What’s Going On In This Country?

November 30, 2015 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

thanksgiving.jpgHow do you like my Thanksgiving outfit? I’m the handsome Pilgrim on the right, standing next to the neighbor dog dressed as an Indian. I think it’s very appropriate that a dog and cat collaborate on this costume project, just as the Pilgrims and the Indians collaborated in the kitchen on that first Thanksgiving. Not that I go near the kitchen on Thanksgiving. With about 14 women in the kitchen, and me with a handsome tail to think about, I stay out.

Rudy, however, hangs around underfoot in the hopes that someone will stop yelling at him long enough to drop something. Dogs beg. Cats don’t.

My mom says I should feel thankful to even get a little leftover gravy on my kibble, since I’m a Mexican and Mexicans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. I could tell you why Mexicans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but the reason is so politically incorrect that even this paper won’t run it. If you want to know, email me at santiago@gringogazette.com and I will tell you secretly in private.

Big merger. In a $12 billion deal JW Marriott bought Starwood Hotels And Resorts, creating the world’s largest hotel chain, surpassing Hilton with more than 1 million rooms in about 5,500 hotels. Starwood, which has been looking for a buyer since last spring, has been struggling financially. Starwood gets two thirds of its business from outside the U.S. and this merger gives Marriott a larger worldwide presence.

With people dying to become Americans. We’re just saying, some people are ungrateful. According to the United States Department of Treasury, the number of individuals who renounced their U.S. citizenship or terminated long-term U.S. residency is up, with 576 for the first quarter and 1,577 in the second quarter of 2014. In 2013, a record was set with 2,999 people renouncing their U.S. citizenship. A matter of conscience? Of principle? No, they don’t want to pay their taxes. Sigh.

Minimum wage might go up. Or it might not. The minimum wage, earned by about 13% of Mexicans, is just over four dollars a day. The Mexican government keeps it low to resist inflation, and to encourage foreign investment in Mexico.  Everyone wants to start a business in a low wage country, which seems to be way more important than bringing a better standard of living to that country. Cheap labor has attracted many new auto factories from the United States and Japan. But inflation has fallen to record lows, and economists warn continued low wages could drag down consumption.

Forget the drug cartels. Mexico has other thugs to worry about. Students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college in Guerrero have hijacked at least 500 buses and trucks in the past year. The hijacked vehicles include passenger buses and delivery trucks belonging to companies such as Coca-Cola and Bimbo bread. It has become so bad that Coke has shut down their warehouse and pulled out of the area. But not to worry, the student thugs are selling the bottles of Coke they stole, and at a discount.

There have been  4,337 illicit acts —including dozens of thefts— against the state’s food industry. 246 truck and bus drivers have been kidnapped, many held for many months. Up to 30 bus drivers, along with their vehicles, have lived on the premises of the teacher training college. The buses are parked in the school’s soccer field, and the drivers were forced to sleep in them between giving rides to protesting “students” who have not attended classes for more than a year.

Stealing buses, then branching out to Coke trucks, started when the students found it necessary to secure transportation to get to protest rallys against the federal government’s education reforms. Then, 43 students were kidnapped when they were on their way to another protest, and they have never been found. The police believe a local city government told their drug contacts to detain them, and their “detaining” got out of hand and they were killed. Last week students tried to hijack a gasoline tanker truck, but police thwarted the attempt, which resulted in 13 students being arrested and at least 15 injured.

Another revenue generator is taking over highway toll booths on the highway between Acapulco and Mexico City, emptying the coffers and demanding money from travelers.

A regional trade association estimates that economic losses amount to as much as US $6 million per day. For the last 14 months.

God save the butterflies. The United States is working on replanting milkweed on nearly eight million acres of land and designating those acres pesticide free zones. This is to ensure the number of butterfly migrants to Mexico increases The goal is 225 million monarch butterflies fluttering their way back to Mexico every winter. Mexico can’t protect the monarchs by themselves, their habitat must be protected up north to ensure their survival, we are told by earnest butterfly huggers.

