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Wednesday 28 October

In San Felipe, virtually all houses that are built here are made of brick, block and concrete. These are the traditional materials that are used in this region as they avoid the ravages caused by termites that thrive in this climate. However, some houses are being built with the wood frame techniques that are almost universally adopted in the USA because of the speed and efficiency with which construction proceeds. A concrete block house can take a year to build versus four months for frame construction.

An interesting problem is now appearing in such frame-construction houses that have been built since the Hurricane Katrina debacle of 2004. A shortage of drywall (sheetrock) in the 2004-2008 period resulted in a lot of imports of drywall from China. There have been questions about this imported drywall causing respiratory health problems because of the chemicals used in its manufacture. In addition, people are now noticing corrosion of their plumbing, air conditioning and electrical systems caused by toxic gases emitted by the drywall. Thousands of Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina houses are being checked and estimates are that the costs of replacing the defective drywall will be up to $100,000 per house. Many lawsuits have been filed and, in the USA, the insurance underwriters estimate that it could be a $15 billion to $25 billion dollar problem. Mortgage and insurance companies are now reconsidering whether they will finance and insure properties containing this tainted drywall.

It is unlikely that this is a problem in San Felipe but if your house is built with drywall interiors, you might want to verify if the Chinese product was used. For further information see here..>>.

In Mexico City, the senate has approved a tax increase on beer (26.5%), cigarettes ( 40 centavos/pack) and gambling/sweepstakes (20-30%), an increase in income tax from 28% to 30% and a controversial tax of 3% on internet, cable TV, satellite and cellular telephone bills. The value added tax (IVA) could increase by 1%. Estimates are that the average cost per family could be 200 to 500 pesos/month.

Monday 26 October

Over the weekend, President Obama in the USA declared a national state of emergency with regards to the swine flu epedemic. The H1N1 flu is widespread in 46 states at a level that is already equivalent to the peak of a normal winter flu season. In San Diego, virtually every county school is reporting cases and it is estimated that 20% of students are infected. At local clinics and hospitals, people have been lining-up for 2-3 hours to get a vaccination and insufficient serum is available to meet demand. In Mexicali, the health agency has expressed severe concern about the ability to deal with the epedemic once it gets a hold in the city.

Again, we emphasize to everyone in San Felipe that this is the critical time to practice good hygiene and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water at every opportunity. Cover any sneezes and, if possible, sneeze into a disposable tissue or into the crook of your arm rather than into your hands. (Immediately wash your hands as above if you sneeze into them.) Remember that snowbirds will be arriving from Canada and the northern USA in the next few weeks and they are likely to bring infections with them.

In Mexico, the Government has announced that the proposed new port at Punta Colonet, some 50 miles south of Ensenada on the Pacific coast of the Baja peninsular, is to go ahead in a modified (scaled-down) form. A new city, eventually housing some 200,000 people will be built on this desolate stretch of the coastline. Very large infrastructure works for electricity, desalinated water, roads and railway lines will be built as part of the project. In particular, the main rail line needed to transport the thousands of shipping containers unloaded every month to the US border will likely be built across the peninsular and alongside the Mexicali road.

As shown in the picture above, one plan for the railway line has it run parallel to a new road to Valle de Trinidad where it would join the Ensenada road to the Mexicali road and then head north into the city of Mexicali to connect with the existing national railway line. An alternative route has the railway line cut through the countryside directly from Punta Colonet, through Trinidad, and cross the Mexicali road at the south end of the Laguna Salada on its way to Yuma. No matter what happens, the face of Baja will be inevitably changed. At the peak of operation some 10 years from now, we can expect to see almost constant train movement on the line; a constant heavy goods vehicle flow on the Ensenada-El Chinero-Mexicali road, and the solitude of the desert will be gone forever.

Tuesday 20 October

A gentle reminder to everyone that daylight savings time ends this coming Sunday in Mexico. Turn your clocks back one hour on Saturday night (the 24th). Note that the USA does not go back to winter time until 1 November so there will be schedule mixups and missed appointments if you are doing business with California. Arizona does not change its clocks.

Last Thursday, 15 October, the Baja California Investment Forum was held in Santa Monica. One of our long-time correspondents, an El Dorado Ranch condo owner and a business professor in Nevada, attended the seminar and sent in this report:

"I attended the conference on October 15, and was extremely impressed with the information and ideas presented there. The attendee list read like a “Who’s Who” of the key players in Baja, including both major developers and prominent government officials.

Although I don’t have time to share with you all of the information and ideas that were presented, I would like to make you and your readers aware of the one dominant theme that pervaded the conference, and upon which everyone agreed. This theme is that Baja California needs to re-position itself in the minds of American consumers. Baja’s image has been severely damaged by the bad press it received over the past year, particularly with regard to security and the drug cartel problems. Baja badly needs to create a positive image and brand for itself. I think Pat Butler said it best when he said: “Mexico needs a massive P.R. effort.”

I completely agree with Pat Butler. Although the P.R. effort will require the backing of the Mexican government, the united efforts of Baja developers, and substantial sums of money, I believe there are things people like you, your readers, and I can do in the meantime. We need a concerted and consistent effort by everyone who has the best interests of Baja at heart. I am hoping you will disseminate my suggestions to your many readers.

1. Media contacts. If any of your readers have media contacts (television, radio, newspaper), please ask those contacts to say something good about Baja. Focus on something positive. Do something different - separate their news reporting from the media pack by spotlighting the unique and beautiful aspects of Baja. Make some news by presenting Baja in a new, positive light. Do a special on Baja deep sea fishing, interview Americans who live in Baja, feature the high-quality health care available in Baja, showcase the ecological aspects of the Sea of Cortes, etc. We need the media to take a second look at Baja, and to get that word out to the American public.

2. Opinion leaders. If any of your readers are opinion leaders (heads of organizations, executives, community leaders, teachers, travel agents, etc.), please ask them to say something good about Baja. Ask them to spread the word that Baja is a close-by and perfect spot for weekend getaways, vacations, and second homes. Encourage others to give Baja a try. Opinion leaders have tremendous influence because others trust them, admire them, and emulate them.

3. All readers. Please ask all readers to say something good about Baja to their friends, family, and work associates. Ask them to serve as personal ambassadors for Baja. We need to get the word out that Baja has so much to offer—Mediterranean climate, beaches, wineries, friendly people, quality medical care, lower cost of living, etc.

At some point, I would be happy to fill you in on some of the other aspects of the conference. However, the main priority now is to get lots of good words flowing about Baja as quickly as possible. I know you are an influencer and that many people look to your website for information and advice. I also know that you and your team have been continuously promoting the positive aspects of San Felipe and Baja through your information updates, photos, videos, podcasts, etc. I hope you will be able to spread the word that ALL of us need to help re-position Baja in the minds of Americans. A huge step forward would be if we would each say something good about Baja every chance we get, and find ways to get the media and other influential people to also say something good!

