State & National News

BY: DAVID FLORES

New Flight For La Paz. Sandra Felix, director of La Paz Tourism Board, crowed about Transportes Aereos Regional ( TAR ) starting a new flight from  La Paz to Guadalajara. Huh? This is the third airline, along with Volaris and VivaAerobus, flying between here and the state of Jalisco.

And, they’re doing this five times a week. They stop for a whopping 20 minutes in the city of Mazatlan, triangulating a new route to this destination. 20 minutes? American officials can’t even get the damn door open in 20 minutes. And what’s up with bringing in folks from GDL? No flights from USA? Well, Mexicans like to be tourists, too. It is nice that they can enjoy their country.

Two killed in off-road race. One young spectator and one driver were killed in two separate accidents at the Coyote 300 off-road race held near La Paz. A 16-year-old spectator was killed by a truck whose driver lost control on a soft sand area. The kid was on the side of the road, too close to the course, filming the race.

A 19-year-old driver in the ATV category was killed when he lost control of his vehicle. There have been several accidents in the past few years at off-road races, mostly because people get too close to the course and there’s no security to keep them away. There’s a reason these races are held in Mexico, where you can’t sue for getting yourself killed. Who hires whom? U.S. owned multinational companies employed 1,106,700 people in Mexico in 2012. That’s the latest year on record. But Mexican owned companies employed only 68,800 hands in the United States that year. Is anyone surprised? No.

U.S. companies employed 16 times as many people in Mexico as Mexican companies employed in the United States. 48 percent of the jobs in Mexico were in manufacturing. And, of course, the jobs in the U.S, were in picking beans and in wiping down cars in car washes. Can we say it one more time? Mexico’s biggest challenge is education.  It creates an even bigger problem than corruption does, but then the reason for the crappy education here is corruption in the ranks of the teachers union.

We take the prize. As the largest consumers of bottled drinking water in the world. A screwed up water distribution system, extra taxes on sugared drinks, and a strong media campaign for healthy lifestyle got us to this point.

And the trend is only going to continue, according to analysts, who say Mexicans spent US $7.8 billion on bottled water in 2014, up 56% from the $5 billion spent in 2009. By 2019, the figure is forecast to be 15% higher, reaching $9.4 billion.

“It is clear that people reduced their consumption of soft drinks because of the new tax. A study shows  soft drink sales have dropped 10%, while bottled water is on the rise,” said Alejandro Calvillo, director of El Poder del Consumidor, a consumer advocacy group. “Historically, bottled water consumption in Mexico has been always high. We consider this is due to low consumer confidence in the quality of tap water, coupled with (water’s) scarcity in some regions.”

According to business intelligence company Euromonitor International, the bottled water market in Mexico is controlled by three companies: Danone’s Bonafont brand represents 47%, Coca Cola’s Ciel 19.4% and Pepsico’s Epura 7.1%.

Volaris looking iffy. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accused Mexican discount airline Volaris of safety violations, and has proposed a civil penalty of $735,000 USD. Before fixing the problems found during an inspection in March, the airline returned one of its U.S. registered Airbus A319-100 planes to service, flying 121 passenger flights after failing the inspection. Non-compliance issues included replacement of an emergency slide, verification of the plane’s weight and balance calculations, and rigging on part of the wings (yikes!). Volaris has 30 days to respond to the FAA. Well, there’s always Alaska Airlines.

Send more tourists. No matter how they get here, our tourism stats are making positive leaps for the first quarter of this year. According to figures released by the Bank of Mexico, foreign tourism jumped by 10.8 percent in January to April of this year.. Overall, that’s 10.5 million people, compared to 9.5 million in the same period last year.

To no one’s surprise, air travel is the primary way international visitors get here.  No wonder they can’t keep toilet paper in the airport bathrooms. Planes brought us 5.4 million tourists in the first quarter of 2015, an increase of 8.6 percent. Here are some more:

Border crossings ­– 13.8 percent increase over 2014’s first quarter, or 4.4 million people compared to 3.9 last year. The 3.7 million tourists who crossed the border by car represent a 17.3 percent jump.

Cruises –A 9.8 percent increase, from 2.4 million in 2014 to 2.6 million in the current year.

Not only are we getting more people, they are spending a little more, too. The bank’s analysis reports an average expenditure of tourists traveling by air at $956.90, a 2.3 percent increase.

Given the challenges of recovery from Odile, we all ought to pat ourselves on the back for taking care of all these people.

President amps up with weapons. It started in 2013 when Mexico approached the United States to buy trainloads of ammunition, at about $6 million. Since then the floodgates have opened and Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto authorized the purchase of more than $1 billion of American military equipment in the past two years.

