State & National News

BY: DAVID FLORES

Crystal Lagoon at Diamante under study. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Babson College, a business school near Boston, are interested in the successful Chilean company Crystal Lagoons. Both will study how the company based in Chile is able to sell their engineering of artificial lagoons to resorts all over the world. The firm moved its sales center from Chile to Mexico, using as their sales example the successful 10 acre lagoon they built last year at Diamante. Success in this instance means the lagoon is crystal clear, circulates well, and is not a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Diamante has the exclusive here, but the Chilean company is pitching resorts in Veracruz, Acapulco, Yucatan, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen.

Should we be busting drug lords? At the beginning of the war on drugs in late 2006, there were five large gangs; now there are at least 45 small gangs The strategy of arresting the bosses has led to fragmentation of the cartels into dozens of bands that keep the activity level up, and may be more difficult to combat, experts say. Is it time to change the strategy? “It’s the equivalent of pruning a tree,” said Adolfo Miranda, director of the Center for the Study of Public Safety and Justice. “The most visible part is touched, but does that disrupt the organizational and financial structure?” We like this analogy better: It’s like cutting a snake into segments. Now there are a bunch of little snakes wiggling around causing trouble. It seems that arrests of honchos have a media effect and help the government image, but do not make things better.

Mexican Economy chugging along. Mexican Secretary of Finance Luis Videgaray said the Mexican economy is growing at an above average rate. His comments came during the annual meeting of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) held in Paris. Mexico has been a member since 1994. The growth forecast for Mexico this year is 2.9 percent, which is an improvement over the last several years. Other countries in the OECD will grow only about 1.9 percent this year. Our growth is lead by the car manufacturing sector which grew 20 percent, showing an increase in domestic demand and growth. Of course he pointed to his boss’s economic reforms as responsible. His boss is President Pena Nieto who has released a blizzard of reforms since he took office.

Let’s all go to Canada! The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) was positively giddy on hearing the announcement that starting some time in the fourth quarter of next year Mexicans who have had a Canadian visa in the last ten years, or those who have a valid non-immigrant visa for travel to the United States, don’t need a new visa to travel to Canada. They will need to firm all this up before they go, by applying online with the Canadian government.

Until just a few years ago Mexicans were able to breeze right into Canada, but Canada slammed the door on them very abruptly, stranding some people while they were in the air. This was because too many Mexicans were over staying their visa and mooching on Canada’s very generous social welfare benefits.

According to the announcement, “The measure is the result of diplomatic dialogue, and a deepening of the relationship between the two countries over the past two years, as well as the joint efforts of its authorities to make progress in building mutual trust.” Translation: Mexican officials threw a hissy fit, even boycotting the annual meeting of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and camping out on Ottawa’s doorstep lobbying and pleading with Canada to have a change of heart. So Canada punted, saying if the U.S. lets these people in, then they were good enough for Canada, knowing full well how picky the U.S. is about letting in people who have no means of support. Mexican officials are choosing to ignore that this is a small victory, claiming a diplomatic coup of epic proportions.

Let’s all go fishing!  Sign ups are being taken for the  dorado tournament at Ciudad Constitucion. This tournament is actually for Mexicans, sponsored by locals who live in the agricultural city four hours north of Cabo. Since Constitucion is landlocked, it’s going to be held two hours away, on the Sea of  Cortez, in Loreto. Start date will be in the first week of August. For details contact club chairman, Toño Vázquez, cell: 613-13-78409. It’s a three day event, including awards and all that hoopla.

There are a lot of these little tournaments around the state, most sponsored by some arm of the government. Some are off limits to foreigners because you guys come in with your fancy pants boats and your fancy pants electronics, and win every time. Oh, let’s just forget we even mentioned this, you people stick with your fancy pants tournaments with the fancy pants entry fees and leave these little tourneys to us.

New sister city. The towns of Ventura California and Loreto have became sister cities. Ventura’s mayor Cheryl Heitmann, and her husband Dennis Heitmann came down to Loreto to make it official, strengthening the bonds of friendship, as well as forming a gateway for the exchange of experiences in the social, economic, cultural and political, arenas. Translation: Loreto gets a bunch of goodies cast off by Ventura and Ventura honchos get to write off a visit to Loreto.

Air Calafia in trouble.  The consumer watch dog PROFECO has suspended local airline Aero Calafia from providing some services until they are more forthcoming in their prices. The company did not display the rates for passengers and freight like they were supposed to. Airline honchos were quick to respond, saying they have reached an agreement, they’re sorry as hell, and they’re sure not going to try that again. Aero Califia flys out of the Cabo San Lucas airport up and down the peninsula, and to small towns over to the mainland. No, not the San Jose airport, the smaller airport in the hills behind Cabo San Lucas. You didn’t  even know it was there, did you? Don’t lie to us.

Taxista grief.  Just when you think our taxi drivers are the worst in Mexico comes this news of taxis in Mexico City.

Traffic was snarled worse than usual in the capital city last week when taxi drivers mounted their latest protest against Uber and other ride-hailing services that have become popular by using apps on smart phones. The cabbies see these services as unfair competition. The clash between traditional taxi services and the relative newcomers — Uber arrived in 2013 — found its way to Twitter, where hashtags of the day were #UberSeQueda and #UberSeVa, meaning “Uber stays” and “Uber is going,” reflecting the difference of opinion over the modern services.