Thank you, Vivian, for the above input. We all agree that some major effort is needed to convince the US visitor and investor that Baja in general, and San Felipe in particular, is a safe and wonderful place to be. (TC)

Monday 19 October

On the beaches of southwest Mexico, the endangered Olive Ridley turtles are again arriving to lay their eggs. This picture, taken at La Escobilla in Oaxaca, shows that the migration is underway. The Mexican government has stationed naval personnel to guard the eggs and prevent locals from slaughtering the turtles for their prized fat.

Years ago, in the mid-1980's, I remember turtles coming up on our bay beaches in August and laying their eggs at the time of the very high tides. Some of the adults were caught and ended up in big stew pots. My recollection was that the soup was very greasy and not to the Gringo taste. I have not seen turtles in the San Felipe region for many years - we must have caught the lot.

Sunday 18 October

Hurricane Rick is a dangerous storm that could hit southern Baja, possibly even central Baja, late on Tuesday. Rick was briefly a category 5 storm but even with the slight loss of power, this is one of the most powerful hurricanes in the eastern Pacific in decades. Currently the eye of the storm is some 700 km (400 miles) south of Cabo San Lucas. The projected path takes Rick out to the West but then he gets caught in a trough of low pressure currently surging down the California coast. You can see the projected track on Shirley's weather page for today. The jetstream outline, the yellow contours with lots of wind arrows heading southeast, is bringing storms south from the Arctic as you can visualize in the satellite picture below. Rick is the big cloud swirl in the bottom right. You can clearly see the black speck in the middle - the eye of the storm.

With San Felipe midway between these two low pressure regions, we could get a lot of cloud passing over our area in the next several days. Rain is unlikely for us but residual strong winds are possible. More challenges for the people of southern Baja are anticipated, and probably a loss of tourism for a while.


I got a notice from Tim Price of the "Locos Mocos - Fighting Cancer with Tacos" organization. They are running a taco stand next to the Baja 1000 course near race mile 205, just off highway 3, on 20-21 November.

They raise money for the Castro-Limon Foundation in Tijuana to help children with cancer. You can visit their websites by clicking the route graphic and the link under it to learn more about them. Spectators (and racers??) will be able to stop at the stand during the race and get a little sustenance. Check them out!


Thursday October 8

We have been having a swarm of "smallish" (below Magnitude 5) earthquakes for the past 24 hours. These are situated in the Sea of Cortez around 80 miles southeast of San Felipe as shown in the map below. No reports of anyone feeling them or of any damage in San Felipe, though Katherine did mention that her pack of dogs were very quiet for a couple of hours yesterday evening.


Tuesday 6 October

Tropical storm Olaf petered out without doing any reported damage, other than a little rainfall in central Baja and mainland Mexico. We even had a slight shower or two north of San Felipe last Friday night - though no measurable precipitation in our rain gauge on the bay beach.

In the news today, the Secretariat of Tourism for Baja California, in association with Fonatur and the various real estate development groups, is holding a one-day "Baja California Investment Forum" on October 15th at the 'Shutters on the Beach Hotel' in Santa Monica, California. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and is $95 for non-members of the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce. Sessions include:

  1. Market Image - Current Market Image vs. New Market Image
  2. Challenges and Opportunities - Repositioning Baja California's Real Estate Investments
  3. Health Services – The benefits and disadvantages to Mexico with the implementation of the US Health Reform Bill
  4. Border Security – A cooperative effort between the US and Mexico

We note that San Felipe's Pat Butler will be speaking in session 2 (2:00 - 3:30pm) and this should provide some guidance on how he sees the El Dorado Ranch development proceeding for our area. The agenda may be found here for anyone interested in attending ..>>

To assist the local economy, the Mexicali authorities have announced that, for the month of October only, the penalties and fees on overdue property taxes, on traffic tickets, and on property ownership changes will be substantially reduced or eliminated. ..>>

Friday 2 October

Off the Pacific coast of Baja, Tropical Storm Olaf is beginning to look a lot like Jimena which crossed the central part of the peninsular just one month ago. That storm was not very strong but it dropped vast quantities of rain and caused severe flooding damage both in Baja and in mainland Mexico. The track projected for Olaf is shown below as of 8 p.m. this evening.

Thursday 1 October

Overnight the change from Summer to Fall occurred in San Felipe. Yesterday's hot and humid conditions have been replaced by dry breezy ones as the first significant low pressure trough moves down the Pacific coast of California and across northern Baja.

The breeze is also having an effect on the shrimp boats - it is pretty rough out there and the 50-60 pangas that were harvesting in the bay yesterday afternoon have dwindled significantly this morning.

Shrimping is a lot different this year as the environmental agencies have introduced new nets for the pangas that are "dolphin safe". The older shrimping technique had the boats cast out the nets and let the swing of the tides do the work to bring the shrimp and fish into the nets. Unfortunately, endangered species, like the vaquita, could be trapped and drown with this system. The new system requires the pangas to continuously tow the "eco-friendly" nets for them to work. Shrimp are still entangled but larger fish are guided to the "escape hatch".

Reports indicate that the quantity of shrimp caught in this way is only a fraction of that obtained by the old drift method. In addition, the pangueros have to continually keep the boat moving forward which costs a lot in fuel. Long term, this is likely to mean higher prices for San Felipe's wonderful azul shrimp.

Wednesday September 30

Great news from Lic. Ruben De la Peña, head of COTUCO in San Felipe. The Shrimp Festival will be held on the Malecon, November 6-8 this year. All our visitors and residents will be very happy to hear this announcement!

Tuesday September 29

The possibility that the Shrimp Festival will not be held on the Malecon has raised an absolute furor of email and comments, all supporting and emphasizing that the Malecon is THE place to hold this festival. Visitors and residents alike see the Malecon as the iconic location in San Felipe where they stroll to get a local flavor of the town and its beach. Everyone wants the Shrimp Festival to be held on the Malecon and for it to be open to all without admission charges. Comments also support the idea that this year we need a "less expensive" way to participate and involve all of the local vendors and restaurants. Rather than sit down in elaborate booths that have cost a lot of money to construct, the sentiment is that we need many small stands that each provide a sample of the chef's seafood for a nominal fee (say 10 pesos). That way, the public gets to try many different dishes without getting stuffed at a single booth and without spending a lot of money. The Club de Pesca Chili Cookoff is a great example of how to do a tasting event and allow the public to vote.

