The best lawyer I have ever had!

Christian Limon, is with the Marcus Family Law Center, PLC, in El Centro (founded in 1974), brings a comprehensive set of skills and expertise to assist her clients. She is licensed as an attorney both in Mexico and California, with her international practice in Imperial County and Mexicali. Her emphasis is family law, including cross-border custody and family support issues. Christian is also experienced in cross-border contracts and bi-national litigation (civil, commercial, family, and labor), advising several US companies in their endeavors in Mexico, including real estate development and maquiladora operations. She is a Spanish/English interpreter with a focus on legal documents and legal proceedings, as well as a California Notary. Christian is a member of the California BAR, Imperial County Bar Association, ANADE (Mexican Association of Corporate Attorneys) and AEM (Mexican Entrepreneurs Association).

Marcus Family Law Center, PLC

 

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Gangland killings down 94% in Los Cabos!

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas

Homicides are down by as much as an incredible 94% in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, thanks to the security operation known as Titan Shield, the National Security Commissioner said yesterday.

Renato Sales Heredia told a press conference that homicides related to organized crime are down in several other states as well as a result of the new security program that was implemented on January 29.

During the operation’s first 11 weeks, homicides declined 94% in Los Cabos and a whopping 70% in La Paz compared to the previous 11-week period.

In Chihuahua, homicides were down 40% in Ciudad Juárez, while in Colima, the city of Colima saw a decline of 45%, Manzanillo 24% and Tecomán 13%.

Titan Shield was implemented in the state of Guanajuato in early March, Sales Heredia said, where gang-related killings are down 61% in Apaseo el Grande and 43% in Celaya.

Since January 29, 1,121 people have been arrested in relation to homicides, kidnappings, extortion and other crimes, the security chief said.

Also during that period, 140.4 kilograms of cocaine, 46 kilos of crystal methamphetamine, 670 kilos of methamphetamine, 58 kilos of fentanyl and 20.3 kilos of heroin have been seized, along with 11.6 tonnes of marijuana.

Wife fears for El Chapo’s Health

Emma Colonel, El Chapo's wife

Emma Colonel, El Chapo’s wife

Meanwhile, the wife of jailed drug lord El Chapo Joaquín Guzmán spoke to reporters this week for the first time since his extradition last year, declaring that she has been unable to see him in private and that she worries about his health.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 28-year-old former beauty queen, spoke out in New York City after attending a court hearing for her husband, commonly known as El Chapo.

Coronel said that for the last 15 months she has only been able to see her husband during court hearings.

“I have no communication with him, neither visits nor calls. The only ones that get a chance to see him are the girls [his twin daughters] and the lawyers,” she said.

“My concerns are regarding his health because I know he’s in a very bad psychological condition, that he feels sick, according to what the lawyers tell me. That’s what I’m worried about—how will he face a trial if his health is not okay?”

One of Guzmán’s lawyers said authorities will perform another evaluation by a neuropsychologist.

The legal defense team of the founder and former leader of the Mexico’s leading Sinaloa Cartel has complained that their client is being in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan.

The Metropolitan Correctional Center, the rust-colored fortress in Lower Manhattan where hundreds of federal inmates are housed, was described as less hospitable than Guantánamo Bay by one inmate who had been incarcerated at both. The highest risk half-dozen inmates — or at least the ones facing the most severe charges — are housed in conditions so isolating that some have blamed them for deteriorating eyesight. The inmates deemed most dangerous, including El Chapo, are housed in a half-dozen cells in a small wing known as 10 South, where they are held in solitary confinement and prohibited from calling out to one another. The lights are on 23 or 24 hours a day, according to court records, interviews with lawyers and written accounts. The frosted glass windows offer no view of the outside world. Even the slot on each cell door is kept shut, meaning that inmates see little beyond their solitary cell. This litany of severe conditions, known generally as “Special Administrative Measures,” requires the approval of the attorney general. In 2011, Amnesty International wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., expressing concern that the conditions amounted to cruel and inhuman treatment.

“The segregated units are horrifying and inhumane,” David E. Patton, the executive director of Federal Defenders of New York, wrote by email. “If you wanted to intentionally design a place to drive people mad, you’d be hard pressed to do better.”

Mr. Patton, whose office represents Mr. Guzmán and many inmates in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, described the isolation on 10 South as stark, with prisoners’ days mostly devoid of human interaction. “The fluorescent lights are always on,” he said. “The only sound is the occasional clanking of metal when doors are opened and closed.”

Guzmán was extradited to the United States in January last year to face charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and murder.

Guzmán and Coronel married 11 years ago and Coronel later gave birth to twin girls in the United States.

At yesterday’s hearing she was only able to shake her husband’s hand, both before and after.

Mexico Travel Advisory, Level 2: Exercise increased caution

Notwithstanding the above regarding Los Cabos, the U.S. Government has just released the following important information:

Exercise increased caution in Mexico due to crime. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico as U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to these areas.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico. U.S. government employees are also not permitted to drive from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior parts of Mexico with the exception of daytime travel on Highway 15 between Nogales and Hermosillo.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

Do not travel to:Colima state due to crime.

  • Guerrero state due to crime.
  • Michoac?n state due to crime.
  • Sinaloa state due to crime.
  • Tamaulipas state due to crime.

For all other states in Mexico, please see detailed information below.

If you decide to travel to Mexico:Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving at night.

  • Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Mexico.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Aguascalientes state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling between cities at night. Additionally, U.S. government employees are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in Aguascalientes.

Baja California state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain an issue throughout the state. According to the Baja California State Secretariat for Public Security, the state experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to the same period in 2016. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Bystanders have been injured or killed in shooting incidents.

Due to poor cellular service and hazardous road conditions, U.S. government employees are only permitted to travel on “La Rumorosa” between Mexicali and Tijuana on the toll road during daylight.

There are no U.S. government restrictions in tourist areas in Baja California, which includes: Ensenada, Rosarito, and Tijuana.

Baja California Sur state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain an issue throughout the state. According to Government of Mexico statistics, the state experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to the same period in 2016. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Bystanders have been injured or killed in shooting incidents.

There are no U.S. government restrictions for travel in Baja California Sur, which includes the tourist areas of Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, and La Paz.

Campeche state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution. Police presence and emergency response are extremely limited outside of the state capital.

