfectly aligned with poetry, and delicious. Her culinary expertise, however, started at her family’s home back when she was a little girl, before all the nunsense. (haha, see what I did here? Nun-nonsense? I’m hilarious!)

The cooks at the hacienda kitchen were indigenous women from Oaxaca, so she grew up with both Spanish and indigenous cuisine.

Buñuelos de rodilla are a special buñuelo, which grandmothers used to shape with their bare knees, literally. In the olden days, buñuelos were actually called “puñuelos” because they were kneaded with the fists, called puños. The heritage form this dish comes from Iberian Christians, aka Spaniards, who had several recipes, including cheese, rice, pulque and milk.

Buñuelos were invented by the working class of the southern Spanish peninsula looking for a cheap, sweet, warm treat they could have in the winter when the economy wasn’t exactly thriving.

Every state has its own buñuelo recipe, ranging from bright orange colors, sugar coated or syrup, fried in lard or oil, served in corn husks or in paper. (Remember what I keep telling you: Mexican cooking is very regional.) Buñuelos are a sweet treat that is usually found around the church square of cities and towns, sold by street vendors at special times like Christmas, revolution day, independence day, day of the dead, etc.

In Oaxaca, buñuelos are eaten on a plate that will be thrown and shattered on the floor later, once it breaks in a million pieces, a wish will be granted for the next year. It’s not every state that observes that tradition.

Big batches are the usual when making buñuelos, because even though they are very cheap, it is very much worthier to make a lot of them at one time, because it’s not like people are going to eat just one, trust me.

To compliment this recipe, I’ll give you a short, sweet drink too, which is atole de masa, a thick hot drink that is not too sweet to balance out the flavors. Atole and buñuelos go together like mash and gravy. This is a completely Mexican drink, which was made ceremoniously by the Aztecs, and some rural communities still drink it in their every day lives. Sometimes, a cup of atole is all they have throughout the day, until they come home to have a hearty meal. The main ingredient is masa, the dough that is the base for tortillas.

For the Buñuelos:

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 cups of sunflower oil

4 oz of water

½ stick of butter

½ teaspoon of star anise

3 tablespoons of sugar

1 pinch of salt

1 pinch of cinnamon

How to:

Shift flour and sugar together, along with the salt and cinnamon.

Heat up some water in a pot, and add the star asnise. This liquid will be what gives buñuelos their signature taste and fragrance.

Add the butter to the dry ingredients, preferably at room temperature and start mixing. Using your hands will be faster and easier. Wash them first.

Once the butter and flour are mixed together, start adding tablespoons of the anise water, slowly, until a firm and homogeneous dough is achieved. The perfect consistency is when the dough is not sticky anymore, and is stretchy.

Leave the dough to rest for ten minutes, sprinkle with a lot of flour to prevent a crust from forming.

Once the ten minutes have passed, form little balls about the size of a lime, to make the buñuelos. (I’d recommend to slather some oil on your hands)

With the help of a rolling pin, form the buñuelos (You can try and shape them with your knees, but I don’t think you’ll make it.

Once you have formed the buñuelos, and are about as thin as a folded paper, you can start frying them.

Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Atole de masa

Ingredients:

½ cup of masa, can be store bought or made from maseca.

4 ½ of warm water or milk

1 stick of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

2 small cones of piloncillo or 1 cup of sugar (it’s not meant to be sweet, but you can add more to your taste)

How to:

Dissolve the masa in a cup of milk or water, depends on what you’re using.

Simmer the rest of the water or milk in a deep pot, and slowly add the dissolved masa.

Add the cinnamon, vanilla, sugar or piloncillo and bring to a gentle boil.

What’s Going On In This World?

Uncle Sam to the rescue. The U.S. government is pledging $10.6 billion in public and private funds toward economic development in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, in an attempt to address the causes of migration from the region, the U.S. State Department has announced.

The investment will include partnerships with the private sector;  $4.8 billion will be spent in Mexico and $5.8 billion in northern Central America through 2024, according to a joint statement from the State Department and Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry. Mexico is pledging $25 billion in the region over the same period, the statement said.

Much of the U.S. funds had been set aside since 2017, but the Trump administration will request approval from Congress for an additional $180 million for assistance to Mexico.