Why not invite fish/shrimp taco stores from Southern California to come and compete against the local stands in San Felipe? There are many such taco shops in San Diego on Yelp ..>> San Diego residents are very familiar with Fins and Rubio's fish tacos and the chain of restaurants that it has spawned. Ralph Rubio started his chain after visiting San Felipe on a Spring Break holiday. It would be exciting to have him return and see how his tacos stack up against our local ones and also get great publicity for San Felipe in the Southern California press ..>>

September 28

There have been rumors that the authorities want to hold this year's shrimp festival in the ballpark, rather than on the Malecon.

One correspondent wrote:

"Just wanted to e-mail you about the thought of not having the Shrimp festival on the Malecon. The city is considering having the festival in the ball park. I think this is a very bad idea because many people come here for any celebration whether its Semana Santa or the Shrimp festival because they enjoy having the celebration on the beach. To force people to go to the ball field will stop a lot of people from coming to San Felipe that enjoy both the beach and the party atmosphere on the Malecon. With a bad economy here in San Felipe I don't think the city should be making decisions to discourage people from coming here.

I have been coming to San Felipe for over 10 years and have lived here permanently for the past 2 years. Nearly every weekend I walk on the Malecon talking to dozens of people what they like about San Felipe and almost everybody mentions the fun and excitement they have partying with thier families on the Malecon. I know if the city decides to change where people celebrate it will be a negative impact on the economy.

I know its just my opinion but I am hearing a lot of complaints from people when they too are hearing the bad news."

Everyone that I have talked to about this idea agrees. Many point out that it would also take away business from the small restaurants along the Malecon who cater to those people who cannot afford, or do not want, an $8-15 dollar dinner but instead perfer to sample $1 items here and there. Let's keep our festivals on the Malecon!

September 27

Today, I am starting a series of postings on what it costs to go shopping in San Felipe. Periodically, I will try to give you a snapshot on prices of common commodities. The first series is on grocery shopping, and you can find the latest results here..>>

September 26

There is a lot of confusion as to what you can and what you cannot bring into Mexico when you cross the border. So many travelers complain to me about being charged arbitrary fees by the inspectors. Obviously, we at The Net in San Felipe are not the authoritative source on this situation but I will try to clear up some mis-information.

Mexico has a system not dissimilar from that in the USA where you get an allowance of $300 once a month to bring in purchases that you make abroad; for a certain amount of tobacco products and a liquor allowance.

When you enter Mexico, you are allowed to go to the "nothing to declare" lane, or to the "something to declare" lane. If you drive through the "nothing to declare" lane and you are carrying merchandise that is beyond what is specified in the exemption/personal luggage section below, then you forfeit your right to pay import duty on the goods. You are essentially smuggling and the penalties could be severe. Note that the link to the English section of the Aduana website given below is at variance with the Spanish section of the website that we will quote in places.

According to Mexico's Aduana English website, the following are allowed and we believe the following section applies to you if you are a tourist who has a tourist visa (FM-T), or a resident during the period of "low franquicia" (see below):

The items allowed in your personal luggage, according to the length of your trip

Up to 75 USD per person in permitted goods, or its equivalent in other currencies. Passengers traveling with family members (spouse and children) may combine their personal exemptions only when arriving together on the same vehicle. In order to claim this additional exemption, passengers must have the corresponding commercial invoices or receipts available

Beer, alcoholic beverages, manufactured tobacco and motor vehicle fuel (except for the fuel contained in the vehicle’s fuel tank) may not be included in this additional exemption

What items are allowed in your personal luggage (English site)?

Goods for personal use, such as clothing, footwear and personal toiletries and beauty products, as long as they are appropriate for the duration of the trip, including wedding party items.

Two photographic cameras or video recorders, 12 rolls of film or videocassettes; photographic material; two cellular telephones or radio phones; a portatil typewriter; an electronic calendar; a portable computer (laptop), notebook, omnibook or similar items; a copier or portable printer; a portable projector, and their accessories.

Two sports equipment, four rods, three speedboats with or without sails and their accessories, trophies or recognitions, provided that they can be transported normally and commonly by the passenger, one stair climber and bicycle

A portable radio for the recording or reproduction of sound or mixed tapes; or a digital sound reproducer or portable reproducer of compact discs and a portable reproducer of DVD’s, such as a pair of portable speakers, and their accessories.

Five laser disks, 10 DVD disks, 30 compact disks (CD) or magnetic tapes (audiocassettes), for the reproduction of sound and five storage devices or memory cards for any electronic equipments.

Books, magazines and printed documents.

Five toys, —included those that are collectible— and a video game console and videogames.

One device that permits measurement of arterial pressure and one for glucose, as well as medications of personal use; in the case of psychotropics the medical prescription should be shown.

One set of binoculars and a telescope.

Valises, trunks and suitcases necessary for the movement of goods.

Passengers over 18 years of age, may introduce a maximum of up to 20 packs of cigarettes, 25 cigars or 200 grams of tobacco and up to three liters of alcoholic beverages, and six liters of wine; in excess of the above, cannot be imported without complying with applicable regulations and restrictions.

Baby travel accesories, such as strollers and baby-walkers

Two musical instruments and its accessories.

A camping tent and camping equipment, as well as their accessories.

Handicapped or old travelers may introduce items for personal use, useful to have a better performance of their activities, such as walkers, wheelchairs, crutches and canes.

A set of tools including its case, it might have a hand drill, wire cutters, wrenches, dices, screwdrivers, current cables, among others.

Beddings, that will be able to include a set of matching sheets and pillowcases, a set of towels, a set of bath, a set of table linen and a set of kitchen.

Up to two dogs or cats, maybe introduced as well as their accesories, provided that the corresponding zoosanitary import certificate issued by (SAGARPA) is presented to the customs officials.

Now here is where it gets a little more complex and I switch to the Spanish section of the Aduana website. I believe that the following section applies to residents of Mexico (for example if you have an FM-3 ,FM-2 or are a citizen), AND you are traveling during the period where the "franquicia" (the duty-free allowance) is increased from $75 dollars to $300 dollars. This period is currently set for November 1, 2009 to 10 January 2010: (see original Spanish..>>)

(The Franquicia) is the Mexican government permission granted to a person, whether domestic or foreign, to avoid paying duties and taxes for a given amount of goods that enter the country.
When you arrive in country by sea or air Your franchise will be up to $ 300 or its equivalent in foreign currency or, in one or more items, except for beer, alcoholic beverages and processed tobacco

When you enter the country by land Their franchise covers up to $ 75 or its equivalent in foreign currency or, in one or more items, except for beer, alcoholic beverages, processed tobacco and gasoline, except that contained in the gas tank of the vehicle in accordance with the specifications manufacturer.

During the summer and winter periods, which comprise from 26 June to 31 August 2009 and November 1, 2009 to 10 January 2010 respectively, increases the amount of excess 75 to $300. In those cases must have the invoice, sales receipt or other document that indicates the value of the goods.

The amounts may be accumulated by the father, mother and children, even considering the minors when the entry into national territory is simultaneous and in the same mode of transport.