There are no travel restrictions on U.S. government employees.

Chiapas state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

U.S. government employees are encouraged to remain in tourist areas and are not permitted to use public transportation. U.S. government employees are permitted to drive during daylight only.

There are no restrictions on U.S. government employees in tourist areas in Chiapas state, such as: Palenque, San Cristobal de las Casas, and Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Chihuahua state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity are widespread.

Travel for U.S. government employees is limited to the following areas with the noted restrictions:

  • Ciudad Juarez: U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel after dark west of Eje Juan Gabriel and south of Boulevard Zaragoza. U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to the areas southeast of Boulevard Independencia and the Valle de Juarez region.
  • Within the city of Chihuahua: U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to the Morelos, Villa, and Zapata districts.
  • Ojinaga: U.S. government employees must travel via U.S. Highway 67 through the Presidio, Texas port-of-entry.
  • Palomas and the Nuevo Casas Grandes/Paquime region: U.S. government employees must use U.S. Highway 11 through the Columbus, New Mexico port-of- entry.
  • Nuevo Casas Grandes: U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel outside city limits after dark.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Coahuila state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime is widespread. Local law enforcement has limited capability to prevent and respond to crime, particularly in the northern part of the state.

U.S. government employees are not permitted to travel in Coahuila state, with the exception of Saltillo, Bosques de Monterreal, and Parras de la Fuente. U.S. government employees can only travel to those cities using the most direct routes and maximizing the use of toll highways. Between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., U.S. government employees must remain within Saltillo, Bosques de Monterreal, or Parras de la Fuente.

U.S. government employees are permitted to travel to Piedras Negras and Ciudad Acuna but they must travel to these cities from the United States only.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in Coahuila.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Colima state – Level 4: Do Not Travel

Do not travel due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity are widespread.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to Tecoman or within 12 miles of the Colima-Michoac?n border and on Route 110 between La Tecomaca and the Jalisco border.

There are no restrictions on U.S. government employees travel along Route 200 from the Jalisco border to Manzanillo, including the Manzanillo airport. There are no restrictions on U.S. government employees for stays in Manzanillo from Marina Puerto Santiago to Playa las Brisas.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in Colima.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Durango state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity along the highways are common.

U.S. government employees may travel outside the city of Durango only during daylight on toll roads. Between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., U.S. government employees must remain within Durango city.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in Durango.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Estado de Mexico state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime is common in parts of Estado de Mexico.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to the following municipalities, unless they are traveling directly through the municipalities on major thoroughfares:Coacalco

  • Ecatepec
  • Nezahualcoyotl
  • La Paz
  • Valle del Chalco
  • Solidaridad
  • Chalco
  • Ixtapaluca
  • Tlatlaya

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel on any roads between Morelos, Huitzilac, and Santa Martha, Estado de Mexico, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Guanajuato state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

There are no travel restrictions on U.S. government employees.

Guerrero state – Level 4: Do Not Travel

Do not travel due to crime. Armed groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travelers.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to the entire state of Guerrero, including Acapulco.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Hidalgo state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

There are no travel restrictions on U.S. government employees.

Jalisco state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Jalisco state.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to areas bordering Michoac?n and Zacatecas states. U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling between cities after dark and from using Highway 80 between Cocula and La Huerta.

U.S. government employees may use federal toll road 15D for travel to Mexico City. However, they may not stop in the towns of La Barca or Ocotlan for any reason.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in Jalisco.

There are no restrictions on U.S. government employees for stays in the following tourist areas in Jalisco state: Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Chapala, and Ajijic.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Mexico City – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

There are no travel restrictions on U.S. government employees.

Michoac?n state – Level 4: Do Not Travel

Do not travel due to crime. U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel in Michoac?n state, with the exception of Morelia and Lazaro Cardenas cities and the area north of federal toll road 15D.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel by land, except on federal toll road 15D.

U.S. government employees may fly into Morelia and Lazaro Cardenas.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Morelos state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Morelos state.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel on any roads from Huitzilac to Santa Martha, Estado de Mexico, including Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Nayarit state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Nayarit state.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel in most areas of the state, with the following exceptions:

  • Riviera Nayarit (which includes Nuevo Vallarta and Bahia de Banderas)
  • Santa Maria del Oro
  • Xalisco

When traveling to permitted areas above, U.S. government employees must use major highways and cannot travel between cities after dark.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in Nayarit.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Nuevo Leon state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Nuevo Leon state.

U.S. government employees may travel outside Monterrey only during daylight on toll roads, with the exception of travel to the Monterrey airport, which is permitted at any time.

U.S. government employees must remain within San Pedro Garza Garcia or Santa Catarina (south of the Santa Catarina river) municipalities between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in Nuevo Leon.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Oaxaca state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

In Oaxaca, U.S. government employees are encouraged to remain in tourist areas and are not permitted to use public transportation.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel on Highway 200 throughout the state, except to transit between the airport in Huatulco to hotels in Puerto Escondido and Huatulco.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to the El Istmo region. The El Istmo region is defined by Highway 185D to the west, Highway 190 to the north, and the Oaxaca/Chiapas border to the east and includes the towns of Juchitan de Zaragoza, Salina Cruz, and San Blas.

Puebla state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

There are no travel restrictions on U.S. government employees.

Queretaro state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

There are no travel restrictions on U.S. government employees.

Quintana Roo state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

According to Government of Mexico statistics, the state experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to the same period in 2016. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents injuring or killing bystanders have occurred.

There are no restrictions on U.S. government employees for travel in Quintana Roo state, which includes tourist areas such as: Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and the Riviera Maya.

San Luis Potosi state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of San Luis Potosi state.