“Overall, this is very good news for Mexico,” said Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard in a joint statement. Well, no kidding!

Mexico to the rescue. Over the next five years, the Mexican government plans to pitch in $30 billion to Central American development. Their goal is to keep illegal aliens from heading north towards the United States border, and trampling through Mexico to get it done.

BTW, close observers (like us), noted that Mexico tried very hard to stop the migrant caravan from swarming into Mexico. Their forces were simply overwhelmed by young men leading the charge with Molotov cocktails, sticks, and stones. Is it any wonder that these migrants, who can barely read even Spanish, and don’t know what’s going on in the States, thought they could storm through the U.S. border, also? They were misled by their so called “leaders,” who call themselves human rights workers.

Wall grief. The White House border wall is more expensive because of our slapping tariffs on steel imports. That allowed domestic steel plants to raise their domestic prices by the same 25%.

Tecate’s cash in jeopardy.  Mexico’s 121 so called “magical towns” might not receive any federal money in 2019 because the program that funds them has been cancelled. Our own Tecate is one of those magic towns. The average magic town gets about $240,000 U.S. per year, depending on how good a deal they swung when they first were dusted with the magic pixie dust.

Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco confirmed the end to funding for the program, along with chopping the entire federal tourism budget down to nada. Our new President wants to spend the entire bag of money on his 1000 mile tourist train through the jungles of the Yucatan.

Fake news in Baja. A criminal gang is targeting business owners in Baja with an extortion that threatens to spread fake news about them if they refuse to pony up. More than 100 business owners as well as professionals such as doctors and lawyers have been targeted.

The demands come with the threat that if they don’t pay, false information will be spread about them online. Stuff like they have criminal records for drug trafficking, weapons offenses, robbery or other crimes.

Last week the suspected leader was arrested. He had allegedly posted phony information about business owners and politicians on a website masquerading as an online newspaper called Noticias de México. It is thought that the criminals were obtaining information about their targets from social media.

Preliminary investigations into the modus operandi of the extortion racket indicate that its members initially contact their targets through email, offering to sell them online advertising. The targets are left with a telephone number to call. The telephone numbers of those who call are recorded and passed on to the extortionists who then begin their scam. Their fatal stupidity was that they spread the scam into San Diego. This brought the FBI down on them like a ton of bricks. They were then quickly busted.

Many years ago the Gringo Gazette South was extorted in a similar scam. 24 Horas, a TV program very similar to 60 Minutes, was in Cabo to film a story on the town. Yes, in those days it was actual film, not video. They were filming. The crew approached the publisher and demanded $50,000 USD or they would say “bad things” about the paper. The “bad things” turned out to be a reporter holding up the paper and saying we said negative things about Mexicans. Because most Mexicans can’t read the paper, they believed it. This was about 20 years ago and we still get Mexicans who refer to that. Also, the story went around town so much and got distorted and enlarged to the extent that many don’t remember where they heard it, they just believe that the paper says negative things about them. This latest extortion scam is very serious, and fake news of this kind can have lasting effects.

President attends Mayan ceremony. President AMLO is asking for Earth’s permission to build his tourist train through the jungles of the Mayan peninsula. This is in lieu of the customary conservation permits. The ceremony was for limpia, to rid them of “bad vibes.” Hey, we don’t make this stuff up, it just seems like it!

The ceremony also included the placing of offerings in a hole in the ground. Among these were a chicken, a bottle ofpozol (a fermented corn dough and cacao drink) and 12 bottles of a local aguardiente, a distilled alcoholic beverage. The ceremony was intended to ensure the president’s first big infrastructure project is finished without incident.

“We have to ask for permission from the Earth, because we eat from her and we walk on her,” said the state Secretary for the Sustainable Development of Indigenous Peoples, with a straight face. In a speech after the ceremony, President López Obrador recalled that former president Porfirio Díaz had been able to lay 12,000 miles of track during his decades-long dictatorship, suggesting he ought to be able to lay the 1000 miles of track required for his Maya Train. With a straight face.

More energy, please. Mexico’s oil and gas collapse is an immense problem, because Mexico is the fastest growing OECD energy user. Expected economic growth is a solid 3-5% per year, and oil and gas supply is only 85% of the country’s needs.

Oil revenues have dwindled down 40% from a decade ago.