Relief for passengers from abroad Mexican national entering the country by land, provided that these are not people living in the fringe or border region would be increased by $ 75 to $ 300 for during the period of 24 November 2008 to 9 January 2009.

Similarly, passengers from the fringe or border region within the country may import under the franchise merchandise up to 300 dollars or its equivalent in national currency. (maybe this is valid for the entire year for the border region??)

How much is paid as tax on goods and personal baggage in addition to the franchise?

If you exceed your exemption but not more than three thousand dollars or its equivalent in local or foreign currency, you must fill out the Payment of Contributions of Trade, calculating 15% of the value of your goods, which will tax you must pay.

If the value of your goods is more than three thousand dollars or its equivalent in local currency or foreign currency, you must hire the services of a broker, who will calculate the tax and import procedures make (ask at the office where to locate).

BY CONTRAST, the English language website says:

If the value of the goods surpasses one thousand dollars (per family member) after subtracting the US$300 exemption, or if any of the goods is subject to non-tariff regulations or restrictions, you must hire the services of a customs broker. Private brokerage services are always available at the airport.

From November 21st, 2005 until January 10th, 2006 you will be able to import goods in the mentioned procedure, as long as its value does not exceed 3,000 dollars

If you bring a desktop computer, you may pay duties and taxes by filling out a payment form as long as the value of the computer and its peripherals and accessories do not exceed US$4,000. If the total value of the computer and its peripherals and accessories exceeds US$4,000 you must hire the services of a customs broker

What other items must be declared:

Animals, agricultural products and medications

If you are carrying more than US$10,000, or its equivalent in other currencies, in cash, checks, money orders or any other monetary instrument, or a combination of them, you must declare the amount exceeding US$10,000. You will not have to pay duties or taxes, but you must declare it on the Customs Declaration form. Failing to declare it is a violation of Mexican Law and such violation is sanctioned with administrative and even criminal penalties

What do I pay for those additional goods that are not part of my luggage or the $75 exemption (Spanish site):

If you exceed the $75 exemption for less than US$3,000, you must pay duties and taxes. There is a flat 15% rate of duties and taxes and you must fill out the payment form intended for it, which is available at the Customs counter.

If the amount of the goods is over the US$3,000, then you must hire the services of a customs broker, who will present the legal forms to pay the duties and taxes (you can ask where to reach one at the Customs Office).

What goods are restricted:

Firearms and ammunition. In order to import firearms and cartridges you must secure an import permit from the Ministry of Economy and from the Ministry of National Defense.

For further information please visit the following websites: www.economia.gob.mx and www.sedena.gob.mx.

What goods are prohibited:

In accordance with the Law of the General Taxes of Import and Export, the following products are prohibited for the import and/or export:
Alive predator fish, in their states of young fish, youthful and adult
Totoaba, fresh or cooled (fish)
Frozen Totoaba (fish)
Turtle eggs or any class
Poppy seeds (Narcotic)
Flour of poppy seeds (Narcotic)
Seeds and spores of marijuana (Cannabis indica), even though when they are mixed with other seeds
Marijuana (Cannabis indica)
Juice and extracts of opium, prepared to smoke
Extracts and juice derived from marijuana (Cannabis indica)
Mucilage and condensed products derived from the marijuana (Cannabis indica)
Stamps or printed transfers in colors or in black and white, displayed for their sale in envelopes or packages, even when they include chewing gum, candies or any other type of articles, containing drawings, figures or illustrations that represent childhood in a degrading or ridiculous way, on attitudes of incitement to violence, to self-destruction or in any other form of antisocial behavior, known like Garbage Pail Kids, for example, printed by any company or commercial denomination.
Thallium sulfate
Insecticide (Isodrin or Aldrin)
Insecticide (Heptaclor or Drinox)
Insecticide (Endrin or Mendrin or Nendrin or Hexadrin)
Insecticide (Leptophos)
Heroin, base or hydrochloride of diacetylmorphine
Medication prepared with marijuana (Cannabis indica)
Medication prepared with acetylmorphine or of its salts or derivatives
Skins of turtle or doggerhead turtle
Goods that have been declared as archaeological monuments by the Secretariat of Public Education

For effects of the Customs Law, the import or export of prohibited merchandises is causal so that the customs authorities come to a precautionary distraint from said merchandises and the means of transport. Likewise, it constitutes an infraction related to the import or export of this type of merchandise and is sanctioned with a fine: Therefore, these merchandises happen to be property of the Federal State, regardless of the penal sanctions establishes by the Penal Code.

More details, for example on the temporary importation of vehicles (not applicable to people coming to San Felipe), and other miscellaneous things can be found here on the English website of Aduana ..>>


Now that the questions on bringing goods across the border into Mexico have been addressed, what other interesting things are in the news:

New research suggests that poor sleep can increase susceptibility to colds.

Sleep and immunity, it seems, are tightly linked. Studies have found that mammals that require the most sleep also produce greater levels of disease-fighting white blood cells — but not red blood cells, even though both are produced in bone marrow and stem from the same precursor...>> Moral of the story "get lots of sleep when you are coming down with something".

Shrimp pangas are out in force on the calm waters of the bay this morning. I hope we will see a jumbo catch this year to help the economy of our town!


September 25

The new customs automatic vehicle checks at the border (known by the acronym SIAVE - Sistema de Supervisión Control Vehicular) coming south into Mexicali are reported to be almost ready for full-time operation. Both the East crossing and the downtown crossing have lanes where trials are being made. There are 20 minute periods where all vehicles are funneled into the new lanes so that the system can be tested and calibrated. Downtown, the "nothing to declare" lanes will be at the right of the port-of-entry, while the "self-declaration" lanes will be to the left. Among other checks, the new system will read license plates of vehicles and run searches through the database for any reported infractions of the law..>>

The Secretary of Health in Mexical announced that another death has been recorded from the swine flu virus. The victim is a 14 year-old from the Valle de Mexicali. This brings the number of deaths in Baja California to 11 people, while the total number of confirmed infections since the start of the epedemic in April is 647....>> Meanwhile, in California, there have been a reported 5551 confirmed cases and 203 deaths in the same period.

September 24

A new survey of the Mexican population by the Pew Research Center has just been released.

Mexicans overwhelmingly are dissatisfied with the direction of their country. With drug-related violence affecting much of Mexico, large majorities describe crime (81%) and illegal drugs (73%) as very big problems, and Mexicans overwhelmingly endorse President Felipe Calderón's tough stance against drug traffickers.

Almost universally, political corruption is considered a problem. Fully 94% of those surveyed say corrupt political leaders are a big problem, and 68% say they are a very big problem.

The survey shows exceptionally high support (83%) by the public here for the war being waged by President Felipe Calderon against drug traffickers. In addition, 66% of people say that progress is being made in this effort.