The decline on their numbers returning to winter in Mexico has been blamed on illegal logging in the butterflies’ Mexican wintering grounds and the drop in milkweed on which they feed due to the use of pesticides in the United States. Mexican authorities have launched operations to combat the logging, announcing arrests of loggers in recent months, but all the same, the World Wildlife Fund  reported in August a drastic increase in clandestine tree cutting in some reserves. Can we all imagine a big burly logger doing hard time in the Mexican stoney lonesome? And what does he say when an equally big burly prisoner asks what he’s in for? Killing butterflies is probably not a good answer.

Officially, the butterfly season started in Mexico on November 21. There is an official butterfly season? Who knew?

Mexican banking grief. Anyone who has even a small bank account in Mexico knows the entire industry is run here by clueless idiots. The Mexican Banking Association has announced that the country’s banks have $100 billion dollars they could loan. But they don’t.

 Jacques Rogozinski, head of Nacional Financiera, a Mexican development bank, blames “cultural bottlenecks” for making it hard to access capital, including generalized distrust. “Where is the private capital that wants to gamble its money on a start-up?” he asked at Mexico’s annual business summit. Venture capital is available in Mexico but is largely restricted to people who know each other and to well-established sectors. And, the government makes sure key infrastructure and energy projects are first in line for money, so it has created new instruments modelled on the successful real estate investment trusts, known in Mexico as Fibras, which have raised more than $11.3 billion since 2011, according to Dealogic, a data provider.

The federal government also is interested in getting banks to loan more money to individuals looking for home mortgages, but that’s an uphill push, too, with the banking industry resisting, and it has a very strong lobby. Same shit, different country.

More teacher grief. 48 Oaxaca mayors and some other city workers, along with 10 state employees, have been sanctioned so far for collecting a teacher’s salary without teaching. The sanctions are part of the restructuring of the state’s education institute, an ongoing process. 1,500 teacher union members are also suspected of being paid as teachers without ever stepping into a classroom. Such workers are known as aviators, because they only touch down for their paycheck.

This is why the student teachers there have been staging protests; they’re worried that the gravy train is going to derail before they can graduate and climb on it. But of course they don’t say that, they say  they’re protesting the disappearance of 43 student teachers who were protesting “education reform”, meaning no more buying teaching job, nor inheriting them, there will now be a competency test, and worst of all,, they’re going to have to start showing up for work.

We’re on a roll. Mexico’s economy expanded  faster than expected, fueled by a bounce in domestic consumption. Faster expansion in retail sales and consumer credit helped. The economy has been driven mainly by the domestic market.

Restaurants and hotels advanced 7.1 percent in the third quarter,  attributed partly to a rise in tourism fueled by the weaker peso. Farming and ranching jumped 4.1 percent. Mining, which includes oil production, tumbled down 5.6 percent.

Mexico’s Black Friday. Inspired by the U .S. Black Friday, Mexico promoted Buen Fin, an entire weekend of consumer spending at bargain prices.  Mexico’s government encouraged people to shop by bringing forward payments of end of the year bonuses to public workers. The problem this year was the Buen Fin took place just before the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and the banks were closed on Monday. Most banks wouldn’t even allow their ATM machines to operate.

During this year’s long shopping weekend, Mexicans mainly purchased electronics and home appliances such as flat screen TVs, washing machines, and refrigerators. Mexico’s online tourist industry also benefited as citizens purchased flights and hotel reservations for the three day weekend.

But many people complained about false advertising of sales, and the national consumer protection authority (PROFECO) published a list of companies that they accuse didn’t honor their advertised discounts. Some businesses even raised their prices, leading authorities to shut down several stores.

Get to your meeting.  A.A. English meetings have moved to a new location on the Calle de la Huerta. Mon. Tues. Thur. Fri.  at 5pm. Wed and Sat. 11am. Phone 612 137 3123.