For natural gas, Mexico’s most vital source of energy, falling production has meant soaring reliance on. U.S. shale gas. Over the past 10 years, the strategy has been to displace fuel oil with natural gas. Today, gas accounts for over 60% of the country’s electricity, and Mexico gets nearly 65% of its natural gas from the U.S.

This increasing reliance on the U.S. has Mexican leadership concerned because the U.S. has plans to export huge amounts of liquefied natural gas to all corners of the globe. China and India and others want U.S. gas, and we hate standing in line.

Pemex woes. Mexico’s military has taken control over key fuel installations. 57 facilities will be protected by the Army and Navy: six refineries, 39 storage terminals, and 12 pumping stations. New President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has vowed to fight corruption and fuel theft within and outside government-run energy company, Pemex.

According to Pemex’s own estimates, the losses from fuel theft over the past three years have reached US $7.5 billion.

“This is the theft of national assets, of public funds, of money that belongs to all Mexicans,” Lopez Obrador said. On Friday, the Mexican army swooped in, but unionized workers were blocking access to some of the sites.

Three Pemex officials, suspected of having facilitated fuel theft, had already been arrested for the alleged crimes. The three Pemex officials have been sacked and will be facing criminal charges, Mexico’s Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said at Lopez Obrador’s news conference on Thursday. Ha ha. These accusations will be swept under the rug at the end of this news cycle when no one is looking.

Illegal, amateur taps on Mexican pipelines jumped by 45 percent annually between January and October 2018.

Apart from rampant fuel theft, Pemex also has to cope with declining domestic oil production, which in October is one of the lowest monthly production rates since 1990 when records began.

   In related news. Also in the works will be construction of the Bocas refinery in Tabasco state and the cross-country railroad which will connect the Pacific Coast with the Gulf of Mexico and give the shippers an alternative to the Panama Canal, the president said. All they have to do is unload it from the ships, load up trains, choo choo across the country, then load the stuff on a different ship. Bam! They’re there!

Que Pasa In Baja?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Going On In This Country?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish Report

Tijuana Bull Ring

Local action has been slow recently — not many bonito or bass, and just a fair number of little rock fish. Out west in the flats, however, the skipjack fishing has been great.

Coronado Islands

After a month or so of very little action, the 10- to 15-pound yellowtail are back on the bite.

The word we have is that yellowtail were seen on the rockfish area just to the NE of North Island and were taking the 6x jr., 6x and 7x yoyo iron, fished on 40- to 50-pound monofilament. Scrambled egg and blue/white were working well also.

Along with the yellowtail, a bunch of 4- to 6-pound bonito were seen spread out along the weather side of North Island.

Offshore

Captain Louie Prieto shows off one of the better-quality sheepshead caught on a recent outing.
Captain Louie Prieto shows off one of the better-quality sheepshead caught on a recent outing.

Below the 425 / Upper Hidden & Hidden Bank

This zone continues to be the best bet for yellowfin, with the most productive area being below 32.06, down in the Upper Hidden Bank area.

There is a temp break running east/west at that number. Temps are below 68°F, and to the north of it as well as 68°F to 69°F to the south.

The yellowfin, skipjack, yellowtail and dorado have nearly all been kelps now with not a lot of open-water jig stops happening.

The average-size yellowfin has been small, mainly from 6- to 10-pounds, with a few up around 20-pounds. The skippies were in the 5- to 8-pound range. The yellowtail have been little rats, from 1- to 3-pounds and the dorado have been small as well, from 5- to 10-pounds.

Lower 9 / Coronado Canyon / 425 / Upper Hidden / Hidden Bank

A couple of boats went exploring and checked out this area today. They didn’t find a lot of fish — in fact, most of the area was a barren desert, but they did find a couple of kelps which produced good numbers of yellowfin and skipjack along with a sample of rat yellowtail.

295 / 238 / 450 / 1140 Finger / Lower 500

Still the location where the biggest scores of yellowfin were coming from, but with a catch: 95% are on kelp paddies.

Easy limits of 6- to 35-pound yellowfin, along with some skipjack, yellowtail and a lone dorado were caught recently.

Most of the area is a desert now as well, with lots of dead water; but be sure and check out any kelp or any dolphin you run into, because these could be holding yellowfin.

