What’s Going On In This Country?

May 2, 2016 Edition

Scam alert. You know those prepaid FMM tourist visas you can get online or through an insurance company or a travel club? Well, don’t pay again. Employees at the visa activation office, at the Mexicali border crossing like to collect for them too. Foreigners walk into the office of activation when they cross the border and produce the legal paperwork to the activation officer and was told the receipt was not valid eve though the paperwork shows the pesos being paid directly to the Mexican Government and deposited into their account. The FMM activation employee said he needed to collect $50 dollars to validate the Visas.

If this were actually true, the client should have been sent back to the bank portion of the process and made to purchase another receipt that would have been validated. Instead the activation person collected $50 cash and then validated the visa. The scammer did not even issue a new FMM Visa form.

The best thing to do in a case like this is just say no as you pull out a pencil and jot down the crook’s name. Or take his picture with your phone, that really freaks them out.

The hell of it is, this same low level bureaucrat constantly gets extorted in his daily life. Either that creates no empathy in him or he gets so mad he passes on the bullshit to the next innocent party he sees. It’s a never ending circle of grief.

And, if you’re confused by all this, it’s because you never drove over the border. You fliers paid for your visa, (about $22), when you bought your airline ticket.

More flights, cheaper flights? A deal might be coming between the United States and Mexico that would boost competition in cross border air transportation, paving the way for expansion of the world’s second largest cross-border market. The deal, which both governments have already signed and modifies a 1960 agreement, would open up new routes for airlines to fly between the countries and allow for an unlimited number of flights. Mexico’s full Senate must still ratify the agreement for it to take effect, which is likely to happen in the coming days.

While some analysts have welcomed the deal, saying it would lower airfares by boosting traffic, Mexican airline workers have complained it would put the country’s airlines at a disadvantage. The United States, which has a fleet of 7,500 planes compared to Mexico’s 300, accounts for 65 percent of total flights in Mexican airspace, well above the 22 percent of flights in their own country by Mexican carriers.

Ratification would also remove the main hurdle to closer ties between Delta Air Lines and Aeromexico  The carriers have asked the U.S. government to grant them immunity from antitrust law so they can coordinate better flight connection times as well as prices, a request that cannot be granted until the aviation accord comes into force.

Delta said last week its deal to buy up to 49 percent of Aeromexico is expected to close this summer.

 Group governance. Mexico City just launched a massive experiment in digital democracy. The city is asking its nearly none million residents to help draft a new constitution for the city using social media.

The crowd sourcing exercise is unprecedented in Mexico—and pretty much everywhere else. Chilangos, as locals are known, can petition for issues to be included in the constitution through Change.org and make their case in person if they gather more than 10,000 signatures. They can also annotate proposals by the constitution’s drafters via PubPub, an editing platform  similar to Google Docs.

There’s a big catch, however. The constitutional assembly—the body that has the final word on the document - is under no obligation to consider any of the citizen input. And then there are the practical difficulties of collecting and summarizing the thousands of views of people living in one of the world’s largest cities.

Well, this can’t be any worse than the results of the republic’s constitution. It has been amended more than 400 times in just over 100 years

New record for school. Well, it must be a record. This school in the town of Chilpancingo has gone 28 years with a temporary cardboard roof on their kindergarten. But the school marches on. Teacher Blanca Sebastián says the school’s staff has consistently asked federal, state and municipal authorities for a more permanent structure to house students, but nothing has ever been done.

Sebastián claimed that Héctor Astudillo, the current state governor and a former mayor of Chilpancingo, had pledged as a candidate that he would negotiate with the federal Education Secretariat for the necessary funds to build a proper school, but now that he’s been elected state authorities claim the school grounds are a high-risk area on a steep hillside, so they don’t want to build a real roof there.

“A piece of land was donated to the school in this same neighborhood,” said Sebastián, but the authorities have determined they can’t build there either because it too is considered high-risk, “so who the hell understands them?”

Since last year the school, whose enrollment is 72, has been eligible for the Education Secretariat’s Schools of Excellence program, which offers a US $26,000 grant to purchase equipment such as desktop computers, projectors, video and still cameras, and other materials. But without a solid roof, security is a problem. Not having electricity doesn’t help either. “We can’t keep that equipment here because it will be easily robbed. Also, we’re in no condition to properly make use of it,” said Sebastián.

“Children are taking classes almost in the open air; we don’t have electric power, or running water or sewage disposal.”

Is airlift important to resort towns? The president of the Manzanillo Hotels & Motel Association was unable to provide figures but said there was a significant decline in hotel occupancy rates in high season this year, and it was Canadian visitors whose numbers were down, said Manzanillo businessman Carlos Arellano. The loss of a Canadian charter airline service into Manzanillo is being blamed for a noticeable decline in visitor numbers during the winter tourist season.

Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico (GAP), operator of the airport, recorded a 20% decline in international passengers from January through March this year compared to 2015. It was the only one of GAP’s 13 airports to see a drop in international passengers.

Tourist destinations such as Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos saw increases of 10% and 20%, respectively.

Arellano said the dismal season was a result of Air Transat’s withdrawal from the market, causing the loss of flights from Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal and Quebec. He said other airlines tried to fill the gap but they did not have the same coverage. Arellano said efforts should be made to find another charter service to replace Transat and bring back the Canadians, who spend 1,500 pesos a day when holidaying in the municipality.