What's Going On In This Country?

November 26, 2018 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

More hotels. Just not here in Cabo right now for Wyndham. They are expanding in Mexico because the country is a rising power in tourism and the sector is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, declared their spokes dude. With these eight new properties announced, the number of Wyndham hotels in Mexico will increase from 52 to 60. If you recall, (and if you don’t that’s why you have me), our downtown flagship hotel was branded a Wyndham for one year. The hotel formerly and currently called Tesoro couldn’t bring the rickety old building up to standards so Wyndham pulled their sign off the building and moved on.

Taxista run amuck. Taxi drivers are scary people for a lot of reasons. They have been known to change the price on you mid ride, then call in their buddies as enforcers if you don’t pay. They will take you around the long way if they think you don’t know the territory, and they initially quote you whatever price that will get them through that day. You will notice there’s no meter in their cabs. But this taxista went a little too far.

Bad habits such as texting and speaking on cell phones while driving us, we can maybe live with. Even watching them watch videos on dash-mounted screens is a bit unsettling. 

But a couple of passengers in Puerto Escondido discovered last week it’s not such a good idea to complain. When they asked the driver to stop using his phone and focus on driving, he physically assaulted them. The passengers got out of the vehicle with the aid of passersby and their attacker fled the scene. The unidentified driver and his cab — number 02-968 — are being sought by state traffic police after a formal complaint was filed but it’s doubtful anything will come of it. Unless he wants his car back.

For the record, traffic regulations forbid the use of mobile phones while driving except when the driver is using hands-free devices or a speakerphone.

Got Netflix? The largest cellphone operator in Mexico is now offering household internet via its 4G mobile network. Spain-based Movistar was the first company to offer the service early this year, followed by the United States-based AT&T and finally bringing up the end of the innovation and service trend is our own domestic firm, Televisa.

For about US $10 per month, we get speeds of up to 5 mbps but once you run through 100 GB, they put the speed breaks on and download speed is reduced to 1 lousy mbp.

The second tier offers up to 10 mbps with a data cap of 150 GB for about $17.50. The price of the modem is about $40 per month. The moral to the story is, don’t get into a long series on Netflix, just view it in little chunks of little mbs’s

Banks’ bad day. Last month saw a day they’re calling black Thursday on the Mexican stock market when bank stocks plummeted after senators from president-elect López Obrador’s Morena party unexpectedly proposed to rein in those little and not so little bank charges we all suffer with. The bill referenced a study by financial consumer protection agency Condusef that said that, on average, 30% of Mexican banks’ revenue comes from commissions. That percentage, Morena argued in its proposal, is more than banks in other countries earn from those charges. If approved, the legislation would prohibit banks from charging customers for checking their account balances, withdrawing cash, requesting past statements and issuing replacement cards among other services. They’re comparing Mexico to other countries as a bench mark on behavior? That practice, in this cat’s opinion, is ill advised.

The Mexican Stock Exchange’s index fell 5.81% due to the bank losses, its biggest single-day decline since August 2011. Proponents of this legislation claim bank charges generated income of more than US $5.3 billion for Mexican banks last year alone, 8% more than in 2016.

Shares in Banorte suffered the biggest drop, down 11.9% at the close of trading, while Gentera and Inbursa saw 10.23% and 10.08% wiped off their market value. The Mexico subsidiary of Spanish bank Santander slumped 8%. According to Bloomberg, the combined losses that day of Banorte, Inbursa, Santander, BanBajío, Gentera and Regional totaled more than US $4.2 billion.

The move served to further stir fears in the financial sector about López Obrador’s economic plans. But bank stocks recovered the next day after the new president walked that legislation proposal back. Guessing he won’t try that again.

Pemex. The decision to delay oil and gas lease auctions until the new administration officially takes office December 1, has alarmed investors, who fear that incoming president AMLO’s planned $10.5 billion rescue plan for the oil industry will increase Pemex’s debt burden. The Mexican state oil company is already the world’s most indebted national oil company, according to ratings agency Moody’s, with more than $100 billion in debt and about the same amount in pension liabilities. On October 19, Fitch, another ratings agency, revised down Pemex’s outlook rating to negative from stable, causing the peso to fall to its lowest level in over a month.

