What's Going On In This Country?

August 6, 2018 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

So what? That’s pretty much what the Guadalajara International Airport (AIG) has said to the serious mosquito problem the airport has. Health authorities say that they don’t have enough money to deal with it, nor do the owners of the airport have the inclination.

Hordes of the insects have invaded the airport’s bathrooms, waiting rooms, baggage carousels, runways and, on occasions, even made their way inside aircraft. Airport management recognizes that there is a problem but say they don’t know what to do about it. Drop a dime to a pest control company comes to our mind.

The state health secretary has made it clear that the government won’t step in to help. “We would have to outlay a quantity of money that isn’t available and wouldn’t be justifiable.” Alfonso Petersen, who clearly isn’t a frequent traveler said. He added that the type of mosquitoes at AIG are culex which, he said, “don’t represent a risk to health, don’t represent an epidemiological risk and therefore the Jalisco Health Secretariat is never going to take care of the problem.

Raúl Revuelta, CEO of Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico — which operates 12 airports in Mexico including our own San Jose international airport, said the support of local, state and federal government would be required to attend to the problem. With a map in hand, Revuelta pointed out the airport is surrounded by around 100 bodies of water, some of which contain untreated sewage. He also said that captured specimens have been examined and at they are not vectors of transmittable diseases such as dengue fever or the zika and chikungunya viruses.

Terminal manager Francisco Martínez Mira said the airport would strengthen measures it has adopted in recent weeks to combat the large numbers of bugs. They include spraying larvicide in breeding grounds and covering open-air canals near the airport. Martínez said that over the past five years the airport has spent 15 million pesos (US $786,000 at today’s exchange rate) to combat its mosquito problem but still hasn’t been able to get on top of it.

Guess we’ll just have to wait until the mosquitoes start spreading disease.

Shark Park. The federal government has designated 40 square miles south east of the Baja peninsula as a shark sanctuary. It was being commercially fished, with only six miles around the four volcanic islands safe for the top of the food chain predators.

But researchers found that the big guys travel away from the islands as they cruise between the islands, and that’s when they’re vulnerable. These predators are necessary to keep marine life in balance. And to fuel Hollywood movies.

Here is a map of the newly protected area. The yellow dots represent sharks that have been tagged.

The Mexican Navy has agreed to patrol the safe area with boats and drones, while the Pew Charitable Trust will peek through satellites.

The sharks took it well, breathing a collective sigh of relief, and to stay within the new National Park.

Good taxi news. Not our own taxis, of course. Taxis in Querétaro will be mostly green within five to six years, state lawmakers say. The Querétaro state Congress has approved a series of amendments to its mobility laws that will promote the use of renewable energy and electric vehicles by taxi owners. The new regulations are among the state’s green policies, which have resulted in 45% of taxis — about 3,000 — in Querétaro city to be powered by natural gas instead of gasoline. Lawmakers expect that in five or six years’ time 100% of taxis in the greater Querétaro metropolitan area will be powered by renewable energy sources.

If permit holders fail to comply with the EV-only regulation, their permits will be rescinded. Are we the only state in the republic with totally out of control taxis? Sigh.

Another hot potato. The U.S. has pushed for Mexico to take a serious look at asylum seekers from Central America passing through Mexico. They want Mexico to grant them asylum, not the US.

But the asylum seekers from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala don’t want to stay in Mexico, they want what they perceive is the easy life in the United States.

And Mexico sure doesn’t want them. Mexico would struggle to process tens if not hundreds of thousands of refugee applications and to build the infrastructure and camps required to house the Central Americans. And the United States looks unwilling to provide the billions of dollars Europe has used to gain Turkey’s participation in a similar deal. Instead, it is still fighting Congress for billions for a border wall. Let’s see, pay off Mexico or build a wall? That’s a toughie.

It’s all about optics. President-elect López Obrador has said he will earn a net monthly salary of US $5,670 which is less than half the amount current President Enrique Peña Nieto takes home. He has also pledged to forego personal security, sell the brand new presidential plane and convert the president’s official residence into an arts and culture center. So, the president of Mexico is going to arrive in Washington DC on a Aero Califia flight? Oh, that’s going to get him respect in the NAFTA talks. Not. But maybe President Trump will admire his giving away the Presidential home. After all, Trump called the White House a “dump”.

