What Is Fonatur And What Are They Doing For Us?

They still keep busy after all these years

Fonatur is an acronym for a federal agency created decades ago to develop sunny beachy areas of Mexico as tourist spots. Fonatur went into a likely area (like Los Cabos) and buy up all the land along the coast. They installed roads, sewers, electricity and potable water delivery systems, then sell off chunks to developers. That’s how these large developments like Palmilla and Cabo del Sol were started. And the Cabo marina.

fonatur.JPGNowadays, almost all their land is developed, but like any bureaucracy they refuse to die. So they putter around taking care of some of that original infrastructure, which by now is pretty prone to crumble. They are not known as Mexico’s most efficient government agency and they get pretty beat up by their critics.

Raoul Chollet Rochin is the regional director of Fonatur. He was born and raised in La Paz. After graduating from law school, he spent a brief time in Connecticut before returning to Mexico and working in Monterrey. In 2005, he returned to La Paz and started his own law firm, becoming the lawyer for Casa Dorada, Palmilla and many other resorts and businesses. In 2013, he was offered the job with Fonatur.

Q. What is the yearly budget for Los Cabos and for Loreto?

A. $17 million USD for Los Cabos and $17 million USD for Loreto. Although Los Cabos has received $52 million for storm assistance since January of 2014, for damage from Hurricane Odile and Hurricane Lidia, etc.

Q. What are some of the biggest projects happening in San Jose right now?

A. Well, we are replacing all the city sewer and water pipes because the old pipes were made of asbestos. This is a hazard to the general population. We are completely redoing Mijares Boulevard, including widening the sidewalks, installing bike paths, redoing the streets in a cobblestone style and adding palm trees to the boulevard.

We will be taking away some street parking to make way for about three miles of bike paths that will run throughout the city. The bike paths will be finished by the end of January 2018.

Q. What is the biggest problem facing San Jose?

A. Well, the water treatment plants always have the most complaints. We have two plants, the one in San Jose run by Fonatur and the one in Sonoreña, the later funded by the Gringo golf community of Querencia in return for 30 years of water for their golf course. The San Jose plant can handle 250 liters of water per second and the Sonoreña plant can handle 150 liters of water per second. The problem with the Sonoreña plant is that currently it only handles 75 liters per second because there are not more people feeding into it. The San Jose plant, at peak time, handles as much as 500 liters per second, which means the process has to be sped up. This contributes to the odor in the air, as the water is released before it is squeaky clean.

The San Jose plant would like to use the 75 liters per second that the Sonoreña plant does not use. And Querencia can use the extra water for its golf course or sell the extra treated water to farmers, etc. But the two plants are not connected and don’t have pumps from one to the other. That has to be funded by Conagua (the national water commission) and the federal government.

We would really like to expand the San Jose plant but that is contingent on funding by the federal government. We are making some ecological advances at the plants by switching the chlorine gas we use to treat the sewage to more environmentally safe compounds.

Q. That’s all fine for San Jose, but what is Fonatur doing for Cabo San Lucas?

A. Fonatur has a separate office on the marina called Port Fonatur. Both the San Jose and Cabo offices used to be under one director, but in 2008, Mexico City decided they wanted more power over Fonatur. So, the port office reports directly to Mexico City and not to the delegate in San Jose. Fonatur maintenance, which is like a separate division of Fonatur, is taking care of the main boulevard of Cabo and also supervising the construction of the new walkway along the marina. They are also installing more street lights on Leona Vicario, from the toll road down to the Puerto Paraiso mall.

Now that Fonatur’s mandate has changed from development to maintenance, we still keep busy.