There is also considerable support for U.S. assistance in fighting the drug war. Almost 80% want the U.S. to train Mexican police and military personnel, and 63% want the U.S. to send money and weapons to the Mexican police and military. However, there is little appetite for having American troops on Mexican soil.

The Mexican people also express a very much higher confidence (55%) in the new American leadership, compared with the Bush regime (16%), and also have a much more positive attitude (69%) towards the USA now compared to 2008 (47%). This substantial enhancement of the American image is consistent with similar findings of other world surveys since President Obama has taken office.

Other findings of the survey indicate significant support of the Calderon administration in handling the swine flu epedemic (76%); support of strong ties with the USA (76%); and many would move to the USA if they had the chance. These are the latest findings from the 2009 survey of Mexico by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 1,000 adults in Mexico between May 26 and June 2, 2009. The sample is representative of the country's adult population, and the margin of sampling error for the results is plus or minus three percentage points. For the complete survey, see here..>>


September 23

The latest tropical storm of the 2009 season, Nora, has formed some 600 miles southwest of the tip of the Baja peninsular. Although some strengthening is expected and Nora may become a hurricane with the projected track shown below:

Older residents will remember the devastating hurricane Nora that hit San Felipe in late September in 1997. This current storm is expected to be much weaker and will avoid the peninsular all together.

September 22

Good news for those laptop users (also desktop computers with USB ports) that are too far away from a wi-fi network or do not have telephone/dsl access at their house or trailer park in San Felipe. The new Telcel prepaid 3G access plan is available through our local Telcel dealer on Mar Caribe. You can buy the USB dongle with the first month unlimited access to the 3G network for 2000 pesos. You then buy a monthly refresh of the account for 621 pesos (about $48 dollars) for a typical download speed of up to 1.5 Mb/second. Speed will depend on how far away you are from the nearest cell tower and how clear your line-of-sight is. Having the USB dongle in a window looking at the transmitter will definitely help. Note that "unlimited" access means that you must comply with the fair use policies - they may slow you down to 128 kb/s if you exceed 20 Gb of downloading in any month. Still, this seems like a reasonable option for people who do not have an alternative way to access the internet. (Note that you "could" bring a dongle from ATT or another carrier and make it work but the roaming data charges would bankrupt you.)

September 21

As a follow-up to the theft and vandalism that is occurring in San Felipe, I did a little exploration. One of the most obvious problems is that many, many houses owned by Americans are sitting empty. A quick survey indicates that less than 20% of properties are occupied! There are places where whole streets and campos are essentially deserted. The very best thing that can be done to stop property damage of these empty houses is for the residents and the snowbirds to come back to town and start living their lives here again. Visiting and living in San Felipe is safe. People are not being attacked. It is property that is sitting empty and uncared for that is vulnerable - just as in any other city or country in the world.

San Felipe needs residents and visitors to spend money here in the local stores and markets. Do some fix-up work on your house and put a local handyman to work and get your cleaning lady to come in and help you brush away the sand and cobwebs of summer. There are many local people who are desperate to work and pay their electric bills and get their children needed stuff for their eduaction. Of course, the efforts of individuals to bring down food, clothing, pens and pencils etc. are very much appreciated. However, the fundamental problem is getting cash flowing through the society here.

We, at the Net, are also experiencing these extremely tough times. Business is down 80% over the last year, but if we do not pay our electricity bill or internet line bill, we get cut off. One of our local relators was saying that they have not sold a house in over a year..... the story is the same everywhere in San Felipe. Only you, out there in California, or Arizona or British Columbia..... can make a difference. Come for a vacation, come for the winter, come and live in your retirement house. This is the first day of fall, the shrimp season opens tomorrow, the weather is excellent. San Felipe needs you now! (TC)


September 19

Economic hard-times are having a profound effect on business in San Felipe. They have also set off a crime wave as people struggle to make ends meet. Word is coming in from all around town of burglaries and break-ins. Vacant houses are particularly vulnerable. In one beach community, two cars were stolen from a garage last weekend. Out at El Dorado, many homes in outlying areas have been broken into. Electronics such as flat panel TVs are favorite items, though drawers are searched for jewellery and money. In some cases, electrical cabling and air conditioning units have also been stolen. The Ranch has issued security notices to its residents and has increased the inspections to be daily affairs. Contact Ranch security for further information. So far, there have been no violent crimes committed against individuals - just property crimes.

In addition we hear of these "quickie ransom" scams that have become endemic in other parts of Mexico. A telephone caller claims to have kidnapped a relative and wants an immediate fix of several thousand dollars. The caller appears to be knowledgable of the family and the names of spouses and children which adds credibility. The advice is to hang up and call the police (in San Felipe call at 577-1134). Give them the caller ID if it is available. Kat has more details on her corner report. My recommedation would be to let all calls go to voicemail and only respond to those that you know.

September 18 2009

Tropical storm Marty appears to be getting torn apart by the winds. A slow move out towards the west is forecast and the storm should become downgraded to a depression over the weekend. Marty is no threat to land.

However, a new storm appears to be on the verge of forming off the coast of Cabo Corrientes. This could bring storm conditions to southern Baja in a few days on the present track.

High tides in San Felipe. The new moon has brought the astronomical high tides to the northern gulf. There have been no winds so there is minimal beach erosion associated with this event so far. However, the high tides have caused problems at the north end of the Malecon by the Century 21 office. It is not clear if the retaining wall between the old shipyard and the street failed or whether the storm drain valve at the same location was left open. In any event, sea water from the shipyard lagoon found its way onto the street junction of Malecon and Mar de Cortez by the Vaquita restaurant. The picture below shows the lake that formed at around 2 p.m. looking from the bridge over the lagoon. The Century 21 office is on the left, Ave Mar de Cortez is in the center where there are green trees in pots. Vehicles are being turned around to go back along the Malecon. (immediate left).


The old shipyard is flooded, an event that only happens a few times each year. The Lighthouse restaurant is on the hill on the right.


A bulldozer has dug a channel in the sand to let the flood waters back to the sea as the tide goes out. Immediately above the bulldozer and truck is the La Vaquita restaurant. The new liquor store is upper-center left. No buildings were flooded:

No, this is not a rainstorm, but the picture is very similar. Kenny and Bonny drive through the flood (Anita-net photo):


September 16

A potential new hurricane has formed off the tip of Baja California Sur and is projected to move slowly nortwest over the next few days. We shall keep an eye on this storm, Marty.