U.S. government employees may travel outside San Luis Potosi city only during daylight hours on toll roads. U.S. government employees must remain within San Luis Potosi city between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in San Luis Potosi.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Sinaloa state – Level 4: Do Not Travel

Do not travel due to crime. Violent crime is widespread. Criminal organizations are based and operating in Sinaloa state.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel in most areas of the state. In areas where travel is permitted, the following restrictions are in place:

  • Mazatlan: U.S. government travel is permitted only in Zona Dorada, the historic town center, and direct routes to and from these locations and the airport or the cruise ship terminal.
  • Los Mochis and Port Topolobampo: U.S. government travel is permitted within the city and the port, as well as direct routes to and from these locations and the airport.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Sonora state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Sonora is a key location utilized by the international drug trade and human trafficking networks. However, northern Sonora experiences much lower levels of crime than cities closer to Sinaloa and other parts of Mexico. U.S. government employees visiting Puerto Pe?asco must use the Lukeville/Sonoyta crossing, and they are required to travel during daylight hours on main roads.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from travel to:

  • The triangular region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and north of Altar.
  • The eastern edge of the state of Sonora, which borders the state of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of Federal Highway 17, the road between Moctezuma and Sahuaripa, and state Highway 20 between Sahuaripa and the intersection with Federal Highway 16).
  • South of Hermosillo, with the exception of the cities of Alamos, San Carlos, Guaymas, and Empalme.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Tabasco state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

There are no travel restrictions on U.S. government employees.

Tamaulipas state – Level 4: Do Not Travel

Do not travel due to crime. Violent crime, such as murder, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, extortion, and sexual assault, is common. Gang activity, including gun battles, is widespread. Armed criminal groups target public and private passenger buses traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers hostage and demanding ransom payments. Local law enforcement has limited capability to respond to violence in many parts of the state.

U.S. government employees are subject to movement restrictions and a curfew between midnight and 6 a.m.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in Tamaulipas.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Tlaxcala state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

There are no travel restrictions on U.S. government employees.

Veracruz state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

U.S. government employees are encouraged to remain in tourist areas and are not permitted to use public transportation. U.S. government employees are permitted to drive during daylight only.

Yucatan state – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution. Police presence and emergency response are extremely limited outside of the state capital.

There are no restrictions on U.S. government employees for travel in Yucatan state, which includes tourist areas such as: Chichen Itza, Merida, Uxmal, and Valladolid.

Zacatecas state – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Zacatecas state.

U.S. government employees may travel outside Zacatecas city only during daylight hours on toll roads. U.S. government employees must remain within Zacatecas city between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

U.S. government employees are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in Zacatecas.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

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A Happy Ending for Serafin Zambada Ortiz

Los Narcos

Los Narcos

The day Serafin Zambada Ortiz turned 2, a car bomb exploded outside his birthday party.

When he was 9, just hours after he and his mother had left a Mazatlán hotel to treat an outbreak of the chickenpox, an assassin squad stormed inside, killing his grandparents, uncle and aunt.

It’s what happens when your dad is the one of the most powerful narcos in the world.

The constant threat of bloodshed kept Zambada’s world very small as a child, moving him from place to place under the watchful eye of his mother, at times staying hidden indoors while other children got to play soccer.

“I lived in a golden cage with luxuries that were useless,” Zambada wrote of his upbringing amid turbulent narco wars.

Despite his mother’s best efforts to shield him from that world, Zambada couldn’t resist the pull of the family business. By 22, he was the leader of a drug distribution cell, caught on a wiretap conspiring to traffic large quantities of cocaine and marijuana from Mexico into San Diego.

By 23, he had made it – he was in jail!

On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, more than three years after pleading guilty, Zambada, 27, was sentenced by a San Diego federal judge to 5½ years in prison. The hearing closes a significant chapter in the long-running, ongoing takedown of Mexico’s most powerful trafficking organization: El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel.

The effort to dismantle the group from top to bottom — largely played out in San Diego — has swept up drug distribution networks, smugglers, hit men, high-ranking leaders and money launderers. Many of the prosecutions have been headed by Adam Braverman, a career prosecutor who is San Diego’s newest U.S. attorney (and may not have many more years to live?).

At the very top of the organization are Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán — the public face of the Sinaloa — and his co-leader, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia — Serafin’s father — who has operated more from the shadows.

Guzmán is awaiting trial in Brooklyn on federal charges of heading a massive trafficking operation.

The elder Zambada remains a fugitive, charged in an indictment in San Diego along with two other sons. The U.S. State Department is offering a reward of up to $5 million for his capture.

Their family history, outlined in letters to the court and in a sentencing memorandum filed by Serafin’s defense attorney, reads like the gritty cross-border crime dramas that glamorize the narco underworld. Except this one is for real!

“El Mayo,” a farmer by trade, was already a rising star by the time he had a chance encounter with Leticia Ortiz Hernandez in Mexicali MaryAnn’s home town of Mexicali in 1988. The two already knew each other, having grown up in neighboring villages outside Culiacán, Sinaloa.

Ortiz, a recent graduate of psychology, ignored the advice of her forest ranger father and restaurateur mother to stay away from the drug trade, and she fell in love with the man 15 years her elder. The couple lived in Tijuana, surrounded by key players in the narco scene.

Ten days after Serafin’s birth across the border in San Diego, future kingpin Benjamin Arellano-Felix attended the baptism as his godfather, a great honor. Months later at the boy’s confirmation, Amado Carrillo Fuentes — a leading trafficker known as “Lord of the Skies” for his fleet of cocaine-smuggling planes — stood up as another godfather.

Then the peace ended. War broke out with the Arellano-Felix brothers over control of the Tijuana plaza. Serafin’s mother took him and his baby sister to Culiacán, where they thought it would be safer. The car bomb shattered that notion.

“From that day on, our lives were never the same,” the mother recalled in court records. “The same men that not long before stood up for our children in church and promised to raise them to be good Catholics were now trying to kill them.”

She said several teenage boys were murdered in Tijuana for the sole reason that they had played on the same soccer team as “El Mayo’s” older son from a prior relationship.

The brutality went the other way, too — a cycle of retaliation.

“From 1992 to the year 2000 the days were difficult and bloody and a stupid senseless war where many families were destroyed and with a lot of pain in their hearts,” she said.

When Ortiz’s family was killed by rivals, she hid her family from the outside world, frequently moving from home to home and keeping Serafin from school. His father sent armed guards to live with them, which was normal for a narco kid.

Ortiz told Serafin that his grandparents had been killed in a robbery, but he was starting to understand his family’s unusual position in society. He’d spot his father’s picture on wanted posters. While Serafin described his dad as someone who provided “love and affection,” he was not what you might call “a constant presence.”

Ortiz finally took the children and fled to Phoenix, overcome with depression and paranoia. Serafin and his sister, Teresa, got to live as normal schoolchildren there and learned English. But that tranquility ended two years later, when Ortiz’s visa expired, and they returned to the cartel’s stronghold.

