What’s Going On In This Country?

March 7, 2016 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Santiago.jpgMexican auto dealers hopeful.  The import of used vehicles from the United States is getting tougher.  The federal tax administration, called SAT, has decreed that vehicles to be imported must have ownership or registration papers that must first indicate the vehicle has been exported from its country of origin. So, go back to the States and get that paperwork.  Exercising greater control over vehicle imports this year has been credited with causing a 16% reduction in those imports between January and August. But in August alone, used vehicle imports plummeted 38%, from 63,764 to 39,826.

An important factor in the decline, says Guillermo Rosales, director of the Mexican Association of Automotive Distributors, has been the replacement of many of the crooked customs officials and a restriction on the hours during which imports can be processed. So they can be watched.  In 2013, some 654,000 used cars were imported into  Mexico.

Here We Go Again. The real estate industry plans to lobby once again for Congress to eliminate the bank trust foreigners must use to purchase property.

The president of the Real Estate Confederation of Latin America said removing the requirement for foreigners to buy real estate with a trust, called a fideicomiso, would detonate sales and have an impact on the entire sector. (We think he means it will light a fire under sales, not blow them up). He’s estimating it would drive up demand for real estate by 30% in the five years following the change.

Only Mexicans by birth or naturalization, or Mexican companies, can directly own real estate within 50 kilometers of the ocean or 100 kilometers of international borders. Foreigners who wish to hold land within those areas, known as the restricted zone, must do so with a bank trust.

But don’t let this stop you from buying real estate now, and don’t hold your breath til this passes congress, because the banking lobby isn’t going to let this one get by them. Banks make way too much easy money charging the annual fee for the fideicomiso.

 So the real estate industry suffers because they don’t have as much influence in congress as the banking industry. Same crap, different country.

New invention. Sight is something we all rely on, how would you be reading our awesome newspaper otherwise? Besides, many other senses rely on sight to function although when sight is lost all those other senses jump in and pay better attention. In Mexico, about 43% of the population has some degree of visual impairment, which is why students form our very own University of Baja California Sur (UABCS) have developed a glove-like ultrasonic prototype for the visually impaired.

The gadget has multiple sensors which have been inspired by bats’ abilities. It sends out high-frequency waves which can not be detected by the human ear. They work like bat radar to locate objects in a 50 yard radius, with two ultrasonic sensors that have a transmitter and a receiver, located in the front of the glove. You stick your hand out, with the glove on it, and radio waves bounce around, telling you where objects in front of you are.

It was designed by students in computer sciences at the university in La Paz.

People trust us. Sending us money. In the last three years we’ve received nearly US $100 billion in foreign investment.  Last year foreign direct investment  was $28.38 billion, up nearly 26% from the 2014 figure of $22.57 billion. But both figures were well shy of the whopping $42.1 billion registered in 2013.

Right away you all think about the building boom going on here, but nope, that’s not it.  Two significant transactions last year were the $2.03-billion purchase of wireless companies by AT&T, and the sale by Mexican glass producer Vitro SAB of its glass container business for $2.15 billion to U.S. firm Owens-Illinois Inc.

The United States accounted for 53.1% of last year’s investment, Spain 9.6%. Japan 4.7%, Germany 4.3% and Canada 3.8%. Another 74 miscellaneous countries contributed the remaining 24.5%.

One sector that did not see a net increase was mining, where foreign investment declined $29.2 million. The biggest decline was seen in gold mining, which plunged from $1.89 billion in 2014 to a disinvestment of $144.9 million. Disinvestment? Yup, someone asked for and got their investment dinero back. Low prices were blamed for that, which  affected copper, lead and zinc mining. Silver mines saw $53 million in FDI but that was down 33% from the previous year.

As of last December, 267 mining companies were operating in Mexico with foreign capital and they had a portfolio of 927 projects.

More gas stations. Changes in fuel import regulations have been announced. Restrictions on the import of gasoline and diesel will be lifted in April rather than next January as planned.

Right now only Pemex is permitted to import fuel . This has been described as “a decisive action that will trigger strong private investment and allow for intense competition in the fuel sector when prices are freed up completely in 2018.”

Firms other than Pemex have been allowed to open gas stations since the beginning of the year, but they can only buy their products from the state oil company, so that’s not going to help.

Oh no! The president of an anti-abortion organization has been arrested for embezzlement that goes back 10 years. And nobody noticed.  Jorge Serrano Limón, head of Provida, has been detained  for sneaking US $1.37 million) in federal funding from desperate women.

An investigation by the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF) discovered various irregularities and serious problems in the use of federal resources allocated to Provida to provide equipment for women’s help centers. The ASF probe followed the discovery by health officials that purchases of material and equipment to furnish nine women’s centers had not been completed, and that phony facturas, or tax invoices, had been issued indicating they had.

Instead, the money went to purchase expensive Montblanc pens, G-strings and other personal effects, the Secretariat of Public Administration found in a subsequent inquiry. He’s going to spend the next four years in the stony lonesome. Pens and G strings? Really? Just how many of those items does a person need? Apparently, a couple million dollars worth.

Possible robbery solution. A pickup carrying a yellow with a rod of Iridium-192 was stolen over on the mainland. That stuff is dangerous to human health if removed from the special yellow container it was being transported in. The feds are out beating the bushes for it now. 

Last April thieves stole another vehicle in  central Mexico which had also been carrying a container with Iridium-192. Turns out the driver left it in front of his house while he was taking a siesta. That box of radio active stuff turned up a few days later after the thieves left the container near a highway overpass.

The theft of trucks containing radioactive material happens more often that the Mexican government would like to admit. In February 2015 authorities recovered three pickup trucks containing industrial and radio active material.

Following a 2013 theft, the bad guys had to be treated because they opened the box. Duh.

How about trolling through the barrio, leaving the keys in these trucks, just to thin out the pool of robbers? We could pick them up when they start glowing in the dark.