The influenza situation: The State of Baja California is holding meetings aimed at addressing the coming flu season and its impact on schools and the workplace. Since April, some 300 diagnosed cases and 10 deaths have occurred in Baja. ..>> Health authorities around the world are now trying to establish hygiene programs for everyone to participate in. The single most effective strategy for preventing transmission is to frequently wash the hands. It is observed that most people touch their faces (eyes, mouth, nostrils..) about every 5 minutes. The mucous membranes of the eyes, in particular, seem to be a primary way for the virus to enter the body. Sneezing into a disposable paper tissue, or into the crook of the elbow, is now highly recommended over sneezing into the hands. In the Church, there is now even a question as to whether people should be dipping their fingers in the font and taking communion from a common chalice.

Another health-related development: Recent scientific studies reported in The Scientist, seem to point to prostate cancer as being a transmissible disease. There is growing evidence that this cancer, and possibly others, are caused when the body is invaded by a virus that may be transmitted sexually. This is stirring up a lot of controversy in the medical community and further studies are being called for...>>

In San Diego, a new non-profit organization has been established to promote medical tourism to all of Baja California. The new organization, "Baja California Medical Tourism Association" will advocate in California for further recognition of medical services in Baja by more health insurance companies; it will work with other organizations in promoting and lobbying for Medicare payment approval for services in Mexico; and with local authorities to expedite border crossings...>>

Tijuana and Juarez violence continues. La Cronica today reports that 11 people were killed yesterday in Tijuana, six in a burned-out Nissan Sentra...>> In Juarez, the Chihuahua police report ten people were killed in a treatment center for drug addicts...>>

Mexicali is reported to be one of the safest border cities. Today's Los Angeles Times has an article on Mexicali and how quiet it is in the current drug war. " There hasn't been a bank robbery in Mexicali in 18 months, or a reported kidnapping in a year. Mexicali is considered so safe that top law enforcement officials from Tijuana raise their families here, and are seen visiting restaurants and movie theaters without the phalanx of bodyguards that usually follows them everywhere else..." ...>>

September 13 2009

A moderate earthquake, magnitude 4.9, struck just after midnight in the Gulf of California some 113 miles south of San Felipe. There have been no reports of damage in this region. A much stronger quake occurred in the same-mid gulf region on August 3rd. (see August archives).

A synopsis of other recent news:

Mexico lacks a plan to combat negative publicity:

Gregory Paine, a Professor specializing in Crisis Communication at Emerson College (Boston), writing on Mexidata suggests "......what American in their right mind would come to "stroll down Avenida Revolucion" in Tijuana, where ABC, AP and CNN say they would be dodging bullets left and right? Who cares if the "lobster tastes good" if the media have you convinced it could be your last supper? ..." read the full article...>>

Dental tourism booming:

Dallas Fort Worth Dental Makeover Patients Vacation Free in Cabo San Lucas

Cabo Cosmetic Dental Clinic offers Dallas Ft. Worth Full Mouth Cosmetic Dental Makeover patients Free r/t Air or up to 2 weeks hotel in fabulous Cabo San Lucas Baja California. The unique program in cooperation with local resorts Marina Fiesta and Tesoro Hotel is designed to boost Dental Vacations to Cabo San Lucas from Dallas Fort Worth Texas for the season ending December 31, 2009. Millions of tourists visit Los Cabos (San Jose del Cabo) and Cabo San Lucas annually for the perfect beaches, big game fishing, golf, nightlife, fine dining, partying and sport shopping in Cabo’s luxurious boutique malls. Many Texans from Dallas Forth Worth also vacation free with their savings on dental treatments by getting new crowns, implants, bridges, and full cosmetic dental makeovers while in Cabo. And Cabo is only a 2hr. 45min. flight away from Dallas. With Cabo being almost 1,000 miles down the Baja Peninsula – it’s much easier, safer and fun to visit for dental work than border towns.

Here’s the best news of all - Prices for cosmetic dental makeovers in Cabo range from only $10,000 to $20,000US. versus $30,000 to $100,000 in Dallas or Fort Worth. You could buy a new car or few with the difference...>>

The aftermath of Hurricane Jimena

The recent tropical cyclone, Jimena, caused extensive flood damage in northern southern Baja, particularly in the Mulege- Santa Rosalia region, and also in the state of Sonora where huge rainfalls occurred in Guymas (51 cm reported). The Baja highway 1 was rendered impassable by the flooding and many bridges were damaged. The road race from Mexicali to La Paz, scheduled for 26 September, has been cancelled and a relief effort has been organized in its place ...>> The San Diego Union Tribune reported

" Rescue teams returned to Tijuana on Friday after spending a week helping communities in Baja California Sur recover from the beating Tropical Storm Jimena gave them. Tens of thousands of residents in Santa Rosalia, Mulege, Loreto, Lopez Mateos, Campo Rene and other communities in Baja California Sur and in Guaymas and Empalme in Sonora state were reportedly left homeless. The Baja Bush Pilots was continuing to fly in aid from San Diego and other areas. The National City-based International Community Foundation is partnering with the Mexican Red Cross to aid victims; pictures of the destruction can be seen and donations can be made at the foundation's Web site, icfdn.org .

Sonoran communities struggle to recover from Jimena.

The communities of Guaymas and Empalme are struggling to recover after the devastation of Hurricane Jimena. Hurricane Jimena "stalled" over the two Sonoran towns for six hours, dumping more than 50 inches of rain in certain areas. The destruction was such that officials do not expect running water to be restored in the area for two months, a press release from World Care detailed Wednesday. More than 40,000 have been displaced by the hurricane...>>

Water shortages in Mexico as a result of drought.

A months long drought has affected broad swaths of Mexico, from the US border to the Yucatan Peninsula, leaving crop fields parched and many reservoirs low. The need for rain is so dire that water officials have been rooting openly for a hurricane or two to provide a good drenching. Mexico is enduring one of the driest spells in more than half a century....>>

CFE awards a new contract for drilling 30 additional wells at the Mexicali geothermal ststion.

The Mexican state power company CFE has awarded the international tender for the drilling of 30 wells at the Cerro Prieto geothermal field in Baja California to local firm Industrial Perforadora de Campeche (IPC), according to federal procurement website Compranet. IPC submitted a bid of 1.71bn pesos (US$127mn). Works are scheduled to begin September 21 and run 837 days. ..>>

U.S. Customs intercepts 158 lbs. of Cocaine at Calexico border crossing.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Calexico ports of entry intercepted three cocaine smuggling attempts in two days. The first seizure was made on Wednesday , September 9, at about 4:00 a.m. at the downtown Calexico port of entry. 63 pounds of cocaine was found hidden in quarter panels of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo with California license plates. Officers arrested a married couple , a 53-year old man and a 52-year old woman , both Mexican citizens. and lawful permanent residents of Long Beach, California. The couple were transported to Imperial County Jail awaiting arraignment. Total value of all three seizures is over $1.4 million...>>

September 8 2009

Grave and momentous changes to save the Mexican economy are being formulated by President Felipe Calderon. These changes, from the elimination of three cabinet Secretary positions and their departments, to the introduction of additional taxes on gasoline, electricity, telephone service, bank deposits (cash deposits of 15,000 pesos or more in any month will be subject to a 3% tax); increases in the national value added tax and the ISR tax on wages, spell a period of great hardship that is coming. The next fiscal year in Mexico is expected to be the worst in many decades and there is already concern that this will result in an increasing probability of social unrest. Some $300 billion pesos are needed to balance the budget and it is likely that business spending will plummet, the war on the drug cartels will have to be reduced and the social safety net will contract. The Secretary of the Hacienda will announce the details of the austerity measures tonight at 7 p.m. Mexico time.