Serafin and his sister returned to Arizona — this time without their mother — to attend The Orme School, a prestigious boarding school near Prescott.

They returned to Culiacán after a year.

Sinaloa’s friend-turned-bitter rival, the Arellano-Felix organization, which had dominated the Tijuana routes under Benjamin’s leadership until his 2002 arrest, slowly faded from the scene as it became the target of San Diego prosecutions. Benjamin is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S.

But new rivalries emerged, and the children had to go into hiding again when the Beltran-Leyva Organization splintered from the Sinaloa and a power struggle put family members in the crosshairs. This time, the family escaped to Vancouver, Canada, sometimes called “Hongcouver” for its swelling population of Chinese.

Back in Culiacán, Serafin attended college at the Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa to study agronomy, where classmates said he thrived in his studies and soccer. But he was drawn back into the world that he’d been sheltered from for so long.

“Unfortunately, I returned to Culiacán Sinaloa and I say unfortunately because in that city there is nothing more than the drug trade,” he wrote in a letter to the judge.

In 2010, still a teenager, he married a girl who also comes from a family entrenched in trafficking. The young couple had two children.

“I think it was his way of becoming independent and getting out of the bubble he had always felt he lived inside of,” his mother surmised.

Authorities have not released much detail about Zambada’s managerial role in the cartel. Most documents in the case have been filed under seal.

He was arrested on a warrant in November 2013 as he used the pedestrian lanes (the easy way – no need to climb over a wall) to cross into the U.S. at the port of entry in Nogales, Ariz.

Zambada pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to import more than 100 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana into the U.S. from Mexico, according to the plea agreement. He also agreed to forfeit $250,000 in drug proceeds, an amount that has been very easily paid.

On Wednesday, Zambada — allowed to temporarily trade in his jail garb for a white dress shirt and blue slacks — apologized through a Spanish interpreter for his crime and said he looks forward to moving on with his life to raise his two children “in the best way possible.”

In his letter to the judge, Zambada explained further: “In this drug business one hurts a lot of people and I your honor regret having been the cause of causing so much damage to many people with the drug business. I have learned here in this place that drugs destroy many lives.”

For such a high-profile defendant, the hearing was noticeably devoid of the usual spirited argument about how much time he deserved behind bars. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys had previously agreed to the prison term, and U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw accepted their recommendation.

While the judge called Zambada’s crime “very significant,” he listed several mitigating factors that made a lower sentence reasonable, including his youth, his “genuine remorse,” the lack of violence in his background and the many letters of support from family and friends depicting him as a polite and helpful young man. Without the departures, Zambada had faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.

It is not known why it took so many years to sentence Zambada. With time already served, he should be out of custody by September, said his defense attorney Saji Vettiyil.

He plans to finish the last bits of schooling to get his college degree and to help his mother with her Mexican lychee and mango farm, possibly distributing the fruit to a U.S. market and live happily ever after.

Amen!

Graham Mackintosh, Baja California Adventurer

Graham Mackintosh and Friend

Graham Mackintosh and Friend

Graham Mackintosh once described himself as the least adventurous person in the world. Some 30 plus years later, he can look back on adventures that most people would never dream of.

Mackintosh was born in London in 1951 of a Scottish father (Inverness)and an Irish mother (Kilrush, Co. Clare), he grew up in Slough, Berkshire, and received a BA Hons degree in Sociology from the University of Leeds.

In 1983 he was a lecturer at a college in England teaching social sciences and special education to unemployed teenagers. Hoping to show his students that a shoestring expedition could be the adventure of a lifetime, Mackintosh, who described himself as the “least adventurous person in the world,” set out to walk around the beautiful but dangerous coastline of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

He was out to to show his students that “the adventure of a lifetime” could be enjoyed on a shoestring budget.

Two years later, he completed his 3.000 mile (4,800-kilometer) circumnavigation walk on foot around the entire coastline of Baja California. He wrote a book about his experience called Into a Desert Place and subsequently won an award for Adventurous Traveler of the Year.

It turned out that one adventure wasn’t enough for the unadventurous Mackintosh, who embarked upon another Baja expedition in 1997, walking 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers
down the mountainous interior of Baja California from the border all the way to Loreto. Journey with a Baja Burro, Mackintosh’s second book, tells the tale of the hike.

Two more books have followed: Nearer My Dog to Thee, the 2001 story of his four months with two street dogs in the Baja mountain range, Sierra San Pedro Mártir, and Marooned with Very Little Beer, which followed a two-month kayaking trip in the Sea of Cortéz, where he also hiked the island, Isla Angel de la Guarda.

Another adventure in 2013 hasn’t yet produced a book, but it is written up on Mackintosh’s website (http://www.grahammackintosh.com/). It was to be one of his biggest challenges — climbing 9,800 foot (3,000-meter)-high Picacho del Diablo, Baja California’s tallest mountain.

He admitted he wasn’t a climber, but allowed that he didn’t undertake such challenges without considering every possibility for things going wrong. Plus, a bit of tension and anxiety, he said, is a good thing.

“You really need a little fear, a little pressure to keep you focused and alert. But not too much that you feel overwhelmed.”

Mackintosh, who now resides in San Diego, California, says all his Baja adventure have begun with that uncomfortable tension, which turns into confidence as he settles into the trip.

He admitted that climbing Picacho del Diablo, or Devil’s Peak, might be beyond him. “But I will at least try and see what happens and be prepared to leave it for another day if necessary.”

As it turned out, he did have to leave it for another day after one of his climbing companions, aged 72, decided en route that he’d best not continue. Mackintosh notes that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination.

He should know, he’s seen a thing or two.

Mackintosh as written a couple of other great books about his adventures, and his bio, photos and all his books are available on his Amazon page.

The U.S. Has No Idea of How to Deal with Mexico

Trump vs Peña Nieto

Trump vs Peña Nieto

Trump’s contemptuous tweet and temper tantrum reflect failed policies

“Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States,” Mexican president Porfirio Díaz once said around the turn of the 20th century.

