Synergy Spanish

This system teaches you Spanish, the easy way - not the academic way. With only 138 words you will be speaking Spanish.

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The Best Vet in Mexicali!

Dr. Rafael, the best veterinarian anywhere; he's close to the border, speaks English and has lived in Arizona! Click

U.S. Federal Benefit Programs

Benefits.gov (www.Benefits.gov) offers information on more than 1,200 Federal and state benefit programs. Simply complete the free and confidential Benefit Finder to receive a list of programs you may be eligible to receive.

Mexican Auto Insurance

This company has been with us since 2008. They are the oldest and best established insurer for those of you travelling to Mexico.
Mexico Insurance

From Baja California’s famous Guadalupe Valley

www.winesfrombaja.com

Carbonite

Carbonite is a secure way to back up your computer. It is also a big help if you have to migrate to Windows 10. It is even a bigger help if your computer gets stolen or your house burns down or you files are locked out by Ransomeware. Be safe for pennies a day! Click for Carbonite info.


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.

 

Why Mexico? Here’s Why!!!

Best Places in the World to Retire!

Best Places in the World to Retire!

Why do expatriates like Jim and me move to Mexico? Weather, cost of living and a simpler lifestyle were the top reasons offered by the vast majority of expats contacted for a new survey.

Expats in Medico: A Research Study found too that most of those who relocated to Mexico saw their expectations met and were happy they moved. It was completed by 1,129 expats, the survey offers insight into the motivations, expectations, concerns, experiences and opinions 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, and the very comprehensive report is “a must-read” for anyone considering moving to Mexico.

“This study contains the answers to the most basic, most interesting questions about people moving to Mexico. Why did they do it? What were their expectations? What were their fears? What surprised them? How did it all turn out?” are all to be found in Best Places in the World to Retire.

By all accounts in the report, it worked out extremely well for most.

There were three clear-cut winners among the reasons why expats decided to move to Mexico: (1) over 80% of respondents cited better weather, (2) a lower cost of living or a (3) desire to have a simpler, less stressful life.

The next three reasons cited — at considerably lower percentages — were a desire to have a less materialistic, more meaningful life, a more romantic, exotic or adventurous life or to have better access to less expensive, quality health care.

Other, more specific factors were revealed in respondents’ comments.

“I wanted some place where I could easily return to the United States,” said one Mazatlán resident, while an expat living in Puerto Vallarta cited “freedom, fewer rules, regulations and red tape,” as the main reason he decided to move to Mexico.  Of course, being in Mexicali and having SENTRI passes, Jim and I can get from our house to Calexico, California in an easy ten minutes.

Over 80% said that they had achieved a lower cost of living and enjoyed better weather but the third top reason cited for moving to Mexico — the desire to have a simpler, less stressful life — proved only slightly more elusive with just over 75% saying they had actually achieved it.

Still, a significant majority of people responded that they had achieved their goals for moving to Mexico, indicating that most were happy with their decision to move.

Interestingly, women reported that they had achieved their goals at even higher rates than men.

Overall, the survey data showed that most people’s expectations were largely met and in many cases exceeded, especially with regard to access to high quality, low-cost health care.

However, living a simpler, more stressful life was one exception as a lower percentage actually achieved the goal compared to the percentage of people who cited it as a motivation for moving to Mexico, although the difference was minimal.

In respondents’ comments, working expatriates cited having a healthier work-life balance as an advantage of living in Mexico while many also stressed the emphasis placed on spending time with family as a positive aspect of the Mexican culture.

The survey found that respondents’ primary concern about moving to Mexico was not being able to communicate. Thirty-one per cent said they were worried they would not be able to speak or learn Spanish or get by in their daily life with only English. Luckily for us, Jim spoke Spanish before we came to Mexicali, and I have picked it up pretty (with – watch out – here comes my commercial – with Synergy Spanish).

However, the same percentage said they were not worried about any of the concerns suggested by the survey.

The next biggest concerns were missing family and friends, underdeveloped infrastructure, health care accessibility and insecurity, although it is worth noting that none of those issues worried more than a quarter of those polled. Being so close to the USA, Jim and I have no problems with our kids or relatives coming to visit us, or vice-versa.

“I didn’t have any worries . . . I don’t believe in borders so I thought, if Mexicans can live here, we should be able to as well,” said a resident of Puerto Vallarta, while others said that previous visits or research they had done prior to moving allayed any fears they might have otherwise had.

Just over 70% of respondents said that none of the fears or concerns they had about living in Mexico came true. Slightly more than 10% said they missed first world goods and services while just under 10% said that infrastructure including internet, roads and electricity was substandard.

All other concerns registered single-digit percentages of around 5% or less and notably, just 3.3% of respondents said the ability to communicate remained a concern for them after they became established in their new home.

Only 4.5% said security was a concern despite gang turf wars, which is pretty much limited to the gangs, themselves—just like back in the USA.

One respondent said, “. . . having lived in Mexico for over 10 years I can tell you Sonora is safer than Arizona,” making a similar point to the Baja California tourism secretary who recently said that tourists are safer in Baja California than California.

A Yucatán resident said that living in Mérida “is fast becoming more and more like living in Florida.”

A resounding 76.5% responded “very much yes” when asked whether they would make the same decision to move to Mexico if given the opportunity to do so while a further 16% said “probably.”

“I don’t know” and “probably not” both came in at under 4% of respondents and just 1.6% responded “absolutely not” to the question.

A recurring comment from respondents was a recommendation to potential new expats to rent in Mexico initially before deciding whether or not to buy a house.

Over half of respondents said that living in Mexico was much better than they expected and when combined with those who said that it was a little better, the proportion reached almost three-quarters of those surveyed.

Around 22% said it was about the same as they expected and less than 4% of respondents said that living in Mexico was a lot worse or a little worse than expected.

