What's Going On In This Country?

February 19, 2018 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Ho hum Of tourists visiting from Arizona, California, New York, Texas and Wisconsin, none had heard of the State Department’s advisory saying Mexico is a bad place to go.

For Kristen and Matt Olmschenk, a couple who traveled from Phoenix to get married in Los Cabos, the advisory was a surprise.

“Though that might be true, I’ve never felt safer in my entire life,” Matt Olmschenk said. Kirsten Olmschenk added: “We had 50 guests come. People didn’t shy away from coming.”

So why are we obsessing about our bad press? Obviously, nobody reads. Or maybe they do read about our druggie problems, but they’re toughened warriors from Chicago.

Can we believe this? One of two priests were gunned down in a road ambush last week. One had a picture of himself on social media the previous week holding an assault rifle and standing next to him were men in ski masks. As if that weren’t bad enough on the priest behavior scale, the two priests were coming home from a pretty wild party with various drug gangs in attendance.

Can we stand one more disappointment? There were two senoritas in the car with the priests!

Bishop Salvador Rangel, who oversees the diocese where Muniz was assigned, called the photo “an indiscretion.”

More taxpayers Five years after key reforms were put into place, the nation’s formal economy is beginning to grow. In the first half of 2017, a record number of workers joined Mexico’s formal economy and were registered with the Mexican Social Security Institute. The uptick of 517,000 workers marks a 17 percent increase from last year, the biggest jump in two decades.

This is important because it shows people working under the table are starting to crawl out from under there and are paying their taxes. That means they’re getting their social security, their housing credits, their free child care, free health care, and numerous other benefits.

And they are mostly free benefits because taxes are very low for those making very little.

Pennies from heaven Remittances were at an all time high in 2017. That’s the money sent home by Mexicans working in the States.

Mexicans working abroad, mostly in the United States, sent US $28.771 billion to Mexico, an increase of 6.6%, according to the Bank of México. The average remittance amount was $308.

Several factors influenced the increase in remittances, including Trump’s immigration rhetoric, (people are afraid of getting deported without their money), the peso’s decline in value, and high employment in the United States.

This explains why the Mexican government does not discourage its people from crossing the border. That money is important to Mexico, right up there with tourism and now beating out oil money.

Nimbys go home Those are people who say, not in my backyard. They are objecting these days to communications towers, and it’s becoming a big problem. There are currently about 27,000 of these towers but about 80,000 are needed. The latest to be shot down was in Todos Santos.

While the telecommunications market has grown in terms of users, broadband mobile coverage has stagnated, says an analyst.

“Perhaps a shared network could work” said Efrén Páez Jiménez last week.  “There are few countries in Latin America, and perhaps in the world, as complicated as Mexico in terms of telecommunications infrastructure, and while this industry is often described as a gold mine, in reality it is very far from that.”

Well, maybe, but in 2015 foreign telecommunications firms began to arrive, and less than five years later they own nearly half of all the telecom towers in the country.

Profits in oil In 2016 Mexico was the destination for 52% of US gasoline exports and 15% of distillate exports, and that’s projected to grow by 40% over the next 25 years, unless Pemex wakes up. Mexican oil production hasn’t been able to keep pace with the growing demand, and that’s not getting any better since deregulation of the national oil company in 2013.

A handful of US companies have started building the needed storage and terminal infrastructure to handle the surge in rail and marine shipments of petroleum products. Did you hear that Pemex? Get off your duff!

Is your pet a frequent traveler? The federal government has come up with a new frequent traveler program for pets to simplify and speed up the entry process at a select number of airports. No, we don’t know yet if we’re one, they haven’t announced which.

Once dog or cat owners have registered their animals in the program, agriculture sanitation authority Senasica will issue an official entry document for each pet.

You will need to fill out an application, attaching a health certificate issued by a Senasica authorized vet, and provide proof of a current rabies vaccination and treatment against ectoparasites and endoparasites.

The new program eliminates the previous requirement to have a new health certificate for each entry in a six-month period and owners will not have to wait for an import certificate to be prepared when entering the country. Instead, it will be sent via email.

What are we, chopped liver? Our airport operator, Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico (GAP) will invest around $97 million this year in the 12 airports it operates. Just not ours.

Guadalajara is getting a big chunk, to try to get the new runway finished by 2022. However, the people who own the land under the airport claim they were never paid for that purchase back in 1975. Justice, apparently, moves slowly here.

Among the 11 airports GAP operates are those in Tijuana, Puerto Vallarta, Morelia, and Los Cabos.

Mexico gets shot in the arm 19 of 29 deep water oil and gas blocks in the Gulf of Mexico have been sold, exceeding government expectations. This was Mexico’s biggest oil and gas auction since opening its energy sector to foreign companies back in 2013. We’re talking almost US $100 billion investment.

Many Mexicans are angry that foreigners will be digging up their oil, but that’s $100 billion in oil that would have stayed untapped until wind and solar take over, or until hell freezes over, whichever arrives first.

Royal Dutch Shell was the biggest winner, securing nine contracts — four on its own, four in a joint venture with Qatar Petroleum and one in partnership with Pemex.

There are now more than 60 companies that have committed to investing and developing in the Mexican hydrocarbon sector.