Today, a Mexican president who is disliked by Mexicans — as is his Institutional Revolutionary Party — is playing “David” to U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s “Goliath.” A testy phone call between Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his United States counterpart Donald Trump was the catalyst for a joint decision to call off a planned meeting between the pair, according to a report published Saturday in the Washington Post.

This month, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a planned meeting in the White House with President Trump. He apparently did not want to be “bullied” by Trump.

Not only did President Trump express contempt for Mexicans in a tweet but in his personal phone call with President Peña Nieto. Trump reportedly threw one of his patented temper tantrums because the Mexican leader essentially told Trump — and for the third time — that he would not offer any Mexican support for Trump’s “beautiful wall” on the Mexico-U.S. border.

“The Washington Post, which first reported the delay earlier on Saturday, said the two leaders spoke for about 50 minutes on Tuesday, February 20. But the discussion led to an impasse when Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of the wall. The Post said that Trump’s border wall proposal took up a considerable portion of a roughly 50-minute conversation between the two leaders last Tuesday and was — as in the past — a major source of contention.

According to Mexican and U.S. officials who spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity, Trump refused to agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s repeated assertion that it will not pay for the construction of the wall.

Trump “lost his temper” during the call, one Mexican official said, while U.S. officials instead described the president as frustrated and exasperated because he believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to expect him to walk away from his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall.

The decision dashes arrangements that were agreed to in Washington earlier this month between a delegation of Mexican officials and a team of Trump advisers, led by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The Mexican team, led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray, had left the White House on February 14 believing it had an agreement that wall funding would not be brought up in a meeting between the two presidents.

According to sources cited by prominent Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola, the call not only led to the meeting’s cancelation but has also caused a deterioration in relations between foreign affairs staff in Mexico and their counterparts in Washington.

In an opinion piece published today on the news website Debate, the well-known columnist and news anchor wrote: “I don’t know if they no longer take calls from Videgaray in the White House but what some sources have confided to me is that at other levels of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, bilateral contacts have been broken.”

Loret de Mola described the climate of relations between the two countries as “frozen.”

Prior to the news that Peña Nieto would not travel to Washington, some political analysts in Mexico said meeting Trump would be risky given the U.S. president’s propensity for verbal combat and one-upmanship.

The Mexican president, in contrast, prefers to avoid conflict in face-to-face meetings.

With Mexico’s presidential election just over four months away, there is a risk that any perception of kowtowing to the U.S. could not only be further damaging to Peña Nieto’s already embattled administration but also to the chances of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party’s candidate, José Antonio Meade.

A clear majority of Mexicans consider the wall proposal as both offensive and racist and several members of the federal government have been at pains to assert that Mexico will under no circumstances pay for it.

Peña Nieto and Trump previously clashed on the same issue in another phone call that took place just a week after the latter’s inauguration in January 2017.  They met on the sidelines at a G20 meeting in Germany in July but neither leader has visited the other in Washington or Mexico City since Trump became president.

A former Mexican ambassador to the United States told the Post that Trump’s unrelenting attitude towards building the wall and making Mexico pay for it has come at a cost to the wider relationship between the two countries.

“The problem is that President Trump has painted himself, President Peña Nieto and the bilateral relationship into a corner,” Arturo Sarukhan said.

“Even from the get-go, the idea of Mexico paying for the wall was never going to fly. His relationship with Mexico isn’t strategically driven. It’s not even business; it’s personal, driven by motivations and triggers, and that’s a huge problem. It could end up with the U.S. asking itself, ‘who lost Mexico?’” he explained.

However, despite the wall issue and NAFTA renegotiation talks that have also been highly contentious, Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray said earlier this month that the bilateral relationship between the two neighbors is closer under Trump than it has been previously.

“I think in many ways the relationship is more fluid,” Videgaray remarked while standing alongside U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Mexico City. “It’s closer than it was with previous administrations, which might be surprising to some people, but that’s a fact of life.”

According to U.S officials, Peña Nieto might make another attempt to visit Washington later in the year and there is also a possibility that he will meet with Trump on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas which will be held in Lima, Peru, in April.

But with the political stakes already high and rising further as the July 1 election approaches, there is a possibility that Peña Nieto and Trump will not hold formal face-to-face talks before the former vacates the president’s office in December.

Both sides agreed, however, that Peña Nieto’s desire to avoid public embarrassment and Trump’s refusal to make that assurance was the crucial factor that led to the cancelation of the bilateral meeting that had been slated to take place in March.

This episode clearly reflects the failed policies toward Mexico that previously peaked in the administration of President Woodrow Wilson, way back in 1914 and 1916. Wilson was America’s premier racist president who invaded Mexico twice in two years in failed attempts to influence the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. Apparently, Trump has crafted his policy towards Mexico using Wilson’s playbook.

As a candidate, Trump declared what we can consider to be a Mexico policy in his announcement speech in June 2015. “Criminals” and “rapists” seemed to be flooding the United States from Mexico, he said at the time, and his proposed “wall” would end that.

A few weeks before the 2016 presidential election, Trump surprised everyone by flying to Mexico to meet with President Peña Nieto. Though Trump never admitted that the Mexican president symbolically slapped Trump around, the Mexican leader announced publicly that he told Trump to his face that Mexico would not pay for “the wall.”

Trump, of course, told a different story, insisting the subject didn’t come up.

The wall continued to be an issue after Trump’s inauguration, with the famous January 2017 phone call between the two presidents. Trump tried to bully the Mexican, who reportedly held out against the new American president.

Trump appears to be totally unschooled on what American policy should be towards Mexico; apparently, he has no idea of the history between the two countries.

Trump is not alone, of course. Much ignorance of Mexico permeates the American media, the general American populace and, of course, the rest of the U.S. government.

The United States does a trillion dollars in NAFTA trade annually with Mexico and Canada. President Trump needs to make nice with its best mutual trading partners — that’s what he should be doing, not picking fights. Instead, he’s nicer even to Russia than to Mexico.

No wonder Trump received only a tiny percentage of the Hispanic vote in 2016. In Colorado, for example, Trump received perhaps only 14% of the Hispanic vote. And in Los Angeles county, a heavily Hispanic county, Trump lost by 48 percentage points.

Cost of living halved for expats in Mexico

MexicaliFood‘In Mexico, you can live like a king for what it costs just to get by in the US’

What is the true cost of living in Mexico? While it can vary considerably depending on location and lifestyle choices, the clear majority of expatriates contacted for a new survey agreed that it is lower than in their home countries.