Over 80% of people said that they enjoyed life in Mexico “much more” or “a little more” than in their country of origin while the same percentage also said they were “a lot less” or “a little less” stressed living in Mexico. A similar percentage said they were “much happier” or “somewhat happier” living in Mexico.

Is anyone planning to go home?

Forty-one per cent said they had no plans to return to their country of origin and just under 40% said they hadn’t made any plans or were unsure. Just over 7% said they either planned to return soon or in the next five years while 13% said they would only return whey they were very old or if they were sick.

Among the comments: “spread my ashes out there with the whales” from a resident of Puerto Vallarta while a Lake Chapala expat said, “the Mexican culture honors the elderly and treats them with so much compassion.”

Several other respondents cited improved medical services as a factor that would enable them to stay longer in Mexico.

The full survey can be downloaded here at the Best Places in the World to Retire.

Baja California Safer than California

Sinapsis Café

Sinapsis Café – Republica de Argentina 298 Mexicali Baja California, Tel. +52 686 565 6167, Hours 4 – 11pm

Tourists are safer in Baja California than in California, according to a comment by Baja California’s tourism secretary in an appearance before the state Congress in Mexicali.

Óscar Escobedo Carignan made the assertion in response to lawmakers’ questions about insecurity in Baja California.

“We had 27 million tourists last year, just over 16 million were from the other side [the United States]. There were two incidents that shouldn’t have happened, but [in terms] of the international numbers . . . they’re practically nonexistent,” he added.

Congressman Bernardo Padilla, who is also a member of the state’s Public Security, Civil Protection and Tourism Commission, questioned Escobedo about comments made by internationally renowned chef Javier Plascencia in relation to the security situation in Tijuana.

“The voice of chef Plascencia concerns me because it resonates in the gastronomic sector at an international level. He said he was nervous about bringing public figures to Baja California.”

Escobedo responded by recognizing the problem but stressed it wasn’t confined to Baja California.

“What is happening is regrettable [and] concerning. He mentioned Tijuana but, it’s in tourist destinations in the whole country like Cancún, Quintana Roo, or Los Cabos, Baja California Sur,” he said.

There have been 1,365 homicides recorded in Tijuana this year as of yesterday while rising crime and violence in Baja California Sur have been blamed for hotel cancellations in destinations such as Los Cabos.

Meanwhile, federal Tourism Secretary Enrique de la Madrid ruled out the possibility that an updated travel warning issued by the United States Department of State in August would affect Mexico’s chances of becoming the world’s seventh most visited country.

Mexico is currently the world’s eighth most popular destination, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Growing violence and insecurity will also not affect Mexico’s tourism growth, de la Madrid said, stressing that the dangers of travel to Mexico for overseas visitors were minimal.

“The chances that you, as a foreigner, are affected [by insecurity] are frankly very low,” he declared at a tourism event in Cancún yesterday.

He also called on Mexicans to stop branding the country as unsafe because of the negative effect it will have on tourism.

“If we manage to convince the world that we are an unsafe country, someday we are going to pay for it with fewer tourists, less employment and less progress,” de la Madrid said.

Twenty-six million international tourists arrived in the first eight months of 2017, representing a 12% increase over the same period in 2016 while a total of 35 million international tourists visited Mexico last year, up 50% on 2012 figures.

Increases in visitors from Argentina, Brazil, France and Canada were all cited by the tourism secretary while he also said that more Mexicans are choosing to vacation at home.

De la Madrid also made his own comparison to the relative safety of tourists in Mexico compared to the United States and beyond.

“In Mexico, we don’t have insecurity where one person guns down more than 50 people at a concert . . . We don’t have insecurity where you’re walking down a European street and a terrorist comes and shoots people who are drinking coffee . . ..”

“In Mexico the insecurity we have, unfortunately, most of it has to do with . . . criminal groups competing among themselves to gain [control] of a plaza.” In other words, tourists are not part of the equation when it comes to criminal groups in Baja California, or even in all of Mexico.

However, out of service to our readers, below is the U.S. Department of State, Mexico Travel Warning.

Mexico Travel Warning

Last Updated: August 22, 2017

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain parts of Mexico due to the activities of criminal organizations in those areas.  U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery in various Mexican states. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico issued December 8, 2016.

For information on security conditions in specific regions of Mexico, see our state-by-state assessments below. U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to all areas to which the Department recommends “defer non-essential travel” in this Travel Warning. As a result of security precautions that U.S. government personnel must take while traveling to parts of Mexico, our response time to emergencies involving U.S. citizens may be hampered or delayed.

Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place on streets and in public places during broad daylight. The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations and has engaged in an extensive effort to counter criminal organizations that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. There is no evidence that criminal organizations have targeted U.S. citizens based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.

U.S. government personnel are prohibited from patronizing adult clubs and gambling establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima, and Nayarit.

Kidnappings in Mexico take the following forms:

  • Traditional:  victim is physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release.
  • Express:  victim is abducted for a short time and commonly forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released.
  • Virtual:  an extortion-by-deception scheme where a victim is contacted by phone and coerced by threats of violence to provide phone numbers of family and friends, and then isolated until the ransom is paid.  Recently, hotel guests have been targets of such “virtual” kidnapping schemes.

U.S. citizens have been murdered in carjackings and highway robberies, most frequently at night and on isolated roads. Carjackers use a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, but drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States are also targeted. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to drive from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior parts of Mexico. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico. U.S. citizens should use toll roads (cuotas) whenever possible. In remote areas, cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.

The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat organized criminal groups.  U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways by car or bus may encounter government checkpoints, staffed by military or law enforcement personnel. In some places, criminal organizations have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, at times wearing police and military uniforms, and have killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them. You should cooperate at all checkpoints.

State-by-State Assessment: Below is a state-by-state assessment of security conditions throughout Mexico. Travelers should be mindful that even if no advisories are in effect for a given state, U.S. citizens should exercise caution throughout Mexico as crime and violence can still occur. For general information about travel and other conditions in Mexico, see our Country Specific Information.