In California, one in four people are now projected to get the swine flu this winter. ...>>>


September 1 2009

The approaching hurricane should be the focus of everyone's attention at the moment. The course is not completely predictable as you can tell from the changes in the forecast path over the past few days. Old-time residents will remember Nora in 1997 and how San Felipe was almost washed away by tremendous rains. We were cut off from the outside world for three days because of the washouts on the Mexicali road. It took almost 10 years to get the highway to Puertecitos back in good shape. You can see a few of our archival pictures from the old website at the bottom of the page here...>> Today's edition of the New York Times carries an interesting hurricane article on the situation in southern Baja ..>>

President Calderon Caps Public-Employee Pay and further extends transparency.

President Felipe Calderon, last Friday 21 August, signed a decree capping pay for public employees, an austerity measure taken amid the country’s worst recession in decades. The executive order, which modifies the nation’s constitution, affects federal, state and municipal personnel and requires that all salaries be made publicly available. “This is not just about avoiding excessive spending but also generating savings in terms of the federal government’s ordinary expenses so those funds can be used for social spending,” Calderon said in a ceremony at Los Pinos, the presidential residence.

Calderon, who took office in December 2006, said his administration has demanded that authorities show “transparent and efficient use” of public funds “before asking for sacrifices from Mexican families to solve problems.” Calderon said “a ceiling on the annual salaries of public servants” goes into effect as of Friday, with his own salary serving as a point of reference, though he did not specify what the cap is. (Later it was announced that Calderon makes 11,300 dollars per month, while his cabinet chief is paid 11,100 dollars, according to government data.)

“We want officials to receive pay that is equitable and coherent with their role and to avoid abuses in the management of public servant remuneration,” Calderon said.

“Among other principles, (the new measure) establishes the basic concept that no official can receive higher pay than his immediate superior and that pay scales must be in accordance with the responsibilities of the post being held,” he added.

The president made it clear that employees’ salaries should be sufficient “to live decently and not be seen as spoils (of office).” The measure includes lawmakers and judges.

Another change is that from now on “all salaries will be made public and open to scrutiny by citizens and all their component elements must be specified.”

The measure above all seeks to “avoid situations of clear abuse” and end “arbitrariness” in the setting of salaries. (full article..>>>)

Sony has announced that it will close its last remaining TV manufacturing facility in Mexico. The plant, in Tijuana, and another already closed in Mexicali, will end all of their TV production in the Americas. All future sets will likely come from contract facilities in Taiwan and China. This is another blow to the Baja economy with the ultimate loss of several thousand workers. (Update 9/1/09 Reuters - 90% of the Sony factories in Baja has been sold to Taiwans Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd. Han Hai will continue to manufacture LCD TV sets under contract for Sony. Most of the 3300 employees will be retained...>>)

With the approach of the flu season, one of our correspondents today reminded me that we need to start a campaign to promote hygiene throughout San Felipe. One of the single best forms of protection to cut down on the spread of the virus is to wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm, soapy water and dry off with a clean (disposable?) towel. (Many old-timers here will remember Toonie's dictum at every SFARP meeting "wash your hands".) This applies if you are at home, before and after using the bathroom, before and during preparing food, visiting others, after you have picked up or handled merchandise at a store or supermarket, or when you are out having a taco on the street, hoisting a brew at the Miramar or sitting down to a fine meal at the Red Lobster.

Unfortunately, with the decline in the economy, we notice that more and more public facilities run out of soap and towels. We also wonder if food service employees have easy access to such necessities of life. Soap and alcohol-based gels such as Prell will be in high demand this fall and winter, but they cost a lot for the average worker and homemaker here. It made me think of the days when I would motor across country and check into a small motel; I could almost guarantee that there would be a Gideons Bible in the drawer by the side of the bed. Perhaps we could encourage our visitors and snowbirds to bring supplies with them to be left in the restrooms and by the taco washstands here. A sort of Gideons Soap project. I hope that this is not taken as a blasphemous proposal and that some civic-minded group might take it up as a cause.

August 29 2009

This morning we have news that the first strong tropical hurricane of the season that could influence San Felipe is beginning its journey towards the Baja peninsular. Although Jimena it is days away from producing any influence on our weather, it bears watching. It is also a good time to look into clearing those storm drains that have filled with sand over the past nine months and checking your roof for any needed patches. Rain will come, even if it is not in this particular instance. Here is the latest projected track:



Customs inspections of vehicles are now becoming common on entering Mexicali from Calexico - in fact most border crossing points southbound into Baja now have upgraded their level of surveillance with the new inspection teams and are checking for arms, drug money and dutiable goods being smuggled into Mexico. Backups in the southbound direction at the Mexicali downtown port of entry on Highway 111 are typically 20-40 minutes but at busy times the backup can extend several blocks north on the Calexico streets.

The new electronic surveillance equipment is not yet in official operation; when this starts shortly we expect to see delays southbound of as much as two hours on busy weekends as lots of dutiable purchases are found. Equipment of this type should be able to detect and read the electronic tags that are embedded into your purchases. You may recall that Walmart pioneered the placement of these tags in every piece of merchandise sold in its stores - even in cothing. This means that each time you pass through sensitive detectors, whether at a Walmart store or elsewhere, you can be tracked and identified by your purchase on a credit card if the links to the relevant databases are made. Of course, we would expect the governments of the two countries to respect our privacy and not tell what brand of underwear we are wearing.

On a serious note, you should also be aware that the bluetooth connections of your cellphones and similar gadgets are routinely "sniffed" by electronic surveillance systems. No connections are made but this technique enables, for example, special wireless networks to estimate the length of time a person is in a queue or how long a car is waiting to cross the border.