A Research Study found that most people who relocated to Mexico paid less for goods and services than what they would pay in their country of origin and were therefore able to enjoy a more lavish lifestyle than they could otherwise afford.

Completed by 1,129 expats, the survey offers insights into the spending habits, opinions, experiences and concerns of people who have moved to Mexico to live, either to continue working or to retire.

The study was conducted and published by Best Places in the World to Retire, which also previously published a survey about expats’ expectations before moving to Mexico and the reality they experience once living in the country.

The overwhelming response to the central question in the latest survey — is it cheaper to live in Mexico? — was yes.

Almost half of those surveyed reported that with US $50 or less in Mexico, they could buy the same quality of goods and services that they would pay US $100 for in their home country.

In other words, things cost half or less here than where they previously lived, they said.

A further 36% said that they paid between 25% and 50% less for goods and services in Mexico, meaning that a combined 85% of expat respondents said they pay between half and three-quarters the price of what they would pay for the same thing back home.

Just under 5% of people said that they paid the same or more when shopping in Mexico.

The highest percentage of respondents who said that their cost of living was 50% or less than in their home country live in Baja California (74.2%), followed by Mazatlán (63.1%) and the state of Yucatán (59.1%).

At the other end of the scale, only 28% of Mexico City residents and 33% of Baja California Sur expats said that their cost of living was half or less in Mexico compared to their previous expenses in their home countries.

However, Chuck Bolotin of Best Places in the World to Retire pointed out that even results in the latter — dominated by respondents who live in or near Los Cabos — showed that 90% of expats there experienced lower costs of living, “many of them by quite a bit.”

One respondent who lives in the Puerto Vallarta area said that her rent is probably one-third of what she would be paying in California, while a resident of Mazatlán said “groceries, most services, internet, restaurants, entertainment and travel are all about half the price of Canada’s.”

Another Canadian expat living in Mazatlán pointed out that “the cost of living here can be greatly influenced by one’s choice to buy local or imported goods.”

A younger European expat said that life is expensive in Mexico for people who work here and earn Mexican pesos but for those who are paid salaries in US dollars or euros or live off their savings in those currencies, “it is much cheaper.”

The study also found that those who generated the most savings by moving to Mexico reduced their expenses the least.

However, the lower costs in Mexico meant that they were able to give themselves a significant lifestyle upgrade.

“In Mexico, you can live like a king for what it costs just to get by in the U.S.,” said one American expat who has lived in Mexico for the past 10 years.

A Canadian living in Mazatlán said the savings resulting from moving to Mexico meant that he and his wife could afford things like “front row theater tickets . . . four-star restaurants with live music [and] a personal trainer.”

The lower living costs also translated into less worry about money among respondents with 43% saying that they were much less concerned about their finances compared to when they were in their home country while 24% said they were a little less concerned.

In contrast, just under 10% said that they were a little or a lot more concerned about money while the remainder said they felt about the same.

“Because the cost of living is much lower in Mexico we spend a lot less time and energy thinking about money and just have fun without any guilt,” said a Canadian who lives in Mazatlán.

“For the average retired person money is and will likely always be a concern but that level of concern has been significantly reduced,” said an American who recently moved to Puerto Vallarta.

The study also asked respondents about how much time they spend doing chores in Mexico compared to their home country, contending that it too can affect living costs and quality of life.

Just over 60% of respondents said that they either do much less (41%) or a little less (20%) housework than when they were in their home country, while just over 10% said that they do a little or a lot more.

Increased ability to afford domestic help was cited by several respondents as the main reason why they were able to spend less time doing household chores.

“As Mexican labor is so reasonable, we feel using as much as we can afford us the opportunity to help in appreciation of their gracious acceptance of our being here,” said a Canadian resident in the Lake Chapala area.

Finally, the survey asked respondents where they would have a better overall lifestyle if they spent the same amount of money in Mexico as they would in their country of origin.  The response was resounding.

A total of 80% of respondents said that their lifestyle would be “much better in Mexico” and a further 13% said that it would be a “little better in Mexico.” That comes to 93%, or almost everyone.

“You can really have the champagne and caviar lifestyle here in Mexico on a tuna fish budget,” said one resident of the Lake Chapala area.

However, some respondents pointed out that having a better lifestyle in Mexico wasn’t just about having more money to spend or their money going further than in their home country, citing additional factors such as good weather and simplicity of life.

Residents of the greater Lake Chapala area were most likely to say that their lifestyle would be much better in Mexico than in their home countries by spending the same amount, with 93.5% of respondents indicating so, followed by expats in Mazatlán (90%), San Miguel de Allende (87%), Yucatán (86%) and Baja California (84%).

Poppies replacing pot in Mexico’s drug fields

Poppies

Poppies

In Mexico, opium poppy plantations located by the Mexican military are up 26% in just one year. Once a staple crop for drug traffickers, marijuana is giving way to the opium poppy.

Between 2016 and 2017, the amount of land on which opium poppy plantations were discovered and destroyed by the Mexican Army grew by 26%, from 55,944 to 69,736 acres.

During the same period, land on which marijuana plantations were located dropped 24%, from 5,395 to 4,086 hectares.

Profit is one of the main drivers behind the larger opium poppy production and its increase, Mexican military sources told the newspaper Reforma.

According to figures from the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR), drug traffickers earn US $80 per kilogram of marijuana, while the same amount of heroin — an opium byproduct — can be sold for $35,000 per kilogram.

Mexico is now the third largest producer of opium poppies in the world, behind only the Asian countries of Afghanistan (thanks for the U.S. turning a blind eye) and Myanmar, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Guerrero is the state with the largest amount of land dedicated to growing poppies, followed by the Golden Triangle states of Durango, Sinaloa and Chihuahua.

Military officials believe the states of Oaxaca, Michoacán, Nayarit, Jalisco and Sonora are red flag areas, given the growth seen in the number of opium poppy plantations over the last three years. Consequently, these are not areas in which tourism is safe.

The United States State Department acknowledged last April that it intended to fund a redoubled opium poppy eradication program after detecting a surge in recent years. So far, these efforts have not proved successful.