Ensenada

Captain Louie Prieto checked in, reporting that for the last couple of weeks, yellowtail fishing has been spotty, but the big bonito and bottom fish have been biting full speed. Water was 63°F to 66°F inside the bay and has been flat and calm most days.

Several high spots at Bahia Salsipuedes were producing sand bass to 7-pounds, reds and chuckleheads to 5-pounds and one nice 23-pound sheepshead on a large root beer colored scampi tipped with squid. Best action was in 120- to 150-feet of water for all the bottom fish. There were several nice bonito on blue and white salas 6x jr. between Punta Pescadero and the Gas Plant. No birds were working anywhere in the bay, but when bait was found on the meter, the bonito have been found as well. Also, lots of bonito are reported a couple of miles inside of the southern end of Todos Santos Island. None of the deeper “go to” spots seem to be holding any yellowtail yet. Only a matter of time until they show. Live bait is not available until probably April, so bring squid.

San Quintin

Only a few groups recently. Troy Hutton, plus some amigos from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., found excellent action fishing aboard Captain Kelly Catian’s 25-foot Parker Offshore III, scoring a mix of yellowtail, big red rock cod and lingcod.

Bahia de Los Angeles

Currently, in a November tease mode with nice weather and only moderate breezes in the afternoons, most if not all the yellowtail action was dropper loop stuff, fishing at depths of 200-feet or so around the Islands. Cabrilla, grouper and pargo was also in the mix closer to shore. So far, north winds have not cranked up to full winter mode.

Fish Report

Tijuana Bull Ring

Wide open bonito fishing this morning in the Point Loma area down to IB. The bones were along the kelp line biting small sardines and chrome jigs along with a mix of calico bass, sheepshead, small rockfish and a few legal-sized lingcod.

More bonito can be found a mile or so outside.

 

Coronado Islands

The only surface fish that is being caught is the bonito which are along the weather side of North Island, the Middle Grounds, the Ribbon Kelp and the SKR. Some are big, coming in at well over the 10-pound mark, but 95% of them fall in the 4- to 8-pound class.

Slow-trolling sardines and Rapalas seems to be the ticket for the really big ones.

Other than this, the only thing biting are rockfish and whitefish.

 

Offshore

Below the 425 / Upper Hidden & Hidden Bank

This zone continues to be your best bet for a “local” yellowfin with the best area being below 32.06 down in the Upper Hidden Bank area.

There is a temp break running east/west at that number. Temps are below 68 to the north of it and 68- to 69- to the south.

The yellowfin, skipjack, yellowtail and dorado are nearly all on kelps now with not a lot of open-water jig stops happening.

The average size is small. The yellowfin are mainly 6- to 10-pounds with a few up around 20-pounds. The skippies are in the 5- to 8-pound range. The yellows are little rats, from 1- to 3-pounds and the dorado are 5- to 10-pounds.

 

Ensenada

After some shaky fishing when the hurricane passed far below in the Baja midsection, the surface action resumed with a vengeance. Limits of lunker-sized yellowtail were a pleasant surprise for anglers looking for a fish fix with limits rounding out good bottom fishing as well.

 

San Quintin

Like Ensenada, both inshore and offshore seems to be returning to the conditions prior to the storm. There has been some great fall action for the few anglers visiting the area now. Still, there’s some yellowtail along with great bottom fishing that is almost a given. Hopefully, the fall season will continue until November.

 

Cedros Island

As the lodges close down for the winter, the timing could not have been better with the recent storm that hit the area recently. The fishing remained good right up the the storm. Since then, it has been quiet.

 

Bahia de Los Angeles

Recent reports indicate the dorado that arrived during the summer are beginning to leave as the sea temps cool down. Already, there have been some comments about the north winds. Hopefully they won’t begin in earnest until late in November.

Meanwhile the bottom fishing for cabrilla, pargo and plenty of other takers is holding steady with most anglers limiting out often.

What’s Going On In This Country?

Oh happy day! According to our new president elect there will be no federal government inspectors including those from the tax department. AMLO explained, “we’re going to trust the people.” Ja ja ja! Sure, trust us all to mail in that tax money your government is going to steal and blow on stupid stuff, you bet.