Aguascalientes: Intercity travel at night is prohibited for U.S. government personnel.

Baja California (includes Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada, Tecate, and Mexicali): Exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain an issue throughout the state. According to the Baja California State Secretariat for Public Security, the state of Baja California 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 innocent bystanders have occurred during daylight hours. Due to poor cellular service and general road conditions, U.S. government personnel are only allowed to travel on “La Rumorosa” between Mexicali-Tijuana on the toll road during daylight hours.

Baja California Sur (includes Los Cabos and La Paz): Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain an issue throughout the state. Exercise caution as Baja California Sur continues to experience a high rate of homicides. According to Government of Mexico statistics, the state of Baja California Sur 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, in which innocent bystanders have been injured, have occurred during daylight hours.

Campeche: No advisory is in effect.

Chiapas (includes Palenque and San Cristobal de las Casas): U.S. government personnel must remain in tourist areas and are not allowed to use public transportation.

Chihuahua (includes Ciudad Juarez, the city of Chihuahua, Ojinaga, Palomas, Nuevo Casas Grandes and Copper Canyon): Criminal activity and violence remains an issue throughout the state of Chihuahua and its major cities. If you plan to drive in the state of Chihuahua, you should limit travel to daylight hours on major highways and follow the recommendations below.

  • Ciudad Juarez: Exercise caution in all areas. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling after dark west of Eje Juan Gabriel and south of Boulevard Zaragoza. Defer non-essential travel to the areas southeast of Boulevard Independencia and the Valle de Juarez region.
  • Within the city of Chihuahua: Defer non-essential travel to the Morelos, Villa, and Zapata districts, where the travel of U.S. government personnel is restricted.
  • Ojinaga: Travel via U.S. Highway 67 through the Presidio, Texas port-of-entry.
  • Palomas and the Nuevo Casas Grandes/Paquime region: Use U.S. Highway 11 through the Columbus, New Mexico port-of- entry.
  • Nuevo Casas Grandes: U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling outside of city limits after dark.
  • Copper Canyon and other areas of the state of Chihuahua: U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel.

Coahuila: U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to Coahuila, with the exception of Saltillo, Bosques de Monterreal, and Parras de la Fuente, because of the high incidence of violent crime, particularly along the highways between Piedras Negras and Nuevo Laredo. State and municipal law enforcement capacity is limited in some parts of Coahuila, particularly in the north. U.S. government personnel are allowed to travel during daylight hours to Saltillo, Bosques de Monterreal, and Parras de la Fuente, using the most direct routes and maximizing the use of toll highways. Between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., U.S. government personnel must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew and remain within Saltillo, Bosques de Monterreal, or Parras de la Fuente.

Colima (includes Manzanillo): U.S. government personnel are prohibited from intercity travel at night, from traveling within 12 miles of the Colima-Michoacán border, and from traveling on Route 110 between La Tecomaca and the Jalisco border. U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to this border region, including the city of Tecoman.

Durango: Violence and criminal activity along the highways are a continuing security concern. U.S. government personnel may travel outside of the city of Durango only during daylight hours on toll roads. Between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., U.S. government personnel must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew and remain within the city of Durango.

Estado de Mexico (includes Toluca and Teotihuacan): U.S. citizens should defer all non-essential travel to the municipalities of Coacalco, Ecatepec, Nezahualcoyotl, La Paz, Valle del Chalco, Solidaridad, Chalco, Ixtapaluca, and Tlatlaya due to high rates of crime and insecurity, unless traveling directly through the areas on major thoroughfares. Avoid traveling on any roads between Huitzilac, Morelos, and Santa Martha, Estado de Mexico, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas.

Guanajuato (includes San Miguel de Allende and Leon): No advisory is in effect.

Guerrero (includes Acapulco, Ixtapa, Taxco, and Zihuatanejo): Personal travel to the entire state of Guerrero, including Acapulco, is prohibited for U.S. government personnel. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable.

Hidalgo: No advisory is in effect.

Jalisco (includes Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Lake Chapala): U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to areas that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas because of continued instability. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from personal travel to areas of Jalisco that border Zacatecas, intercity travel after hours, and from using Highway 80 between Cocula and La Huerta. U.S. government personnel are authorized to use Federal toll road 15D for travel to Mexico City; however, they may not stop in the town of La Barca or Ocotlan for any reason.

Mexico City (formerly known as the Federal District): No advisory is in effect.

Michoacan (includes Morelia): U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to the state of Michoacan, except the cities of Morelia and Lazaro Cardenas, and the area north of federal toll road 15D. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling by land in Michoacan except on federal toll road 15D during daylight hours. Flying into Morelia and Lazaro Cardenas is permitted for U.S. government personnel.

Morelos (includes Cuernavaca): U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel on any roads between Huitzilac in the northwest corner of the state and Santa Martha, Estado de Mexico, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas.

Nayarit (includes the Riviera Nayarit coast, including the cities of Tepic, Xalisco, and San Blas): U.S. government personnel may travel to Riviera Nayarit, San Blas, Santa María del Oro, Tepic, and Xalisco using major highways. Intercity travel at night is prohibited for U.S. government personnel. Defer non-essential travel to other areas of the state.

Nuevo Leon (includes Monterrey): U.S. government personnel may travel outside the city of Monterrey only during daylight hours on toll roads. Between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., U.S. government personnel must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew and remain within the municipal boundaries of San Pedro Garza Garcia or Santa Catarina (south of the Santa Catarina river). Travel to and from Monterrey airport is permitted at any time.

Oaxaca (includes Oaxaca, Huatulco, and Puerto Escondido): U.S. government personnel must remain in tourist areas and are not allowed to use public transportation in Oaxaca City. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling on Highway 200 throughout the state, except to transit between the airport in Huatulco to hotels in Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, and they are not permitted to 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: No advisory is in effect.