This comes at a time when the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 64,070 people died from drug overdoses in 2016. That’s a 21 percent increase over the year before. Approximately three-fourths of all drug overdose deaths are now caused by opioids — a class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers as well as heroin and potent synthetic versions like fentanyl.

It should be pointed out that even though drugs are grown in Mexico, the country has no opiod crises—but the United States does.

In 2017 Walmart Opened 79 New Stores in Mexico!

Jim and I feel real at home in Mexicali because we live quite close to Mexicali’s Walmart.

It is a good thing for Mexicans and expats that Walmart México opened 79 new stores in Mexico last year in 2017, most of them under the Aurrera, Aurrera Express and Mi Bodega brands. But it is also angling for more online sales. This year, 2018, Walmart will begin offering free wireless in most of its stores throughout Mexico.

So far, Walmart has opened 29 stores in central Mexico, 22 in western states, 18 in the north and 10 in southeastern states, creating 4,619 new jobs and 9,120 indirect sources of employment.

In addition to that, two new Sam’s Club stores opened in Mexico City, representing a reactivation of the brand: the last new Sam’s Club opened its doors in 2014.

Walmart is betting that 2018 will be a good one for e-commerce. It announced last month it would install free Wi-Fi in all but one of its stores by mid-year. This includes, Walmart Supercenter, Superama, Sam’s Club, Bodega Aurrera, Mi Bodega Aurrera and Bodega Aurrera Express.

Of these, all but the warehouse-style Bodega Aurrera Express will offer wireless connectivity to its customers. The wi-fi service is already available at the members-only Sam’s Club stores.

Walmart hopes that free Wi-Fi access will help Internet-resistant shoppers to become more comfortable online and ultimately boost Walmart’s growing online e-commerce business, which represented less than 1% of Walmart’s third-quarter sales.

Bringing Wi-Fi to its stores and customers will also allow Walmart to collect data from users of its website, helping to personalize offerings in stores and online with the ability to quickly adjust inventory levels and prices.

Walmart has learned a lesson from Amazon and hopes to become a major on-line presence.

Amazon will soon cap off another banner year: The Internet giant is expected to win roughly half of all online shopping sales this holiday season. But Amazon’s greatest rival, Walmart, wants to beat Amazon at its own game: Walmart recently announced that it grew its online sales 50% year-on-year in Q3 2017. As the de-facto leaders of U.S. retail, the two companies are each spending heavily in an attempt to unseat the other.

The two retail giants have been stepping on each other’s toes lately. Amazon’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods can be seen as a defensive move against Walmart’s thriving grocery business. Amazon is also playing offense: The company is going after Walmart’s customer base by offering a discounted Amazon Prime membership to low-income consumers.

Back in 2016, Walmart began an e-commerce buying spree, gobbling up firms such as Jet.com, ShoeBuy, Moosejaw, and Bonobos. The company earlier this year rolled out free two-day shipping for all orders over US$35, and is experimenting with paying workers overtime for delivering packages on their commute home.

So, what’s the advantage for Walmart? First, it is still a much larger company, with revenues of nearly half a trillion dollars—nearly four times Amazon’s. That scale alone enables it to put a much bigger squeeze on suppliers. Second, Walmart generates a large profit—and generates it today.

Walmart’s main revenue driver is its brick-and-mortar retail business, which continues to gain steam amid a world of collapsing retail stores. As of October 2017, more brick-and-mortar store closures had been announced than in any other single year on record. In this low-margin environment, cost efficiency is key—and nobody does cost efficiency better than Walmart, a company that uses its clout to negotiate favorable deals with suppliers and finance its “Everyday Low Prices.” While the rest of retail craters, Walmart plans to add 10,000 retail jobs and 59 new/renovated properties by the end of the fiscal year.

So, what does the future hold? For one, both companies acknowledge that tomorrow’s retail likely will be a blend of online and brick-and-mortar. As TechCrunch columnist Sarah Perez puts it, “Amazon wants to become Walmart before Walmart can become Amazon.” However, the fact is that it may be easier—and cheaper—for Walmart to become Amazon. Walmart has already shown that it is willing to spend big on top tech talent. It would be a lot tougher, on the other hand, for Amazon to pour enough concrete to become a brick-and-mortar powerhouse while still maintaining the company’s culture.

Whoever wins, both Walmart and Amazon may very well outperform the broader market in the years to come. But don’t be surprised if Walmart eventually emerges on top. In Mexico, for one, Walmart is way ahead of Amazon. This presents a major benefit not only for Mexico, but for Americans who live in Mexico and are used to shopping at Walmart.

Mexico continues to move forward, rapidly, to make shopping easy and convenient for all Mexicans and ex-pats, alike!

Central bank auction fails to support Mexican peso

The US dollar and the Mexican peso

The US dollar and the Mexican peso

Efforts to support the Mexican peso amid a slump that has seen it trading at around 20 to the US dollar have failed to apply the brakes on the tumbling currency.

The Bank of México (Banxico) auctioned off an unscheduled US $500 million in foreign exchange hedges yesterday, a measure designed to ease pressure on the peso. But it only provided brief relief as the peso slumped again to end the day at 20.15 pesos per dollar.

The central bank took the decision to make the sale on the questionable advice of the Foreign Exchange Commission, a body made up of officials from the Finance Secretariat (SHCP) and Banxico who are responsible for foreign exchange policy in Mexico.

The Foreign Exchange Commission explained its questionable motivations to intervene via press release, stating, “With the objective of fostering better liquidity conditions, better price discovery and orderly operation [of the exchange market], the commission has decided to instruct the Bank of México to sell exchangeable currency hedges today [yesterday] for the value in national currency of US $500 million.”

The central bank placed US $250 million in a 30-day forward contract and the other US $250 million in a 57-day forward contract.

If the peso has declined further by the time the contracts mature, Banxico will have to pay the difference in pesos but if the currency goes up, it will receive the difference—a dangerous and perhaps ill-advised move.

The central bank’s excuse for the sale is that it allowed the central bank to support the exchange market without eating into Mexico’s international reserves, currently valued at around US $172.5 billion.

The intervention followed the peso depreciating to its lowest level in nine months last Friday, December 22, 2017, perhaps causing the central bank to panic.