Pemex’s disarray is evidenced by Mexico’s gargantuan oil production decline over the past two decades. Oil production fell from 3.9 million bpd in 2004 to 2.5 million bpd in 2016, and slipped even further in 2017, dropping as low as 1.9 million bpd. Oil output has fallen during most months in the first half of 2018, standing at just under 2.1 million bpd in June.

The company is in dire need of partnerships with international energy companies that know what the hell they’re doing.  Such joint ventures would allow it to extract more oil from its existing fields, and to discover new fields. But two years ago there was a new strategy put in place that has proven its worth, as Pemex recentlyd$1.43 billion pesos of net profit for the third quarter of 2018, compared with a 101.8 billion pesos loss in the same period last year. Don’t get excited though, as AMLO has vowed to change things again, diverting oil investment funds to his many social programs.

More on airport. Around 5,500 people marched in Mexico City to protest the decision to cancel the new airport under construction there. One third, $5 billion into it protesters argued the public consultation that led to the cancellation decision was unconstitutional and warned that president-elect López Obrador would hold more illegitimate referendums on other issues if they let him get away with this one.

“What’s going to happen is that he’s going to want to have “consultations”, little mini votes, scattered around the country, mostly in areas that voted for him, for everything and they will be unconstitutional,” said protester Josefina Ruiz. The demonstrators also contended that cancelling the new airport would cost thousands of jobs and halt Mexico City’s economic development.

López Obrador has long criticized the project, charging that it is corrupt, too expensive and not needed. Says the man who is selling the presidential jet and vowing to fly commercial. He is going to regret both of these decisions as he discovers the Mexico City airport is truly a nightmare of last century technology, design, and use of space.

Baja is pissed.  Not the state of Baja Sur, where we are, but Baja. That state covers the northern half of the peninsula. Tijuana and their capitol Mexicali. State authorities are requesting $4 million from the federal government to pay for shelter, food, health care and humanitarian assistance for the Central American caravan members who are newly arrived in Tijuana. If all 7,000 to 9,000 of the trekkers make it, and wait there for President Trump to leave office one way or another so they can get in, they’re over whelming the wallets and hearts of the locals just south of the border. While migrants have stayed in other Mexican cities for short periods, they could be in Tijuana for weeks or even months. Even the Catholic archdiocese has sounded an alarm, saying the area can’t stand the assult. Some migrants are likely to be transferred to the state capital of Mexicali, located about 120 miles east of Tijuana, where shelters have capacity for 500 caravan members. 500 out of at least 7,000. There are going to be some long chow lines and bathroom lines.

Noooo…. Not another “public consultation”. President-elect López Obrador announced he will hold a public consultation later this month on his proposal to build a railway on the Yucatán peninsula, although work on the project has been scheduled to start in December. His idea of a public proposal is an unofficial, non-binding vote with ballots passed out in neighborhoods that voted for him. His first such consultation resulted in a $14 billion project being shut down one third of the way through on the vote of less than 4,000 ballots. There will also be 13 other proposals on this ballot.

However, he also announced a ribbon cutting ceremony for the project two weeks before the vote.  “It’s not going to be like the airport consultation in which I acted with impartiality. In the case of these projects . . . I’m going to defend them, regardless of what the people decide. I’m in favor of the 10 programs because they are commitments I made in the campaign but . . . as our adversaries are very harsh [and] so there is no doubt, we’re having a consultation.”

Noooo noooo noooo… The incoming president has announced a new guy on the Advisory Councilto the Presidency of the Republic. It will be the owner ofLos Cardones mining operation, Ricardo Salinas. The Council provides support toLopez Obradorin investment and economic development. Most of these mining projects around the country, including in our state, are very controversial, due to environmental concerns. So duck, because here come the mines.

But wait!

AMLO’s going to put this to a public consultation, too. It will never pass in this state. We’re predicting this public consultation will go down in flames. It may not be as big as a vote on allowing dogs on the Malecon, but there will be a big turnout all the same.

Meanwhile, the populist, (some say socialist), president is already walking his philosophy back by saying about Salinas, “Not everyone who has (money) is evil, I'm just against the ill-gotten wealth.”