Queretaro: No advisory is in effect.

Quintana Roo (includes Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum): U.S. citizens should be aware that according to Government of Mexico statistics, the state of Quintana Roo experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to 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, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, have occurred.

San Luis Potosi: U.S. government personnel may travel outside the city of San Luis Potosi only during daylight hours on toll roads. Between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., U.S. government personnel must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew and remain within the city of San Luis Potosi.

Sinaloa (includes Mazatlan): One of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations is based in the state of Sinaloa, and violent crime rates remain high in many parts of the state. Defer non-essential travel to the state of Sinaloa, except the cities of Mazatlan, Los Mochis, and the Port of Topolobampo. Travel in Mazatlan should be limited to Zona Dorada, the historic town center, as well as direct routes to and from these locations and the airport. Travel in Los Mochis and Topolobampo is restricted to the city and the port, as well as direct routes to/from these locations and the airport.

Sonora (includes Nogales, Puerto Peñasco, Hermosillo, and San Carlos): Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades. U.S. citizens traveling throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours and exercise caution on the Highway 15 corridor from Nogales to Empalme. Puerto Peñasco should be visited using the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, and limit driving to daylight hours.

Due to illegal activity, U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to:

  • The triangular region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and north of Caborca (including the towns of Saric, Tubutama, and 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, Guaymas, and Empalme.  Defer non-essential travel east of Highway 15, within the city of Ciudad Obregon, and south of the city of Navojoa.

Tabasco (includes Villahermosa): No advisory is in effect.

Tamaulipas (includes Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Tampico): U.S. citizens should defer all non-essential travel to the state of Tamaulipas due to violent crime, including homicide, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, extortion, and sexual assault. The number of reported kidnappings in Tamaulipas is among the highest in Mexico. State and municipal law enforcement capacity is limited to nonexistent in many parts of Tamaulipas. Violent criminal activity occurs more frequently along the northern border and organized criminal groups may target public and private passenger buses traveling through Tamaulipas. These groups sometimes take all passengers hostage and demand ransom payments.  U.S. government personnel are subject to movement restrictions and a curfew between midnight and 6 a.m. Matamoros, Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, and Ciudad Victoria have experienced numerous gun battles and attacks with explosive devices in the past year.

Tlaxcala: No advisory is in effect.

Veracruz: U.S. government personnel must remain in tourist areas and are not allowed to use public transportation. Road travel should be limited to daylight hours only.

Yucatan (includes Merida and Chichen Itza): No advisory is in effect.

Zacatecas: U.S. government personnel may travel outside the city of Zacatecas only during daylight hours on toll roads. Between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., U.S. government personnel must abide by the Embassy-imposed curfew and remain within the city of Zacatecas.

For further information:

  • See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information for Mexico.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, located at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, at +52-55-5080- 2000 x4440, (5080-2000 for calls in Mexico City, 01-55-5080-2000 for long distance calls in Mexico) 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.  After- hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +52-55-5080-2000.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Embassies & Consulates

 

U.S. Embassy Mexico City
Paseo de la Reforma 305
Colonia Cuauhtemoc
06500 Mexico, D.F.
Telephone: 
011-52-55-5080-2000
Emergency Telephone: 01-55-5080-2000, extension 0
Fax: 011-52-55-5080-2201
acsmexicocity@state.gov
Facebook , Twitter

CONSULATESU.S. Consulate General Ciudad Juarez 
Paseo de la Victoria #3650
Fracc. Partido Senecú
Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico
Telephone:
 (011) (52) (656) 227-3000
Emergency Telephone: (656) 215-0725 (If calling from a Ciudad Juarez phone dial 044 before the number. From other parts in Mexico dial 045 before the number. From the U.S. dial 011- 521 before the number.)
cdjamericancitizens@state.gov
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U.S. Consulate General Guadalajara 
Progreso 175
Col. Americana
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Telephone:
 (01-33 ) 3268-2100 (from Mexico) / 011-52-33-3268-2100 (from U.S.)
Emergency Telephone: (01-33) 3268-2145 (from Mexico) / 011-52-33-3268-2145 (from U.S)
Fax: (01-33 ) 3826-6549 (from Mexico) / 011-52-33-3826-6549 (from U.S.)
acsgdl@state.gov
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U.S. Consulate General Hermosillo 
Monterrey #141 entre las calles
Rosales y Galeana
Col. Esqueda, C.P. 83000
Hermosillo, Sonora, México
Telephone:
 01-662-289-3500 (from Mexico) / 011-52-662-289-3500 (from U.S.)
Emergency Telephone: 044-662-256-0741 (local calls) / 045-662-256-0741 (within Mexico) / +52-1-662-256-0741 (international)
hermoacs@state.gov
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U.S. Consulate General Matamoros 
Calle Primera #2002
Colonia Jardín
Matamoros, Tamaulipas
México 87330
Telephone:
 011-52-(868)-812-4402
Emergency Telephone: 044-(868)-818-1507 (within Matamoros) / 045-(868)-818-1507 (outside Matamoros) / 011-52-1-(868)-818-1507 (from U.S.)
Fax: 011-52-(868)-812-2171
MatamorosUSCitizens@state.gov
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U.S. Consulate General Merida 
Calle 60 No. 338-K x 29 y 31
Col. Alcala Martin
Merida, Yucatan, Mexico 97050

Telephone: From the U.S. 011-52-999-942-5700 / within Mexico 01-999-942-5700 / within Merida 942-5700
Emergency Telephone: 011-52-999-942-5700 (from the U.S.) / 01-999-942-5700 (within Mexico) / 942-5700 (within Merida)
Fax: 011-52-999-942-5758 (from the U.S.)
meridacons@state.gov
The Consulate in Merida provides consular services for the three Mexican states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche.