Analysts have attributed the dip to high inflation, the threat to investment posed by tax reform in the United States and government corruption scandals that could benefit presidential aspirant Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

But analysts from Banorte-Ixe made the questionable remark that yesterday’s measure showed that the SHCP and Banxico recognized that the recent increase in volatility was largely the result of the US $1.5 trillion tax cut package signed into law last week by United States President Donald Trump—but how does that make sense?

The chief economic analyst at Banco Base, Gabriela Siller, said the exchange rate would remain vulnerable in 2018 due to speculation related to the July 1 presidential election.

Even though this is great news for American and other expats visiting or living in Mexico, it is bad news for Mexico and its people.

Peso falls to 19.725

20 Pesos now only worth about one US dollar

20 Pesos now only worth about one US dollar

The Mexican peso slumped to its lowest level in nine months today, falling 1% to 19.725 pesos to the U.S. dollar today.

Reuters cited high inflation, the threat to investment posed by fiscal reform in the United States and corruption scandals in Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)—as reasons for the drop.

The peso hasn’t been this low since March 2017 and this week is likely to be the worst for the peso since United States President Donald Trump took office in January. The peso has shed 6% of its value this month alone. However, it is still stronger than just before Trump was sworn in when it traded at a historic low of 22 pesos to the dollar.

Renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) amid pressure from Trump to rework the treaty as well as threats to terminate the deal altogether have also placed downward pressure on the peso, with analysts predicting that the trend will continue in 2018.

Banco Base analyst Gabriela Siller highlighted the volatility of the currency based on the U.S. president’s rhetorical whim. “With the level it’s at now, it’s likely that it will go to 20 pesos, especially if Trump speaks out about NAFTA again,” she said.

Inflation rose slightly above analysts’ expectations in the first half of December to 6.69%, around double the US rate, continuing pressure on the Bank of México to maintain high interest rates which currently stand at 7%.

United States tax reform, now signed into law, is also concerning because there are fears that Mexico may lose out on some investment opportunities to the US.

The head of a United Nations economic commission said that the US tax reform will have an impact on the Mexican economy, but some others have downplayed the potential damage it may cause.

Citibanamex analysts pointed to a new and still developing corruption scandal in the PRI as another factor for the weakness of the peso.

An adjunct secretary to the PRI presidency, Alejandro Gutiérrez, was arrested Wednesday and accused of diverting taxpayer money to a political campaign in the northern state of Chihuahua Gutiérrez has denied the allegations, but analysts believe that it could provide a further boost to third-time presidential aspirant López Obrador, who has vowed to stamp out corruption and inequality while trying at the same time to shake off an image that he is anti-business.

A recent survey by polling company Parametria showed that he had an 11-point lead over his rivals. They include declared pre-candidates José Antonio Meade for the PRI and former National Action Party (PAN) president Ricardo Anaya, who is running under a coalition the PAN formed with the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and the Citizens’ Movement Party.

One good result is that Mexico continues to be very inexpensive for visiting American expat and those living in Mexico.

Medical Tourism Booming in Los Algodones

Los Algodones, Mexico on the border near Yuma, Arizona

Los Algodones, Mexico on the border near Yuma, Arizona

Los Algodones, Mexico is right on the border with the USA, just a scant 10-mile drive from Yuma, Arizona and Highway 10. Los Algodones is a Mecca for medical tourism. You hear the comments, “Major dental work… the cost savings is incredible,” “I come here for medicines, I come here for dental work,” “I came down here last May for Dental work.”  While visiting Los Algodones, this is what some visitors had to say about their visit.

The residents and visitors to the Yuma area also find that the health care providers offer an affordable alternative to the high and increasing costs seen for health care on the U.S. side of the border. In addition, there are parking lots on the U.S. side of the border that allow visitors to walk in to this town and return without the hassle of crossing the border in your car. You really don’t need a car in Los Algodones as all the major medical facilities, pharmacies, restaurants and shopping are within easy walking distance.

With high quality, cheap and fast medical and prescription drug services, it attracts Americans and Canadians alike. People near and far visit Los Algodones, bringing their business and to spend money on cheaper products like prescription drugs. For example, an asthma prescription in Mexico costs about $60… in the United States, it’s about three times as much. In addition, there are medical procedures in Los Algodones that do not exist in the States, mainly stem-cell treatments.

However, inexpensive prescription drugs (often without a  prescription) aren’t the only thing that is bringing visitors to the city. “The dentists are fantastic and they’re quick,” one visitor said. “Pricing, professionalism, and they take care of you,” another visitor added. A few visitors even added that the atmosphere is what keeps bringing them back to Los Algodones. There are some great restaurants in Los Algodones, and you can drink the water there, as both Jim and I can attest.

With visitors from the United States and Canada, pharmacy employees say that business has increased. “Business is picking up 100%. There’s going to be double the tourists this year because of the tornadoes that happened in Texas and Florida,” Miguel Gil said, who works at Pharmacy Liquis, one of the major pharmacies in town. He also added that going to Los Algodones is a great alternative to getting medical services in the United States. “We all have the same quality, same materials, same everything for about 10 to 15 times cheaper,” said Gil. With an influx of new winter visitors, these businesses are serving more people. “Two thousand people, a day. Here, and those opticians, three pharmacies, medical doctors, I’m including them all,” Gil said. When Jim and I asked employees when they noticed an increase of visitors over last year, they said it started about two weeks ago.

To further accommodate tourists to the area, there are RV parks on the States side of the border, and even the fancy Quechan Casino with all its attractions.

RV parks in Yuma are seeing an increase this year because of the Canadian currency rate. At one point last year, the Canadian dollar was poor, in the mid to low 60’s.  Now it’s up to 78 cents to the dollar and the fact that it has improved means great things for our economy as RV parks are seeing less cancellations and more bookings. Local RV parks such as ‘Glenaire Mobile Home’ and ‘Westward Village’ are almost at full capacity and it’s not even prime season yet.

“Winter visitors come in all different forms, most of them do travel in motor homes and stay in the RV parks, so we stay in really close contact with the r parks and they let us know how their doing as far as occupancy and some of them are reporting either at capacity or near capacity,” said Linda Morgan, Executive Director for ‘Visit Yuma.’

Another reason for the boom? The recent tragedies across the country with natural disasters have left people leaving areas like Florida and Texas; Once prime vacation spots for visitors, Yuma and the surrounding territory has now become their new vacation area for the winter season.