In a story published by the Washington Post, “Americans and Mexicans familiar with the foreign military sales program said that the change in part reflects a revived security partnership between the two countries. It also shows Mexico’s aggressive push to modernize its military in the face of powerful drug cartel adversaries.” The unprecedented sales include more than two dozen UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and 2,200 Humvees.

Drug cartel operations have driven the increase in weapons purchases, as the cartels are often better armed than the security forces. The Post article reported that “the Mexican military has aggressive operations ongoing in several states such as Tamaulipas, on the Texas border, and Jalisco, against the ascendant New Generation drug cartel. These operations have driven a rapid increase in defense spending over much of the past decade. Since 2006, spending has tripled, from $2.6 billion to $7.9 billion this year.”

Presidential hopefuls. Elections for a new president of the republic will not be held until July 2018, but there are already eight contenders being discussed as candidates by the Mexican press. Current President Enrique Peña Nieto (who took office in 2012), is ineligible to run for re-election when his six-year term is up.

Mexico has seven nationally recognized parties by the Federal Electoral Institute, so the field is large. Contenders may include: Amlo, who represents the far left of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA); Manlio Fabio Beltrones Rivera, considered a powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) senator; Eruviel Avila Villegas, PRI governor of the state of Mexico (region around Mexico City); Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, who served as Secretary of Interior and is a close advisor to the current president; Luis Videgaray Caso, Mexico’s chief budget director and tax collector; Aristóteles Sandoval, PRI governor of Jalisco; Marcelo Ebrand Casaubon, member of the left wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD); and Margarita Zavala Gómez del Campo, an attorney and wife of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, running on behalf of the National Action Party (PAN). And her husband.

Corruption and scandals are not likely to cease, and therefore may continue to impact the credibility of the political system. University of Guadalajara Political scientist Enrique Toussaint, said the future is not bright because the Peña Nieto administration walked away from some social problems, including public education. Ja! Teachers’ unions walked away from public education, not the government. They are refusing education reforms, especially competency tests.

New IHOP and Applebee’s planned for Mexico. American icon IHOP, (International House of Pancakes) plans to open new franchise restaurants in Mexico, in Chihuahua and Baja. Daniel del Olmo, president of international for DineEquity, Inc. the parent company for both IHOP and Abblebee’s Grill, indicated that expansion in Mexico is part of the corporation’s five-year strategy for international growth and global expansion. Cool! Waffles and pancakes, bring em on, and don’t forget the Aunt Jamima syrup.

The new restaurants will reflect a revamp of their image that includes a change in the IHOP logo announced this month with a sappy “smiley face” look. Sigh. The rebranding, which includes new uniforms, plates and other service items, is getting started in Guadalajara and Mexico City, with an investment of  $50,000 USD.

“In absolute terms, over the course of the next 20 years, international will be leading the agenda simply because there are only 225 restaurants overseas today,” Del Olmo said. Last year he led the company in record international openings, with 25 new global locations.

Graffiti. Officials in Loreto are fed up with graffiti  all over the place. Maybe they should ban spray paint? They are also concerned that purified water is not clean. Thus, the state commission for protection against health risks (COEPRIS) has intensified supervision of water purification companies in Loreto. Inspectors are to take water samples of what’s being sold to the general public, and send them to laboratories of the Ministry of Health in the state capital. Here comes just another opportunity for extortion as part of the government’s full employment program. For his friends and family.

New Loreto golf course. Construction of the 18 hole Danzante Bay golf course at the Villa del Palmar Resort 26 miles south of Loreto continues. Designed by Rees Jones, the 7,400 yard course will give players magnificent views of Danzante Bay and the Sea of Cortez to the East, as well as the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range to the West.

Owen Perry, chairman of the Villa Group, said that by the end of 2015, nine holes would be ready, with 11 holes available for play by the beginning of 2016. The company plans to invest $25 million in the golf course and surrounding community of 150 half acre residential lots over the next three years. That’s all fine pr talk, but where’s the water coming from?

This timeshare resort was built in the middle of Bumfuck Egypt as an overflow for their property in Cabo San Lucas, which has been sold out for years. Well, sold out if you believe that in Mexico there are only 52 weeks in a year. Owners who can’t get into their Cabo property give the Loreto place a try, and some like it and some don’t. Those looking for seclusion like it, those looking for Cabo style action go nuts sitting around at night. Also on the positive side, it’s too far out to attract any pesky beach sales people. It has a spa so nice that townies even drive down for it. The pool gets so fancy with a turtle motif, it’s unswimable, but it looks cool from the rooms. ,