U.S. Consulate General Monterrey
Ave. Constitución 411 Pte.
Monterrey, Nuevo León. México 64000
Telephone:
 (81) 8047-3100
Emergency Telephone: (81)8362-9126 (from Mexico) / 011-52-1-81-8362-9126 (from the U.S.)
Fax: (81) 8342-5433
MonterreyACS@state.gov
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U.S. Consulate General Nogales 
Calle San José s/n
Fraccionamiento los Alamos
C. P. 84065 Nogales, Sonora.
Mexico
Telephone:
 (52)-(631)-311-8150
Emergency Telephone: (521)-(631)-318-0723
Fax: (52)-(631)-313-4652
nogalesACS@state.gov
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U.S. Consulate General Nuevo Laredo 
Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin
Nuevo Laredo, Mexico
Telephone: From Mexico:
 (867) 714-0512, ext. 3128 (If calling from the U.S., dial 01152 before the number)
Emergency Telephone: 044-867-727-2797
Fax: (867) 714-0512, ext. 3197 (from Mexico) / 011-52-867-714-0512, ext. 3197 (from U.S.)
NuevoLaredo-ACS@state.gov

U.S. Consulate Tijuana 
Paseo de las Culturas s/n
Mesa de Otay
Delegación Centenario C.P. 22425
Tijuana, Baja California
Mexico
Telephone:
 (664) 977-2000 (Dialing from the U.S. 011-52 + phone number)
Emergency Telephone: 001 (619) 692-2154 (from Mexico) / (619) 692-2154 (from the U.S.)
ACSTijuana@state.gov
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U.S. Consular Agent – Acapulco
Hotel Continental Emporio
Costera M. Alemán 121 – Office 14
Acapulco, Gro. 39670
Mexico

Telephone: (011)(52)(744) 481-0100 or (011)(52)(744) 484-0300
Emergency Telephone: Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Fax: (52) (744) 484-0300

U.S. Consular Agent –
Las Tiendas de Palmilla L-B221
Km. 27.5 Carretera Transpeninsular
San José del Cabo, B.C.S. 23406
Mexico
Telephone:
 (624) 143-3566
Emergency Telephone: Please contact the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana.
Fax: (624) 143-6750
Monday-Friday: 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

U.S. Consular Agent – Cancun
Blvd. Kukulcan Km 13 ZH
Torre La Europea, Despacho 301
Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Telephone: 
(011)(52)(999) 942-5700
Emergency Telephone: Please contact the U.S. Consulate General in Merida.
Fax: (998) 883-1373
The U.S. Consular Agency in Cancun is open for business Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. An appointment is required for all services.

U.S. Consular Agent – Cozumel
Plaza Villa Mar en El Centro, Plaza Principal, (Parque Juárez between Melgar and 5th Ave.)
2nd floor, Locales #8 and 9
Cozumel, QR. 77600
Mexico
Telephone:
 (011)(52)(987) 872-4574
Emergency Telephone: Please contact the U.S. Consulate General in Merida.
Fax: (52) (987) 872-6662

U.S. Consular Agent – Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo
Hotel Fontan
Blvd. Ixtapa s/n,
40880 Ixtapa, Gro.
Mexico

Telephone: (011)(52)(755) 553-2100
Emergency Telephone: Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Fax: (52) (755) 553-2772

U.S. Consular Agent – Mazatlán
Playa Gaviotas No. 202
Zona Dorada
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82110
Mexico
Telephone:
 (011)(52)(818) 047-3145
Emergency Telephone: Please contact the U.S. Consulate General in Hermosillo.
General Business hours: Monday thru Friday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
ConAgencyMazatlan@state.gov

U.S. Consular Agent – Oaxaca
Macedonio Alcala No. 407, Office 20
Oaxaca, Oax. 68000
Mexico
Telephone:
 (011)(52)(951)514-3054 or (011)(52)(951) 516-2853
Emergency Telephone: Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Fax: (52) (951) 516-2701

U.S. Consular Agent – Piedras Negras
Abasolo #211, Local #3
Centro
26000 Piedras Negras, Coahuila
Mexico
Telephone:
 (011)(52)(878) 782-5586 or (011)(52)(878) 782-8664
Emergency Telephone: Please contact the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo.
Fax: (52) (878) 782-8707
Monday-Friday: 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

U.S. Consular Agent – Puerto Vallarta
Paseo de Los Cocoteros 85 Sur
Paradise Plaza – Local L-7
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit C.P
Mexico
Telephone:
 (011)(52)(322) 222-0069

U.S. Consular Agent – Reynosa
(Inside the Holiday Inn Hotel)
Calle Emilio Portes Gil #703
Colonia Prado Sur
Reynosa, México 88560
Telephone: 
(011)(52) (899)-921-6530
Emergency Telephone: Please contact the U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros.
Fax: (899)-921-6531
General Business Hours for American Citizens: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
VeraVN@state.gov

U.S. Consular Agent – San Luis Potosi
Edificio “Las Terrazas”
Ave. Venustiano Carranza 2076-41
Col. Polanco
San Luis Potosi, S.L.P., 78220
Mexico
Telephone:
 (01-444) 811-7802 (from Mexico) / 011-52-444-811-7802 (from U.S.)
Emergency Telephone: (045-444) 829-9198 (from Mexico) or 011-52-1-444-829-9198 (from the United States)
Fax: (01-444) 811-7803 (from Mexico) / 011-52-444-811-7803 (from U.S.)
The Consular Agency is open to the public from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM Monday through Friday except for U.S. and Mexican holidays.

U.S. Consular Agent – San Miguel de Allende
Dr. Hernandez Macías No. 72
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Mexico
Telephone:
 (011)(52)(415) 152-2357
Emergency Telephone: Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Fax: (52) (415) 152-1588
Monday-Thursday: 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
clancyek@state.gov

 

Mexican Invention lets Trees Grow in Desert!

Crops are being grown in Egypt using the Mexican system.