What’s worse than doper gangs? Apparently, extortion gangs. Four cities on the mainland have formed vigilante forces to fight the increased presence of organized crime in the field of extortion. It all started with extorting two taxi companies of $10,000. We might not object here, since the taxistas are in the business of extorting us with their fares.

In the next town over, the gangs were trying to collect $9000 for each taxi stand. Fearful that the practice would become more widespread, residents decided to stand up to the threat so they set up checkpoints manned by armed and masked civilians on the main roads leading into the municipality.

“We thought that La Maña would later go to businesses and homes to ask for derecho de piso (extortion payments)  and that’s why we decided at a general meeting to form self-defense groups and we said we’re going to defend (our towns) so that those people don’t come in,” a community guard identified only as Mateo told the newspaper El Universal.

“The police did nothing for us. In Totolapan, where the police base is, they couldn’t do anything and there is only one patrol car to take care of six towns. That’s not enough, that’s why we saw the need to form community guards with the agreement of the municipal assistant,” he added. “All citizens aged over 18 have to cover a 24-hour shift as a community guard.”

The new force is the first ever formed in the central Mexican state but it wasn’t long before other groups of disgruntled Morelos residents followed suit. Residents of at least eight towns in those municipalities have also formed their own self-defense groups, claiming that officers from the state’s Mando Único (Single Command) force deployed in the region are not able to effectively combat the rising levels of crime. Mateo explained that the groups are separate but they support each other if one asks for extra assistance.

The community guard defended the self-defense group members’ carrying of weapons, charging they could be attacked by the criminals against which they are defending their communities.  “If they don’t want us to take care of security, they should send us soldiers but they don’t want to.”

So far, the new strategy appears to have been a success. La Maña members stopped making extortion calls and no longer appear in the towns.

On the other hand.  Vigilantes can and do get out of control. Four men were lynched last week in Tabasco for stealing a motorcycle. Three were hanged from a tree and a fourth body was found on a road near the scene of the hanging. The man of about 40 appeared to have been dragged for some distance along the road and beaten. The other three men were aged between 16 and 30.

The state government issued a statement reminding the public that everyone has a right to be judged and sentenced by a competent authority, and that those who take justice into their own hands by lynching are responsible for intentional homicide and must answer to the charge. Just wondering: How many people does it take to drive away a stolen motorcycle? Maybe all four weren’t guilty?

You Think You’re Hot? Well, you are, but at least you’re not lying dehydrated in the street like 10 pelicans migrating south from the Salton Sea in California. They got so hot they dropped out of the sky. Federal environmental officials raced out and scooped them up, but three had already expired. The remaining seven were transported to a local zoo where they are expected to recover.

According to the state Health Secretariat, 7 people died of heat stroke in northern Baja when temps reached 100 degrees F. and 29 people were sent to the hospital for heat-related illnesses. One person was admitted with severe sunburn. That, no doubt, was a dumb Gringo tourist.

We are loved. Mexico's tourism industry is booming. The country is the number one destination for tourists from the U.S. and is receiving record levels of visitors. Mexico logged over 10 million tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2018 and is expected to attract 40 million tourists by the year's end, a new record. Major new developments here in Baja California Sur, the Riviera Maya, and Oaxaca continue to attract foreigners. So much for the druggies killing business, huh?

Stick it in your ear, US! Mexico's grain millers are already becoming less dependent on U.S. exports ahead of possible retaliatory tariffs by the US government. Three major grain milling companies in Mexico have in the past purchased the vast majority of their wheat and other grains from the US but are now looking at Russian suppliers and other options in Latin America like Brazil.

A spokesman for Canimolt, a Mexican trade group representing 80 percent of Mexican milling companies, said, "We can’t continue to have this absolute dependence" on the U.S.

One U.S. farmer based in Kansas told Reuters that grain prices have dropped 50-60 percent since the start of the year. “It’s frustrating because Mexico’s a natural market for us,” Ken Wood said. “Break-even might be our best hope this year.”

