What’s Going On In This Country?

BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Can we talk? Well, I talk, you listen.

Several months ago David Flores quit writing this column. Now all he does is write his Que Pasta column and then pretty much just screws around, as far as I can tell.

Since he quit, every reporter here at the paper has been writing paragraphs into his column, and Flores basks in the glory. I say it’s time to take his credits down and put the credit where it’s deserved.

 I applied for and won the job of organizing all the submissions, editing them, and generally curating all the items. You might recognize a little catty humor here and there: that would be my contribution, and I hope you like it.

I get paid pretty good for this gig, I make 4 cents a word. It takes me a long time, as you may imagine, since I don’t have any fingers, but I’ve risen above my handicap and I live pretty well, earning enough to supplement my Whiskas with some cans of Fancy Feast once in a while. I live with the publisher of this paper who quit writing her own column last year. Seems like I’m surrounded by worn out old war horses and it’s time for them to turn over the job to someone like me: young, handsome, frisky and eager to please. Well, pleasing, not so much. Pleasing people doesn’t seem to be in my nature, but I do want to do a good job.

I’m still on trial at this job, so I would appreciate letters of support if you like my efforts. I can be reached at santiago@gringogazette.com. Tell me how much you love me, and I will show the boss and maybe get hired on permenantly.

Thank you very much in advance, because I know you won’t let me down. 

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Billions of dollars for Mexican Business Council. At a recent investor’s conference, members of the Mexican Business Council committed to invest a total of $27.45 billion U.S. in new projects and business expansion.

Claudio Gonzalez, outgoing president of the Mexican Business Council, announced investments will be primarily in telecommunications, consumer products, mining, chemicals, auto parts, pharmaceuticals, banking, transportation, construction, infrastructure, and technology and information companies. Laporte said free trade deals, low wages, and proximity to the United States play a major role in the investment.

At the same conference, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced, “In the month of June, 43,295 new jobs were created. This is a much higher figure than in June of last year, which undoubtedly reflects the confidence and dynamism of our economy, and above all the conviction that the country’s economy is undergoing a recovery that will contribute to creating the conditions for greater prosperity for Mexicans”  yada, yada, yada, as he takes the credit for all this good news.

Gonzalez handed the baton of the presidency to Alejandro Ramírez, who is CEO of Cinépolis, the movie theater people.

Soft drink tax takes the fizz out of soda industry. The cost of all sodas and other sugary drinks in Mexico increased by about 1 peso per liter, effective last January,  in the interest of so called national health. Since then, consumption has gone down. And, according to the National Association of Producers of Soft Drinks, so have jobs in the Mexican soft drink industry, whine, whine. The organization’s honcho claims 1,700 jobs have been eliminated, due to a 2.5 percent drop in sales.

Mexico is one of only a few countries in the world that have managed to pass such a tax. France has done it, and Chile is working on it and the Peoples’ Republic of Berkeley, California has slapped a 1% tax on pop.

New app watches gas stations. In response to increased, uh, anomalies found at gas stations in Mexico, three young guys from Yucatan developed the Zenzzer application that verifies how much gas you’re getting.

“We do not seek to discredit any gas station,” says Randy Cruz, marketer and creator of this application. “This is just a measuring instrument that serves to recommend to people which gas stations are doing things right.” According to data provided by the Federal Consumer Protection Agency (PROFECO), 58 percent of the stations they checked in the first quarter of 2014 were found to be ripping us off. They are afraid to idiscredit? Screw that pussy footing around, these station owners are thieves. Is that discredit enough for you?

Randy says the Zenzzer app works with a sensor that is installed in the fuel tank and the application is connected to your phone via Bluetooth. “You can actually see in real time how the fuel is falling into the tank. Once the fill up is complete, you can  rate the service and supply a map with the best and worst stations,” he adds. Now, that’s the crux of it. You will be able to quickly determine which stations near you are ripping you off.

The project was assisted by an engineering student, and a student of engineering physics, both from the University of Yucatan. All three entrepreneurs are less than 30 years old.

The trio’s plan is to offer this service for free, and they are now looking for financing to launch Zenzzer next December. The sensor can be purchased on the company’s website, and installed in the gas tank.

Historic private oil contracts awarded. After nearly eight decades in which the national oil market was closed to private initiative, the federal government has finally awarded the first contracts to private companies for exploration and production in the oil-rich area of the Southern Gulf of Mexico. The state has controlled oil in Mexico since 1938, at which time, the cursed baby, Pemex, was born.

This first offering to investors includes 14 blocks of oil and gas fields, but qualified bidders only bit on two of the 14 blocks falling short of the government’s expectations. Both the shallow water exploration and production contracts were awarded to the same consortium made up of Mexico’s Sierra Oil & Gas, U.S. firm Talos Energy, and Britain’s Premier Oil. The government estimates money flowing from each of the two awarded contracts will total $1.3 billion per block, with 80 percent coming in the first five years of the 25 year contracts.