In addition to no Federal Tax Administration (SAT), inspectors, the Secretariat of Health and consumer protection agency Profeco, among other departments, won’t exist during his presidency.

Well, Profeco protects us, we want their consumer protection efforts. Like they inspect the gas station pumps.

Citizens will only have to sign a document pledging that they are “conscious” of their obligation to act within the law, the president-elect said.

It’s not the first time that López Obrador has placed his faith in the people of Mexico. Announcing that he will forego personal security as president days after his landslide victory in the July 1 election, the political veteran said: “The people will protect me. He who fights for justice has nothing to fear.” Yikes.

7 million go thirsty. 20 water truck companies hired by Mexico City to supply the people affected by a planted maintenance water-out are nervous about getting the job done. The water will be turned off for three days (it was initially projected to be four) 930 trucks with capacity for 10,000 to 40,000 liters have been arranged for deliveries, but they expect long wait times at the locations where tanker trucks can load up, meaning they cannot guarantee deliveries to consumers.

Nor can delivery be booked beforehand because the Mexico City water department, Sacmex, will control water distribution at the 450 locations where tankers will be supplied.

Residents of Iztapalapa will have to rely solely on government tanker trucks because private companies refuse to deliver to the borough after their trucks were stolen in the days following the earthquake on September 19, last year.

Residents will have more water at their disposal prior to the suspension in order to fill up water tanks and containers. The National Water Commission will bump water pressure by 15% five days before the suspension begins and for five days after service resumes.

Oh, toughen up! We here in Los Cabos only get water a couple times a week and we don’t stink nor go thirsty. Nor do we whine.

The Vaquita are nearly done, right? Well, maybe not. An expedition to investigate the dwindling vaquita porpoise population found three different groups of the mammals, including babies, raising hopes about its future. It was determined only months ago that the small dolphins found only in the Sea of Cortez were nearly goners, with only a handful left. Well, maybe they’re hiding, they’re shy. How do people know how many there are anyway? Let’s face it, these vaquita huggers have no idea what the hell they’re doing.

No more plastic bags. First it was straws. Tijuana has now banned plastic bags. Living with this isn’t as bad as it sounds. We’re doing it n the States now and you get used to keeping a cloth bag in your car. If you forget they will sell you a paper bag. Of if you’re really us against it, just have them throw all your stuff back into the basket and you throw it all into your car. The campaign against plastic pollution was launched in the spring of 2017 by the United Nations Environment Program.

According to data compiled by the federal Secretariat of the Environment, Mexico generates close to 103,000 tons of trash every day, 10.9% of which are plastics which are often washed away by rain and end up in the ocean.

We’re waiting for someone to get excited about all the unnecessary plastic bottles we’re buying and discarding. We’re not eco freaks but even we think that’s nonsense and we buy our water by the gallon and pour it into smaller bottles we re-use. That’s certainly more important than ripping straws out of our mouths.

Vanished! Money, of course. More than US $852 million in federal health care funding that was transferred to state governments between 2013 and 2017 is unaccounted for, audits show.

The newspaper Milenio reviewed audits conducted by the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF) and found a range of irregularities in the use of funds allocated to the Seguro Popular health care program. Oh gawd the Seguro popular program. That’s stealing from the poorest of the poor.

The problems include overpayments for medications, payments for which no records exist, unauthorized transfers of funds and the inclusion of phantom employees on payrolls.

Authorities have identified those believed to be responsible for 3 billion pesos of the missing money and have begun the processes to recover it. However, none of those resources have yet been recovered.

The public program provides medical coverage for 55 million Mexicans who have no other health insurance, including 22 million people who earn less than twice the minimum wage (176 pesos or around US $9 per day): in other words, the nation’s poorest people.

Statistics show that the number of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel working in the Seguro Popular system is below both OECD levels and those for Mexico as a whole, while medicine shortages have occurred in several states.

Corruption is suspected of being a significant factor behind the system’s shortcomings and there is evidence that its consequences can be fatal. “Corruption kills.”

Development of the new Calimax supermarket started last month and is expected to be finished in January 2019

Que Pasa In Baja?

New Calimax Opening In Puerto Nuevo. Don’t run to the car just yet, the new store is not expected to be open until January of next year, but we have already confirmed that this is the reason dirt is being moved around in the lot between the north and south Puerto Nuevo entrances.