Crops are being grown in Egypt using the Mexican system.

A Mexican invention, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lets trees and other plants grow in arid climates.

This invention is a biopolymer that retains nutrient-laced water for several months, opening vast new areas for farming in desert regions and other places where rain is scarce.

The invention was developed by engineer Rafael Ríos Trejo and it is being sold through his firm Dos Ríos in collaboration with the Institute of Technology and Higher Studies of Monterrey (ITESM) and the Autonomous University of Chapingo (UACh). This brilliant product has won Ríos the 2014 National Entrepreneur Prize of Mexico, and has since received support from the Mexico-United States Foundation for Science—La Fundación México-Estados Unidos para la Ciencia (FUMEC)

Ríos’ company has successfully grown plants with its product on over 1,000 hectares of arid land not only in Mexico but in countries such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Chile. This can be the answer to Middle Eastern countries who are rich in sunlight, but lack water, enabling them to bio-diversify  their parched lands.

To encapsulate water in a polymer, Ríos uses a combination of biodiesel waste, methane and carbon dioxide—economical products which are in abundant supply. Plants can then be nourished by the polymer for months on end, rainfall notwithstanding.

“We can achieve reforestation with the help of this polymer, which can be compared to the so-called ‘Solid Rain,’” the company’s public relations director told the newspaper La Crónica de Hoy. Another Mexican innovation, Solid Rain is a system in which solidified water is planted in crop fields.

Víctor Jiménez compared the use of the polymer to drip irrigation, but in this case the water is contained in a bag which is beneath the plant. With this process, he said, all the water is used, while 90% of it is lost in drip irrigation.

“The difference between our product and the one known as Solid Rain is that ours is organic—while the others use petroleum and lye. Our product poses no harm to the earth or the plants, and we’ve already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” he continued.

What was a successful laboratory product is now showing promising results in the field. After 18 months, farms in desert zones in Africa and Asia are starting to produce olive oil on what was barren land.

In the extreme deserts of the United Arab Emirates and in Chile, Dos Ríos has successfully grown fruit and trees that produce precious woods.

Now the Mexican firm is back on its home turf with trial runs of seasonal crops having begun in parched parts of Durango and Sonora.

“Our priority is to stop looking at greenhouse gases as part of the problem and start considering them as part of the solution, and for that we need investment, support and an innovative mindset and to adapt new technologies,” said Ríos.

To that end, the company is building a biotechnology research and innovation center in Durango.

Amazon Mega-Warehouse in Mexico!

Amazon in Mexico

Amazon in Mexico

Forget that Amazon wants a new mega-warehouse in America. Now, Amazon is planning to open a mega-warehouse near Mexico City.

A giant 1-million-square-foot warehouse — 93,000 square meters — will be built in Tepotzotlán, about 35 miles north of the Mexico City.

This will triple the size of the Amazon’s current distribution space in Cuatitlán Izcalli, where the company has two dispatch centers.

The giant mega-warehouse is expected to be completed sometime next year. Its location will enable easy access to Mexico’s biggest consumer market but it could also be used to ship products to the United States.

This mega-site will be able to store about 15 million products including bulky items such as furniture. One million deliveries a day can be made and it will give jobs to 2,000 to 3,000 people in Mexico.

Now, American expats living in or visiting Mexico will have full access to Amazon products in Mexico.

Despite being relatively new in Mexico, Amazon has grown rapidly and is now the third largest online retailer in the country, with sales $253 million last year. Before the launch of its website in 2015 its presence in Mexico was limited to the sale of Kindle e-readers and e-books—items that could be easily downloaded online.

E-commerce has grown steadily over recent years in Mexico but matching the kind of success Amazon has had in the U.S. may be more difficult than in America.

Some consumers are skeptical about the safety and certainty of buying online while many others in Mexico don’t have credit cards, except for American expats. Currently, online shopping in Mexico accounts for just under 3% of total retail sales compared with more than 10% in the U.S.

However, those figures along with a population in excess of 120 million gives ample room for growth and some analysts say that Amazon is prepared to take a risk in order to compete with other online retailers such as Chinese-owned Alibaba, with whom the Mexican government just signed an agreement. Which is more good news for American expats.

Amazon, in Mexico, is expanding its product lines, offering faster delivery times and making purchasing as secure as possible in Mexico. Again, good news for American expats in Mexico!

El Chapo’s Successor?

Well, maybe no longer as the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has detained him.

The alleged Sinaloa drug-trafficker Dámaso López Serrano, alias “El Mini Lic”, son and successor of Dámaso López Núñez, “El Licenciado”, was delivered Thursday to the DEA in Calexico, California, a small town on the border with Mexicali, where he would have taken refuge in recent weeks.

 

“El Mini Lic”

“El Mini Lic”

During the last months, “El Mini Lic” was the control of the Sinaloa Cartel with the children of Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo”, and with Ismael Zambada García, “El Mayo”.

The latter was the one who would have threatened to kill him, according to various security sources in Baja California and the US Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP).

His father, “El Licenciado”, who was detained on May 3 in Mexico City, was the one who, according to information from the federal authorities, helped “El Chapo” to escape from prison in Mexico.

A few days later, on May 7, five Sinaloan men – who according to the Federal Government were escorts of “El Mini Lic” – were detained by the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) and the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) In the Tláhuac and Xochimilco delegations of the capital. However, on May 12, a Federal Judge released him and people wonder why.

Then, on May 24, elements of the Special Forces of Sedena and the Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) of the PGR, arrested in El Dorado, Sinaloa, Pedro Alfonso Domínguez Moreno, alias “El Moreno 14”, alleged operator By López Serrano. At the time of his arrest he carried high-powered weapons engraved with the initials “FED”, which according to the authorities means “Special Forces of Damaso”.