Most companies are waiting to bid on the more lucrative deep water areas. They don’t want these baby shallow water contracts.

Nieto does France. President Enrique Peña Nieto made a five day trek to France last month, in an effort to goose both financial and academic partnerships. His trip was timed so he could participate in the Bastille Day (also called French National Day) parade on July 14, an important holiday. Well, it’s important to the Frogs.

A Mexican president has not made a state visit to France since President Ernesto Zedillo in 1997. France is Mexico’s 12th largest trading partner in the world and the fifth among the European Union. Bilateral trade was $5.4 million in 2014, 8.9 percent higher than the previous year.  Mexico has no fewer than 31 trade agreements around the world.

Of course once again, the morons on Mexican social media were buzzing about Nieo screwing around over there, totally unaware of the strategic alliances he was making for them.

More livers for Mexicans. Hold the onions. President, Peña Nieto made a deal to send our national health guys, (the IMSS system), to study how to transplant a liver. France is a global pioneer in this type of transplant surgery. The Frogs have also helped us treat heart attacks better. Our president and the president of France, Francois Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande, (just Nick to his friends),  agreed to achieve greater integration between the two nations. Translation: better pals. But we’re not taking any of his overload of Muslims off his hands! They can stay right where they are and shoot up that country.

Greek tragedy affects Mexico. The debt crisis in Greece may affect Mexico’s exports to that country, which is about $8 million.  Greece’s financial and political disaster, wherein the Greeks refuse to tighten their belts and continue to overspend like drunken sailors on shore leave, has global implications.

The main products Mexico exports to Greece include: octopus (13%); chickpea (12.9%); malt beer (12.9%); extracts, essences and concentrates of coffee (12.6%); and tequila (7.5%). Well, when they run out of tequila, maybe they will wake up, because they have crappy credit and we’re not going to extend any to them. It’s cash on the barrel head or nada.

We all know Bachoco.  We’ve seen their packages of chicken in all the grocery stores. They’re a big operation with a lotta, lotta, lotta chickens. Now they’ve acquired more. Although they mostly sell dead chickens, the national leader in the production and processing of chicken in Mexico announced this week the company is going to acquire the breeding bird assets of Morris Hatchery, a U.S. company in Georgia. That includes chickens and equipment with about one million laying hens. So, now Bachoco will be hawking eggs, too.

Cars galore. Mexico also produces a lotta, lotta, lotta cars, mostly for export. Because of proximity to the U.S., more than 30 international trade agreements, and cheap labor, (cheaper than Chinese labor now), the Mexican auto industry is on a roll.

In 2013 exports from this sector represented 1.7 times more than the exports of crude oil. Which is a travesty, as Mexico has huge oil reserves that they can’t seem to get out of the ground due to corruption and ineption. (It’s a word if we say it is).

Mainly Mexico gets to make lots of cars because we have the lowest labor costs among the 18 countries that are workable for this industry. Wages for workers in production lines averages about four bucks an hour while in Taiwan they get $7.50; Poland, $7.80  Hungary, $9,  Brazil, $11.40  and Czech Republic $11.5. And forget  Germany, where the auto industry has to cough up $52 in wages and benefits per hour, Belgium, $41.70 Austria, $39 and UK $35.80.

U.S. labor costs about $70 per hour but includes the cost of providing benefits to retirees, which is the killer. The workers themselves get about $29 an hour, and the rest is their generous bennies and legacy costs of way generous pensions negotiated by way strong unions. Nevertheless, this cost has to be figured into the cost of labor to make a car today.

More tourists, please! Loreto is ready to welcome domestic and foreign tourists for the summer holidays. One of the 83 towns designated as a Pueblo Mágico, Loreto’s tourism service expects a major influx of tourists drawn by the natural attractions, not to mention fishing for dorado, sailfish and marlin, as well as trips to the islands, and clean beautiful beaches. Also not to mention is it’s hotter than hell there at this time of the year. Their tourist bureau is dressing up the season a whole lot. But, you can’t sell em if you don’t dress em up, so we’re passing along their press release.

Helpful sailors. The Navy is implementing what they’re calling the Lifesaver Summer 2015 program through August 23 to provide additional security for tourists in Mulege. Various Naval units of surface, air and ground services and maritime patrol will monitor the beaches, and provide emergency rescue services. The program also establishes three aid stations to assist domestic and foreign vacationers. If you need help, the Navy has made these phone numbers available: (615)111-5059; (615)152-3352. The lines are open every day, all year.

Not that there has been any insecurity in Mulege. The boys are just trying to keep busy, what with very few Naval battles going on. ,