What’s Going On In This Country?

BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Well, my birthday was a little disappointing in the gift department, thanks to each of you who dropped the ball.

Santiago_0.jpgOh, She Who Works The Can Opener came through with a thoughtful gift, she always does. This year it was a spa day. (See picture.) I also got a handful of catnip joints from her boyfriend, who thoughtfully pre rolled for me. The boxes and wrapping were much appreciated, they’re part of the present, no? Especially thoughtful were the use of extra crinkly paper and the long curly que ribbons that snap back when slapped around.

My girlfriend Fluffy gave me a yoga mat for those post nap stretches, and I scored a cool video of birds, complete with fascinating sounds of birds. Well, they’re fascinating to me.

Come to think of it, my birthday was pretty darn good. Next time maybe I could get my candle stuck in a pile of tuna instead of stuck on top of a cupcake?

And no, don’t be fooled by the single candle.  I’m not actually one year old, my age is none of your bees wax but I will say I’m old enough to be hopeful that there is nothing left for me to learn the hard way.

Hey, I have a joke for you: Did you hear about the cat who swallowed a ball of yarn? She had a litter of mittens!

And now, drum roll, please, here’s my column, I hope you enjoy it!

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Gas pipeline from U.S. The federal electricity guys, (CFE), called for bids totaling $10 million between Mexico and the United States. Among 24 new projects, by far the largest is a pipeline linking two natural gas transmission systems from Texas to Tuxpan, Veracruz, located on the Gulf of Mexico. The new pipeline will transport natural gas from Texas, through an underwater route and will supply CFE’s power plants serving the eastern, central and western regions of Mexico. Bids go out this month; contracts are scheduled to be awarded in December 2015, with commercial operation beginning June 2018. So, let’s see if we’re getting this straight: Rather than harvest the plentiful oil reserves Mexico is blessed with, they’re going to import the stuff from the United States. Sigh. All those natural resources Texas has underground don’t stop at the border, you know, northern Mexico has the same oil fields under their ground.

Other Mexican infrastructure projects include a new combustion plant in our state, with a capacity to generate 42 megawatts. Energy Secretary Pedro Joaquín Coldwell praised the investment in infrastructure. He said the new projects will not only meet the energy needs of Mexico, but will also increase local and U.S. connectivity and improve the global competitiveness of Mexico. Just how Mexico is going to be more competitive if we’re begging for our energy from the United States, he didn’t say.

The director general of the Federal Electricity Commission said the bidding process will be transparent and will be monitored to prevent corruption. Yeah, yeah yeah. Not a chance in hell that’s going to happen. 

Oxxo expands services. The convenience store chain Oxxo, who some folks call Mexico’s health food chain, not, has announced a new mobile phone service in partnership with Telefónica, one of the world’s largest broadband and telecommunications providers. Oxxo entered the telecom market with a new service called mobile phone recharge that offers preferential rates to make local and international calls without minimum terms.

Customers using the service can recharge minutes from 20 pesos to 200 pesos, and make international calls from 59 cents a minute. However, to use the service, you have to have an unlocked phone and a superchip, which can be obtained free of charge, via the Internet. The new service joins other telephone services offered in in Oxxo, including time you can buy for Telcel, Movistar, Nextel, Iusacell, Unefon and Virgin Mobile.

Spain makes generous offer. At the Spain-Mexico Business Forum held in Mexico City this month, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation said the European Union (EU) can reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas by importing gas from Mexico. Right in front of President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Spanish King Philip, he said Spain is ready to help introduce Mexican energy into the EU. Spain even has seven re-gasification stations, placing it in a good position to become a gas distribution hub for the rest of Europe. Nobody laughed out loud, because diplomats practice keeping straight faces in these situations.  But the fact is, Mexico can’t even get enough oil out of the ground and refined to make gasoline plentiful and cheap for their own people. If they send what little they can dig up to Europe, we Mexicans will be pretty pissed off.

pamper-mother-cat-spa.jpgTire factory in Coahuila, Mexico. The Japanese are going to  build a tire plant in northern Mexico. This will make enough tires to supply 300,000 vehicles. The factory will  begin operations in about a year. Don’t get excited, better priced tires are not in the cards for you and me, these tires will be mounted on all those foreign cars manufactured here and sent to the United States and over seas.

Out! Out! Mexico has stepped up the deportation of Central Americans, thousands of whom are un-escorted children. Mexico’s National Migration Institute, (you foreigners all know who those guys are), reported  deportations at 12,000 in the first five months of this year, an increase of 49% over the same period last year. Immigrants are primarily from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The push north from Central America is caused by gang and cartel violence, corruption, high unemployment and low wages. Uh, how exactly does that differ from Mexico?

Here’s another shocking statistic: the Secretary of the Interior said Mexico deported 107,814 migrants in 2014, most of them from Central America. More than 18,000 of them were children. And Mexico is whining about the Mexicans deported from the United States? Hipócrita is the word you’re looking for. It means hypocritical in Spanish.

Fast food tax. As of July 1, 2015, Mexico will slap 16% IVA (sales tax), on fast food. The regulation includes sandwiches, cakes and lunches, including ciabatta, pepitos, baguettes, paninis or subs, gorditas, quesadillas, tacos or flautas, and wrapped burritos, including rolls and wraps, croissants, bakes, pies, pizza, hot dogs, pancakes, wings, muffins, burgers, sushi, tamales, instant soups and nachos. So, basically, anything quick, processed, not healthy, and tasty.

Not ready for UPS. A truck carrying almost 10,000 United States visas for Mexican citizens was hijacked earlier this month and the visas were stolen. The story came to light after email messages were sent by U.S. officials to Mexicans whose visas were among those on the truck. The theft took place in northern Mexico when a truck was carrying the documents from the U.S. to Consulates in Monterrey and Guadalajara.

Also stolen were some electronic border crossing cards; an alert has been issued so they cannot be used and the visa applicants were also advised to take measures to prevent the information on the cards from being used for identity theft.

It is feared that cartels will use the stolen visas to move migrants across the border into the U.S.

The U.S. has had other visa problems this month as a result of a computer malfunction that has halted the visa process. The 50,000 visa applications received daily from around the world have been piling up since June 9 and as of Monday was the problem was not expected to be resolved until next week. Among those affected were more than 1,000 temporary farmworkers from Mexico waiting at the border to work on the summer harvest.

Visas have since been issued to 1,250 whose biometric data was already in the system. The computer hardware problem is linked to that data and has prevented the transmission of fingerprints and photographs.

Turns out the people expecting the documents were all sent an email saying they were on their way down the highway in a blue truck driven by a guy in a mustache named Jesus, he would be unarmed and he liked to stop at fish taco stands that carries breaded, not grilled fish.

At press time 9,000 of the visas had been “found” “abandoned” at a mall parking lot. Don’t mess with the US of A.

No more net fishing. Commercial net fishing, including nets used in small fishing boats, has been suspended for two years by the Mexican government to protect an endangered species of porpoise. Fishing with nets is forbidden in the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, in order to protect the vaquita marina, a rare porpoise common only to the northern part of the Gulf of California. The estimated number of individuals dropped below 100 in 2014, pretty much putting it on the goner list.

Shark! In the wake of all those recent shark attacks in North Carolina, everyone’s a little jumpy and now a great white shark was found by a team of researchers in Mexican Pacific waters off Guadalupe Island, 150 miles off the coast of Baja. Supposedly this was the largest white shark ever videoed, according to Mauricio Hoyos Padilla, marine biologist and shark specialist. It was a female measuring 20 feet long.