What’s Going On In This Country?

January 25, 2016 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Psst! Need a loan?  Just further burden your cousin Jesus in the U.S. to get that for you. Nissan Motor Co. and its Mexican financing branch have announced they will start granting loans to Mexicans who use their family in the U.S. as co-signers and who can show they get remittances on a regular basis.

The move makes credit more readily available in a nation where more than half of residents don’t pay their taxes, making it difficult to prove earnings, which makes the banks loath to lend. Only 39 percent of Mexicans even had bank accounts in 2014, compared with 94 percent in the U.S. In an effort to give Mexicans greater access to bank loans, President Pena Nieto signed into law two years ago sweeping legal changes that included bolstering the nation’s credit reporting bureaus.

In 2014, just through November, remittances, (money earned by Mexicans in the U.S. and sent back home,) totaled $22.6 billion, the most since 2008, according to the central bank. More than 24 million people in the U.S. send money to relatives in Mexico.

In Mexico, the average interest rate on car loans from various banks was 12 percent last year. 10% higher than car loans in the States. The remittance-backed loans Nissan is salivating over will carry an annual interest rate of 18 percent. How do you spell usury in Spanish?

What are we, chopped liver? Last year was a record year for tourism for the Caribbean and for Cancún. Cancun reported that the city, along with nearby Isla Mujeres, Puerto Morelos and Holbox, welcomed more than 5 million tourists, the largest number ever recorded. Hotel occupancy rates were up 1%, even after Cancún added more than 700 new rooms.

The Cancun Hotel Association is crowing that the area was the preferred destination for travelers in Mexico. During 2015, the city’s average occupancy rate was 82%, beating other resort cities such as Los Cabos, with 65%, and Acapulco, which remained below 50%.

Cancún was also the most important beach destination for conventions and meetings. In 2015, business tourism increased by 100% and now represents 20% of all arriving visitors. This kind of tourism spends more than tourists, between $3,000 and $5,000 per stay. For online travel agency Expedia, Cancún was also the No. 1 destination for packages, in which travelers book flights and hotel accommodations at the same time, beating cities such as Las Vegas and New York. Tour operators and hoteliers expect 2016 to see 4% growth in overall visitor volume. Factors such as a stronger dollar and the drop in oil prices also contribute to the record occupancy rates: tourists from the United States can purchase more with their money. The only fly in the ointment? Flights are difficult and expensive.

But the strongest market for tourism in Mexico is still the domestic one. Last year, 80 million Mexicans traveled within the country, representing 80% of tourism-generated dinero. The tourism secretariat is preparing a promotional program to further stimulate the market. Tourism Secretary Enrique de la Madrid said that the program seeks to attract Mexicans to destinations during the low seasons with attractive package deals, focusing on destinations with the most potential, like Huatulco in Oaxaca, Loreto in Baja California Sur, and Ixtapa in Guerrero. Also in Guerrero, a re-launching project is planned for the port of Acapulco. De la Madrid said that the Tourism Secretariat is working with hotels, airlines and bus lines in order to offer the best possible packages with the intention of keeping seats and rooms full during the low season. The secretary discounted violence as an issue, saying that most destinations are safe and able to receive both nationals and foreigners, including drug war zone Acapulco, which reported occupancy rates of 95% during the Christmas season.

Love these press releases.  If you would like to help the dogs and cats of Todos Santos and Pescadero live a happier and healthier life, you are asked to sign up to be a volunteer in the next spay/neuter campaign.  We are told it’s lots of fun and no experience is required. First of all, how is no sex life going to a happy life? Secondly, just what part of this operation is going to go well assisted by someone with no experience? Ouch.

What the hell? The United States government is at it again, issuing a new travel warning for visitors to Mexico, advising that security threats are posed by organized crime in certain areas. Travelers should avoid trips that aren’t strictly necessary in the state of Tamaulipas, border areas of Michoacán, and border zones of Piedras Negras and Nuevo Laredo in Coahuila. The same recommendation is in force for Zacatecas and Nayarit, where only Mazatlán is deemed safe by these pencil pushers back in Washington D.C. These would be the same pencil pushers who walk to their cars in  downtown Washington every night after work. Good luck with that. We’ll take Mexican streets.

Protesters. Protest marches are a common sight in Mexico City as various organizations try to draw the attention of the public and the politicians to their causes and concerns. They averaged 2.3 a day in the last four years, according to figures released by the Federal District’s Public Security Secretariat. In each of those four years, the dissident CNTE teachers’ union was the organization that led the way with the highest number of marches. They’re pissy about taking competency tests.

Other organizations that frequently took to the streets of the capital were the electricians’ union’ the National Torch Movement, an antipoverty group; student groups; an association of retired workers of the Federal District of Public Security. Lastly were the parents of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students who are long dead, and it’s time for them to come to terms with that and try to pick up their shattered lives.

There were 3,370 protest marches in total during the period, 63% of which were fueled by a beef with the federal government. The remainder were protests against local authorities.

It’s a Ford my lord. A new Ford Motor Co. assembly plant is expected to be the biggest single investment in the Mexican automotive sector this year. This investment will represent a big chunk of the $2.5 billion expected in foreign direct investment in  the industry 2016.  The remainder of that amount will be invested in automotive parts manufacturing. The new Ford plant will be located in the state of San Luis Potosí and produce 350,000 vehicles a year.

The industry as a whole chalked up record output last year. Production of cars and light trucks was up 5.6% to 3.4 million units. A big jump was seen in domestic new car sales; they soared 19% to more than 1.3 million vehicles, also a record.

Total direct foreign investment in Mexico this year is expected to be $30 billion, up from about $28.5 billion last year, according to figures compiled by the Economy Secretariat.

Points for creativity. Earlier this week smugglers were caught hiding marijuana in fake carrots as they were hauled over the U.S. border. Then a couple days later it was fake coconuts. A tractor-trailer was seized in northern Sonora after authorities received a tip from a private citizen that some of the coconuts in the truck’s cargo were not filled with coco milk.  The tip they had received was correct. Inside the trailer were 999 plastic coconuts with 1,998 packets of marijuana hidden inside. Total weight of the drug was given as 500 kilograms.  Both hauls together were worth a little more than a million dollars.