One rider who would go on record in this battle observed that Uber drivers bathe, don’t smell, and are courteous. Another noted the level of service Uber drivers provide: the taxi driver makes her get out to buy a bottle of water to get change because he doesn’t have any. The Uber driver, on the other hand, offers her free water.

Those who sided with the taxi drivers were concerned primarily that there be a level playing field, that drivers for Uber and other services such as Cabify should have to pay taxes, buy taxi license plates and permits. However, the new services say they do not operate as taxis but as private car services, a tiny distinction.

More Pemex stations coming. The ubiquitous green Pemex stations will be joined by Car-Go and Oxxo Gas when the market fully opens up to the coming competition.

As many as 1,000 new gas stations could open every year in Mexico over the next five years, and the name Car-Go will be among them. That is the name of the new brand, which will go up against Pemex and Oxxo Gas once the market is fully open in 2018. Even more players could pop up to take advantage of energy reforms which have eliminated the monopoly of the state oil company.

So will the new competition bring down gas prices? That’s the million peso question whose answer won’t be known for another couple of years, but the president of Car-Go cautiously answers with a wishy washy “possibly” when asked if the price per liter could drop below 14 pesos.

He says it will depend on supply and demand. Ja ja ja. That’s ha ha ha in Spanish. In the land of price fixing, that might be only a faint hope.

More beer,  please. Beer maker Grupo Modelo has announced it will invest  $182 million U.S. in a factory to manufacture aluminum cans in the state of Yucatán. The investment will enable Grupo Modelo, best known for Corona beer, to trim production costs and improve competitiveness by providing beer cans at a lower price than it now pays.  Mexico is the sixth largest producer of beer in the world and the No. 1 exporter of the product. Exports of the beverage totaled  $1.6 billion last year.

We’re coming along. Competitiveness is on the rise in Mexico according to an international ranking, Mexico was the only country in Latin America to advance on the Global Competitiveness Index, moving into 39th place on the list of 61 countries. Last year, Mexico slid nine places into No. 41. Mexico advanced in just one of the four categories, business efficiency, moving up three positions. Government efficiency remained unchanged at 41, infrastructure dropped and economic performance, while scoring well at No. 19 on the list of 61 countries, was down slightly.

Prepared by the Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development, the index is based on factors that fall within four categories: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure.

Leading the index was the United States as a result of its high level of business efficiency, innovation and infrastructure. The next four places were occupied by Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland and Canada.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Chile dropped four places to 35, Peru to 54 from 50, Colombia held fast at 51 and Venezuela languished in the basement at 61, or dead last.

Foreign investment grows. And so do remittances from Mexicans working abroad. President Enrique Peña revealed last week that the amount of direct foreign investment into Mexico has reached historical figures, totaling $7 billion in the 1st quarter of this year.

But foreign investment has competition. According to Bancomer analysts, remittances reached $5 billion in the same period of this year, and are expected to reach $25 billion for the year, $5 billion more than the estimated foreign investment.

US ambassador to Mexico named. Named but not confirmed by the Senate. Roberta Jacobson was nominated by president Barack Obama  and if confirmed, she would be the first woman in  that position. She would be replacing Tony Wayne who has served since 2011. Jacobson, 53, is currently the top State Department official for Latin America and Obama’s point person in negotiations to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba.

Jacobson, a Mexico specialist rose through the ranks of the State Department and made the rare transformation from career civil servant to senior diplomat. Over the span of both the Bush and the Obama administrations, she has handled every aspect of the sometimes rocky relationship between the United States and Mexico, starting as the desk officer at the State Department and rising to the top post overseeing the Western Hemisphere. But her work to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba could make her nomination a flash point for critics of Obama’s Cuba policy.

The President blinks. In an effort to quiet protests before the June 7 elections,  Mexico’s education ministry suspended the proposed teachers’ evaluations. But the protests have continued, with teachers trying to keep people from voting in three Southern states – Michoacan, Guerrero and Oaxaca. Polls were shut down and ballots were set on fire. At least one county in the state of Guerrero declared elections cancelled due to violence.

Exports healthy. Mexico exports more than its people, you know. Aircraft parts, autos, avocados, tomato, papaya, guayaba, mango, tequila, cerveza, and organic coffee are among the largest exports producing foreign currency for our country.

Just last week, President Peña accompanied executives of the MiKarne beef, poultry and pork producers in shipping 19 containers with 20 metric tons of meat to nine new markets. We are now the 7th largest exporter of animal protein and 6th largest exporter of beef in the world.

Productivity is up, too. Mexico reached the 39th position in 61 countries evaluated by the IMD business school but dropped from the 56th to the 58th position in education, mostly because education infrastructure is not growing at the same pace as the population. The IMD analyzed business efficiency, economic performance and infrastructure, showing we’re improving in the first one but not in the last two.

Unemployment dropped to 4.3% in April, down from 4.9% in the same month of last year, but underemployment is still a worry, according to the national institute of statistics (INEGI). Under employment increased from 8.6% to 8.9%. Under employment is not helped by Mexico’s propensity for hiring three people to do the job one could do, and then paying each one a third of the total pay.

More worrisome, there are more than 7 million young people between 16 and 29 years of age who do not attend school or work, according to the OCDE (organization for cooperation and economic development). Uh, then how exactly can they say our unemployment is so low? We’re just asking..... ,