PROFILE OF “THE LICENSEE”

In March 2013, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Treasury Department identified Lopez Núñez as the chief lieutenant of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The US agency said that “The Licentiate” carried out an “outstanding task” in the drug trafficking activities of “El Chapo” Guzman and that “played an important role” in money laundering and in the international traffic of narcotics.

The OFAC said that Lopez Núñez, also known as “El Concesionario”, helped Guzmán Loera escape from prison in 2001, and “Since then he has become one of the main lieutenants of the Sinaloa Cartel, which is responsible for the shipments Of several tons of narcotics from Mexico to the United States, “declaring that the proceeds of their criminal activities amounted to about 280 million dollars.

According to the PGR, “The Licensee” is required in extradition by a Federal Court of Virginia in the United States. Dámaso “N”, as the authorities identify him officially, is “one of the main operators of narcotics and generator of violence in Sinaloa and southern Baja California Sur.”

Whatever the “Narcos” do, we see no evidence that they present a problem for tourists in Mexicali, or people in the beautiful little town of Calexico,

Sinaloa Cartel Airline Bigger than Aeroméxico

The air freight service operated by El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel could be considered bigger than Mexico’s largest airline.

Between 2006 and today, military officials have seized 599 airplanes and helicopters allegedly belonging to the Sinaloa Cartel. This dwarfs the fleet of 127 aircraft operated by Mexico’s largest airline, Aeroméxico. That’s nearly five times the size of Aeromexico’s fleet, although most of the Sinaloa Cartel’s aircraft are on the smaller size — Cessnas (the most popular), Gulfsteams and Pipers among others.

Of just under 600 confiscated planes, the federal government has been able to resell 105, the most popular makes being Cessna, Rockwell, Gulfstream, Piper and Beechcraft. The government has earned close to $5 million by selling off the cartel’s aircraft, but those were not the Sinaloa Cartel’s only aviation assets.

During the last decade, authorities have disabled over 4,500 clandestine airstrips located mainly in the rugged northeastern mountain ranges of the Golden Triangle, in the states of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango.

The cartel’s drug-running success in recent years has been largely attributed to its ultra-light aircraft, capable of carrying more than 1,100 pounds of cargo between the Golden Triangle and cities on the Mexico-United States border.

Over half of the 4,729 secret airstrips, whose runways ran from 500 to 1,000 meters in length, were located in Baja California and Sonora, with 1,025 and 1,564, respectively. There may be one on Highway 8 between Mexicali and Los Algodones. It consists of a dirt runway 1,100 meters long with a hanger, a gas truck, a cell phone tower (for easy night location) and several light airplanes (which we have seen practicing touch-downs). Since, however, this is so obvious, chances are it is just for those who like to have fun flying.

Most of the cartel’s planes were piloted by high-ranking officers of the Mexican Air Force. One of the pilots was arrested in April 2008 and extradited to the United States two years later, where he pleaded guilty to the charges against him in a Texas court.

Jorge Kessler

A Mexican and German national Jorge Arévalo Kessler, 44, studied aviation at a military school in Jalisco. He declared during his trial that greed made him one of the cartel’s highest ranking pilots.

Arévalo, along with two graduates from the Defense Secretariat aviation school, Alejandro Flores Cacho and Ricardo García Sánchez, began trafficking illegal drugs between South America and Mexico as early as 2003. The other two men remain fugitives.

Jorge Gustavo Arevalo-Kessler’s career flying planes for the Sinaloa Cartel’s private airline ended with an arrest in Mexico City and an admission of guilt before a U.S. federal judge.

German by birth, Arevalo-Kessler became a Mexican citizen and rose to the rank of captain in the Mexican air force, where he worked as an instructor and trained hundreds of pilots. His post-military career was quite different.

He received an offer to fly for Emirates Airlines and could have retired with a pension. Instead, he went to work for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and flew bundles of cash and cocaine to and from Venezuela, Panama and Mexico. “He has had so many privileges given to him because of his education and his ability to fly the planes,” U.S. District Judge Gray Miller said during Arevalo-Kessler’s sentencing. “I mean, he’s flown fighter pilot — or piloted fighter planes. He’s flown commercial jets, small and large. Unfortunately, like he said, he was blinded by the greed and got himself in the situation that he got himself into.”

He is the nephew of a long-time Mexican Secretary of Defense, and was the personal pilot of disgraced former Mexican President Carlos Salinas.

His American connections are visible too. When finally arrested, Arévalo Kessler was flying a former U.S. military plane that was part of the 1990’s Forest Service scandal,  involving planes intended for firefighting diverted into CIA covert drug running operations, the most spectacular result being the C-130 busted on a runway at Mexico City’s Intl Airport carrying cocaine worth $1 billion.

Kessler’s American connections are visible too. When finally arrested, Arévalo Kessler was flying a former U.S. military plane that was part of the 1990’s Forest Service scandal,  involving planes intended for firefighting diverted into CIA covert drug running operations, the most spectacular result being the C-130 busted on a runway at Mexico City’s International Airport carrying cocaine worth $1 billion.

Or maybe the most spectacular result was this: 14 firefighters burned to death in an out-of-control forest fire in Colorado in August of 1994. No planes were available to help. They’d all been leased out on more lucrative assignments.

Arevalo-Kessler received 11 years in federal prison on charges of conspiring to engage in money laundering. He only had a few words in response, according to a transcript of the 2011 trial which was unsealed last year.

“And all these black days, I have thinking I’m — I’m praying and I just asking the Lord to get — be near and speak with truth,” Arevalo-Kessler said. “And the only thing I want to let you know, Your Honor, is that I have time to think about what I did. What I did — I did was wrong. “

Baja California Sur murder rate up 433% in 1st quarter!

Baja California with Baja California Sur on the bottom (southern part of the peninsula)

Baja California with Baja California Sur on the bottom (southern part of the peninsula)

The murder rate in Baja California Sur in the first three months of 2017 have hot up by an alarming 433% over the same period last year as rival gangs fight to take over the territory. Don’t confuse Baja California Sur (the darker part of the peninsula on out map) with Baja California to the north (the lighter part of the peninsula on the map).