There is news on the swine flu front. The virus, the H1N1 strain, which was first detected in Mexico last April, has spread around the world. Australia has been one of the hardest-hit countries so far and Central America is now showing a significant increase in cases as the virus begins its migration north for our winter. Recently there were a couple of new infections in Baja, one in Tijuana and one in Mexicali, for a total of 179 illnesses according to the World Health Organization. La Voz reported 6 deaths since the start of the epedemic in Baja Norte, five in Tijuana and one in Mexicali ( La Voz de la Frontiera 18 August 2009). Essentially, three deaths have occurred in the summer months when such events are not expected. One thing that is striking in the WHO statistics is that the Mexico infections are principally examples of acute respiratory disease where the lungs are badly infected...>>

Mexico’s swine-flu infections could surpass 1 million during the country’s winter season, Reforma newspaper reported, citing Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova. The ministry has documented more than 21,000 cases of the virus this year, Cordova said in an interview with the newspaper. The number of deaths could reach 200 in the winter months, he said....>>>

What does all this mean for San Felipe? It is clear that we need to continue to educate people on basic hygiene techniques; washing hands with soap and water frequently, covering sneezes, cutting out the traditional hugging and kising when we greet people, and staying home when we feel sick. Our snowbirds will be coming into town from Canada and the north starting in October and November and it is unlikely that they will have had time to get the new H1N1 vaccinations (it is expected that two will be required, about a month apart) in addition to the regular flu vaccination. At present there is no vaccination facility that has been designated in San Felipe and it is unlikely that the "Hospital San Felipe" - formerly St. James, will be able to provide any assistance - they would not give shots last year and people now report that the facility is closed. I would definitely advise our winter visitors to get all the shots before they come to live here for the season. For more reading:

World Health Organization reports. and also US Department of Flu. , California Flu Information



August 26 2009

I apologize for the fact that our news page has not been updated in some time. I have been on medical leave from the Net and unable to contribute in any significant way. I hope to slowly resume my duties. TC


First an enquiry for a missing person. A correspondent wants to know if anyone can supply a lead in the following case:

UPDATE 28 August. We have located Julie's father and they are in touch.

Hello, My name is Julie Edwards, my father has been living in San Felipe for about 12 years or so, but I have not heard from him for almost three years now. I have lost his phone number and address and I have not been able to find him through the internet searching yet, except for an article that came up in your website about fishermen thought lost in October of 2006. I am writing to you in the hopes that I can find out if he is alright, and perhaps pass on my contact information to you. I know if may be a strange request, but if you have any suggestions I would be delighted to follow up on them. Thank you, Julie

Looking for : Olin Hubert Edwards Age 79 Retired and moved to San Felipe from Washington State. Married to Josephina (Chepina) Borojoques (Spelling??) She is the owner operator of Campo La Costilla down past Puertocitas, and they have many family all over the area. Last time I was there visiting, he was building a new house out in the ejido and had a home down at the end of the beach area away from town propper. He had a greying beard, greying hair and dark tan.

If anyone can help, please send information to us here at the Net through our contact link

Here is a summary of what has been happening in the past few weeks:

Petroleum Thefts

The Pemex security personnel report (August 13th) that they are finding many places where people have tapped into their pipelines and are stealing oil. The most recent cases are three taps on the line from Rosarito to Ensenada. Around km 61 ( the gap to Valle de Guadelupe) the security peope noticed a strong smell of oil and unearthed a large connection that was taking fuel. This is considered a very serious offense and if the culprits are ever found they could be fined and go to jail. The process of tapping the lines is also dangerous and needs skilled personnel to do the job. It has been reported that much of the stolen oil is sold to refineries in Texas. The US authorities are ordering these refineries to pay several million dollars to Pemex for the fuel that they "bought" cheap and the head of a US company arranging the transfers is being indicted....>> Since this oil theft is occurring on a grand scale, it is believed that the drug cartels are behind the business and have found a new way to make money now that the border with the US is being tightened to stop the flow of drugs into the USA. Pemex invites the public to anonymously supply information on thefts by calling 01-800-228-9660, or call the police at 066.

Tourists spending much less (19 August)

The Tijuana Merchants Association reports that tourists are spending only about half what they were a year ago. Typical day visitors are spending $25-30 dollars compared to an average of $60 a year ago. In addition, the total number of visitors has fallen dramatically. The traditional American visitor (primarily youth wanting access to the Tijuana nightlife, and mature visitors interested in dining and shopping activities) has fallen to around 15% of the total market and been replaced by an 85% hispanic demographic from the USA. Many of this latter group come to Tijuana for medical services that they cannot afford in California and for ethnic foods that are much cheaper and fresher in Mexico. It is interesting to note that a similar decline in spending has occurred in San Diego and "anglo-saxon" visitors from out-of-state are also way down in absolute numbers in Southern California.

For San Felipe, La Voz quoted COTUCO on 24 August, that a similar effect was noticed. About 75% of our tourists are now nationals from Ensenada, Tijuana and Mexicali rather than from international points of origin. Hotel occupancy on weekends is still a respectable 65% but mid-week is very quiet.


Customs Agents replaced (August 18th)

The Federal Government fired all of its existing 700 border customs officers on Sunday and brought in double the number of newly trained agents, plus support from the military, to man the ports of entry from the USA. The new agents are young and dynamic and have been specially trained to avoid the "mordida" problems of the past. ...>>

The customs inspections are to be significantly tightened to catch guns and drug money coming into Mexico since the US government refuses to do anything to help in this area. Another major thrust of the new inspections will be to stop smuggling of goods into Mexico without paying the duty. In this very difficult time for the economy of Mexico, with petroleum profits being down and tourism way down, the collection of new revenue streams is of paramount importance to the government. Previously, the border cities enjoyed some "flexibility" from the tax inspectors and informal importing of goods (such as groceries, televisions, computers...) from the USA was tolerated with small considerations to the inspector. All that is now being brought to a halt. If you have goods in excess of your legal exemption, you must declare them and pay the tax due. (see here for the incomprehensible regulations..>>). Soon, all vehicles will be inspected electronically to see if they are carrying dutiable goods. The commercial sector of Mexicali is reported to be very happy with this change according to the National Chamber of Commerce president Marco Reyes. My estimate is that it will decrease the shopping expeditions by Mexican residents in California shopping centers along the border. It will also significantly affect Americans living in places like San Felipe who furnish their retirement homes with US merchandise that they bring south.

The new system of electronic checks southbound at the border are not yet in action because additional study is being done on how big the backup lines will be on the US street systems and freeways. However, the system is likely to be implemented soon after the Labor day holiday traffic subsides.


Dead Body Found washed up on the beach

The director of public safety, Ulises Alonzo Mendez, reported to La Voz de la Frontera on August 25th, that the body of an unidentified man washed up on the beach near the El Cortez Hotel on Sunday afternoon. The man had been shot in the head and had been thrown from a panga. The high tides and winds had brought the body ashore.

Mexicali presses to enhance medical tourism (25 August)

A proposal is underway to make a "health line" special lane at the border crossing for people who come for medical and dental treatment in Mexicali. One thought is to have these people directly enter the SENTRI lane from downtown Mexicali and cross into a dedicated lane to the right of the SENTRI from 9 to noon and 3-5 p.m. when there is little SENTRI traffic.





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