US wheat exports to Mexico have reportedly dropped 38 percent since the beginning of the year, and global U.S. wheat exports have decreased by a total of 21 percent. US officials have asked for patience, promising that trade negotiations will pay dividends.

“Negotiations are going really well, be cool,” Trump tweeted. “The end result will be worth it!”

Poor manatees. Over the last month and a half the number of manatees found dead in Tabasco leapt from eight to 20, and authorities have yet to find an explanation for the deaths.

The director of wildlife inspection and surveillance at the federal environmental agency Profepa told a press conference that only one of the bodies was found in good enough condition to collect usable samples.

And they tested positive for brucellosis and Weil’s disease but Gonzalez Moreno explained that those bacteria are found naturally in the environment, and it cannot be concluded that they caused the deaths of the other manatees.

Conclusive results are still out of reach, but a Profepa representative asserted that a hydrocarbon spill has been discarded as a cause of death, suggesting instead that it could be an illness.

Several agencies, including the National Water Commission, are collaborating and collecting samples from the dead animals and the waters in which they were found.

Sample collection has also extended to fish species and farm animals found in the Bitzales area, which are currently being analyzed at Senasica, the National Service for Agrofood Health, Safety and Quality.

They’re starting then young. Mexico City police freed a six-year-old kidnap victim in Ecatepec, in the state of  México. The kidnapper who showed up to claim the ransom money was 13 years old.

The requested amount was $2,600, but the parents bargained them down to $1800. (How do they do that? Say their kid is only worth $1800?) The child was recovered.

High finance. A new stock exchange has been launched in Mexico, breaking a 43-year monopoly on the public market called the Bolsa de Valores. The new exchange will be called The Bolsa Institucional de Valores, or BIVA exchange, giving Mexico two exchanges the first time since 1975. This might be confusing, calling them both bolsas. (Bags).

The new exchange will offer a new source of financing to companies and more options for investors, the newspaper Financiero Today said. The exchange uses technology provided by New York-based Nasdaq and, according to its corporate brochure, “BIVA is one of the most advanced exchanges in the world.”

Mexico is the 15th largest economy in the world but ranks eight places lower in terms of market capitalization. All 14 countries with larger economies than Mexico have at least two stock exchanges. There are currently 146 listed companies in Mexico with a combined market capitalization of$466.1 billion but with the entry of the BIVA, the number of public companies is expected to grow to 200 in the next three to five years. Mexico needs capital, it’s one of the biggest problems the country faces. As a comparison, the New York Stock Exchange has more than 2800 companies just on that stock exchange alone.

Nope to US. Or at least the United States’ approach to NAFTA negotiations. Mexico’s next foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, has said that NAFTA should remain a trilateral treaty.

The prospective foreign affairs secretary also said that Mexico and Canada have agreed to cooperate even more, such as in areas like the aerospace industry and transportation logistics. Take that US.

Eric Miller, a former Canadian diplomat who is now a Washington-based trade consultant, said the White House’s NAFTA strategy to conquer and divide through the imposition of tariffs and now the proposal to negotiate separate deals is nothing new, but that it won’t work. Canada and Mexico are stuck together tight.

Hit them in their wallet.  A United States court has ordered the U.S. government to ban all Mexican seafood imports that use gillnets in the northern Gulf of California as a measure to protect the vaquita porpoise. There are only dozens of these small porpoises left and everything else to save them has failed.  Mexico even paid fishermen to stay home and not fish, but the fishermen took the money and still fished.

But now these same fishermen will have greatly reduced markets for their catch, as even fish going to Asia goes through San Diego and will now be banned even as a pass-through.

argued that under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) the U.S. government has a legal obligation to impose a ban on Mexican seafood imports in order to protect the vaquita.

Giulia Good Stefani, staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, applauded the court’s decision. “A ban on gillnet-caught seafood from Mexico’s Gulf of California is the lifeline the vaquita desperately needs,” she said.

The leader of the Mexican fisheries union said he would meet with the head of the government Fisheries Commission to devise a strategy to have the ban lifted.