What’s Going On In This Country?

March 21, 2016 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Could be hope for us. The expansion of Uber, the phone based ride-hailing service, is spreading in Mexico, but so is strong opposition from traditional taxi drivers who see a threat to their livelihoods. This week, Uber added six cities here in Mexico — Aguascalientes, Cuernavaca, Hermosillo, Mérida, Mexicali and San Luis Potosí — to its portfolio, bringing the total to 14 lucky cities who don’t have to deal with the traditional Mexican taxi cartel. It seems like our taxistas here in Cabo are so militant and scam so much money off us that we will never win freedom from them, but the private ride hailing service has cracked other tough markets.

Oaxaca, in the southern part of the country, doesn’t even have Uber on their horizon but that hasn’t deterred the local taxi drivers’ union from protesting the introduction of the service, which may or may not be planned for this summer. They’re getting an early start on their hissy fit. Planned modifications to the city’s transport law, possibly could pave the way for Uber. The state government denied that such modifications are even being discussed, and after a few hours of hysterics, the taxi drivers removed their vehicles from the capital’s historic center.

Uber’s entry in Cuernavaca did not go well, as the Mobility and Transport Secretariat ordered the seizure of all Uber vehicles. According to Secretary Jorge Messeguer, Uber can’t operate in that city because it lacks the necessary permits, but he invited the company to pow wow with him, by issuing an invitation on his Twitter account. “We aren’t opposed to new options for the users of public transport, but all should be done in a regulated manner,” tweeted Messeguer.

In Guadalajara, capital of Jalisco, a taxi driver protest injured one police officer and 47 people were arrested. Over 2,000 taxi drivers gathered in downtown Guadalajara. Some taxi companies have registered drops in demand of 60%, said one company representative, and “we can’t survive.” He warned that protests could continue if their demands aren’t met.

Meanwhile, Taxistas protesting Uber in Mexico City are burning cars in protest. Presumedly not their own.

There is a ride hailing service here in Cabo, but it’s so under cover that it doesn’t use a traditional app. You have to know the phone number. No, we’re not going to give you the phone number, the taxi drivers would start a riot in the streets and the service would be done with.

The Chinamen are coming!  Aeromexico is launching a direct flight to Shanghai  from right here in San Jose, although the flight originates in Mexico City. It’s a 16 hour and 15 minute ordeal, but you’ll be cruising in their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The first scheduled flight was last Monday and was one of the  biggest planes to ever fly into our airport. This could be the start of a big Asian invasion, if only you would all stop calling them Chinamen. They are our guests, and they spend their money, and we welcome them.

Thomson airlines recently began flying people direct from the UK to Puerto Vallarta. That’s OK, PV can have the Europeans, we’ll take the Chinamen.

Mexican insurance. Everyone who works and pays taxes gets access to the Mexican national health insurance program for themselves and their families. Last year this system, called IMSS, spent about $1000 U.S. per beneficiary.

In comparison, workers at Pemex paid top peso for their health plan and they don’t like it. The state owned company paid about $2300 U.S. for each beneficiary and the employees want to abandon that ship and go with with IMSS.

Speaking of Pemex. Pemex announced it has set up lines of credit with Mexico’s development banks to improve their liquidity and start paying back some of these billions of dollars they owe suppliers, as the firm seeks to repair finances hit by a dive in crude oil prices.

Pemex has deferred payments to dozens of suppliers and contractors since last year, racking up some $8.2 billion in debt. Their new loan to cover this, floated from three development banks, total $836 million. So, are we supposed to quit our whining about high prices at the pump? Aint gonna happen. We’re not crying for Pemex.

Sea Creature Washes Up. A 12 foot long sea creature that washed up on an Acapulco beach following a storm out to sea, has experts baffled. It looks like a rock in pictures, but it’s soft and mushy and definitely at one time not long ago was alive. While beach goers prod it with feet and sticks, marine biologists were on their way for their own investigation.

Remember Gulf gas stations?  The big orange disc for a logo? Maybe you’re not old enough. Looks like they’re not dead, they’re popping up in Mexico’s retail market, becoming the first foreign company to arrive here under an energy overhaul that loosened more than seven decades of government monopoly in the sector.

The company will open its first four gas stations in Mexico in June and July and aims to operate at least 100 by the end of the year. In the next three years it hopes to reach 2,000. Gulf has a target of 25 percent of the national market, which currently comprises more than 10,000 gas stations across Mexico, so get used to seeing orange instead of green.

Mexican gas stations must sell fuel at a fixed price, and Gulf will be subject to the same system. However, Mexican officials have said that in the future the prices will vary at the pump according to market forces.

In other news, private businesses will be able to import gasoline and diesel beginning two weeks from now instead of in 2017 as initially planned. Gulf’s headquarters are in Framingham, Massachusetts.