Public records filed in Rosarito City Hall state that the new Calimax will have almost 22,000 square feet of construction, along with 71 parking spaces.

Although no official comment was given from Calimax headquarters in Tijuana, a city government source (who didn’t want to be named) said that the supermarket planned here is not your typical Calimax store, but a more polished version of it that the company only uses in select markets.

The store will be especially helpful for people living or staying on the south part of Rosarito and north of Ensenada, which for now, must travel several miles to the nearest supermarket in Ensenada or Rosarito or just settle buying limited groceries at OXXOs or other local mini markets.

Smoke-free beach in Ensenada. Ensenada city council has unanimously approved yesterday a new rule that will start a procedure to make Playa Hermosa the second tobacco smoke-free beach in Mexico. The first one was San Martin beach in Cozumel but the project is now abandoned in there.

ZOFEMAT (the ones in charge of the federal zone in the beach), will be in charge of certifying the beach before the COFEPRIS (The federal commission for protection against sanitary risks). COFEPRIS is the only authority that can certify a place as “smoke-free”.

Jorge Martinez, local councilman, stated that they will help organize, coordinate and implement the necessary infrastructure for this to happen. He said that signs will be installed on the beach and that a surveillance committee will be formed to enforce the new rule and get the federal certification.

The announcement comes just a few hours after Terra Peninsular stated that in their recent cleaning efforts of local beaches, they were able to gather almost a ton of trash which included 1,495 cigarette butts in just over half a mile of beach. And this wasn’t even in Playa Hermosa, which is the most visited beach in the city.

Hopefully authorities around here will keep the designation longer than San Martin in Cozumel, where now, after only 4 years, people are mostly unaware of its smoke-free designation because no one bothered to replace the decaying signs or have anyone in there to enforce the non-smoking rule.

Gendarmerie back in Baja. Just last week 130 elements of the Federal Police of the “Gendarmerie” Division, were deployed here in Baja mainly in Tijuana and San Quintin.

Juan Carlos Moran, head of the federal police in Baja, stated that the deployment of this group of police was in response to the increased requests from local authorities and the private sector regarding the increasing drug crime problems that have been going on.

Moran said that the Federal Police has been the only one in the country that has been able to increase their perception of trustworthiness and credibility between the population.

The Gendarmerie Division was created in 2014 by president Peña Nieto as part of his security strategy to combat organized crime in Mexico.

It has been widely seen as an effective police force by the general population since these officers are better prepared and better paid than almost all other police forces. In order to be accepted to the force, a candidate needs to have completed a bachelor’s degree.

ATM Bandits Are Back! A new card robbing scheme has been caught on camera recently and there are reports that is being used all over Mexico.

This is the way the scheme works: A person gets close to you while you are using the ATM so he/she can visualize your PIN number while you type it in and leaves.

A second person drops money on the floor near the victim and starts picking it up.

While the victim gets down to help the other person to pick up the money or just gets distracted on what’s going on, a third person removes the card from the ATM hides it and walks away.

In some of the videos, the victims walk to the perpetrators and confront them but when they categorically deny it, the victims just walk over to the ATM again to check if they just didn’t leave the card there.

Of course, the maximum permitted cash is withdrawn from the ATM within minutes of the card theft.

Victims have been, on the majority, women. Be careful out there, check your surroundings when typing your PIN code and don’t get distracted and leave your card unattended at any moment!

Watch out for those mosquitoes. State health authorities, headed by Guillermo Trejo, warned citizens to be aware of possible breeding places for mosquitoes that can transmit dengue fever, zika and chikungunya.

David Ibarra, head of the vectors control program for Baja, stated that all actions taken are merely preventive, as no cases of any of these diseases have been reported yet in the current year.

He did say that because of the present climate change, temperature and humidity has become ideal for the proliferation of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which has already increased its population by 30%, although they haven’t been found to carry the diseases.

“It’s important to remember that tires, flower pots and any containers that contain water, are ideal for the proliferation of the mosquito, since it looks for clean water to deposit its eggs”, said Ibarra.

Ibarra also stated that his office has already installed 6,692 mosquito traps around the state and invited everyone to pitch in by not leaving any open containers with water around the house.

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