There were 27 intentional homicides during the first quarter of 2016 and a whopping 144 in the same period this year.

Statistics from the National Public Security System show that extortion and kidnapping are also increasing.

On June 7, state authorities found 18 bodies—13 men and five women—in a clandestine grave on a private property near the fashionable resort town of Los Cabos. It was the first time that such a discovery has been made in the tourism-oriented region.

“For us this is totally unusual,” said state Interior Secretary Álvaro de la Peña Angulo. “It’s something unprecedented in the history of Baja California Sur. The whole country has a very acute problem and without any doubt the Baja California peninsula from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas has been throughout history a springboard to transport drugs from south to north. That’s very attractive for criminals. They are not groups that are established in the state. They have arrived from other states like Sinaloa and Jalisco and from the north of the peninsula.”

He conceded that without a coordinated effort from federal forces, the escalating violence in Baja California Sur is going to be impossible to contain.

So far, visitor numbers have not been adversely affected in a region where tourism is vital to the local economy and domestic and international tourists spend approximately $668 million annually.

A relieved state Tourism Secretary indicated that it was business as usual despite the wave of violence—so far.

“There are confrontations that have occurred between criminal groups; it hasn’t affected the tourist zone or any visitors,” said Luis Genaro Ruíz.

However, some residents face a different reality.

One example is the case of Petra Muñoz Pulido, a journalist with 40 years’ experience.

Since 2014, she has participated in a federal government protection scheme for journalists after receiving a death threat via a banner hung from her home in La Paz, which she has been forced to convert into a virtual fortress.

“Before the most momentous thing that could happen was robbery, assault, a crash, a fire; that was what tormented us, but since a few years ago it turned into a fearful situation for all of us.” She now lives with security measures that one would never have thought possible.

Muñoz’ situation became even more complicated when her 31-year-old son, who worked with her on her political magazine Expreso, was abducted last December.

She believes police investigators carried out the kidnapping – an incredible possibility. However, she states that the state Attorney General’s office has made no progress in its investigation. She even fears that information that she provided to authorities may be counterproductive and could backfire on her.

“The authorities don’t want to talk about clandestine graves but there they are. I fear the information that I gave the Attorney General’s office to look for my son, may sink him further. I don’t want to think the worst but who are those people in the graves? The disappeared. There are many people missing and their families are afraid to report it.”

Interior Secretary Álvaro de la Peña Angulo confirms Petra Muñoz Pulido’s conclusion, stating, “It’s absolutely clear to us that all those people [in the graves] disappeared . . . people who sadly somehow disappeared from somewhere.”

A Canadian man was found brutally beaten to death on a beach between Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo yesterday morning.

The state prosecutor’s office revealed that 50-year-old Marty Gary Atwood died from severe head trauma and a crushing skull fracture. His body was discovered on fashionable El Tule beach.

The sighting of a suspicious vessel off Cabo San Lucas on June 26 led to the seizure of nearly 4,000 pounds of cocaine by Mexican armed forces.

When the Navy went to investigate the boat, which was spotted in the early morning about 100 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, its crew dumped overboard 76 bags of white powder and fled the scene. The bags were gathered up by marines and transported to the naval facility in Los Cabos where they were confirmed to contain cocaine, estimated to be worth US $50 million in the United States market.

More than a ton of cocaine was seized by the Navy off the coast of Chiapas on June 21, which followed yet another seizure of 1540 pounds of cocaine in the same area on June 16.

Near the city of La Paz, back on March 12th, a group of 25 tourists, mostly foreigners, were enjoying a visit to Isla Espíritu Santo when they were accosted and robbed by three armed men.

The visitors, who had traveled to the island aboard three boats, were robbed of cash, cameras, phones, wallets and passports. They are very lucky to be alive.

Baja California Sur was ranked as the fourth least peaceful in the country in 2016, but with the rates crimes also on the rise—things are getting much much worse.

The difference between Baja California and Baja California Sur

Baja California is the northern part of the peninsula, and Baja California Sure is on the southern part. Baja California is on the border with the United States. The part of Baja California along the Pacific Coast is not all that safe. However, going inland to Tecate and Mexicali are the safest areas. The drive through Baja California’s beautiful wine producing Guadalupe Valley from Tecate to Ensenada is safe, with fantastic wine tasting opportunities along the way. Stick to this part of Baja California and you should be safe.

We have driven all the way from Mexicali to Tecate and then through the Guadalupe Valley to Ensenada and back to Mexicali in one (long) day. It is a beautiful ride and we recommend it.

Ocotillo California on US Hwy 8

There are very cheap rentals in Mexicali. I found a house for an American friend for only $400 a month. It was a proper house – two stories, three bedrooms, an office, a huge living room, a beautiful garden in the rear, and a parking space behind a locked gate to the property. For us, the best site to find rentals in Mexicali is https://casas.trovit.com.mx/renta-mexicali.

Once in Trovit, stick to the street that you will find yourself on when you enter into Mexicali. After a couple of miles going East, you will probably see some rentals and that is the safest area. If you go farther south in Mexicali you will hit some not-so-good neighborhoods which you should avoid.

Ocotillo Turn Off

Ocotillo Turn Off

Another option is to look in the US towns just north of the border – Calexico, El Centro, and Heber. Going West on Highway 8, about 30 miles from El Centro you will hit, on the right (North side), a town named Ocotillo.

At first glance, Ocotillo may not look too good, but it is very safe and inexpensive. I’ve been there and love the place. There is a trailer park called Jackson’s Hideaway where you can rent a nice trailer – TV and all for about $300 to $400 a month. On the second Thursday of each month a large truck arrives at the community center and it’s free food for all residents. Fresh stuff including chicken, steaks, you name it. The town has a church, a bar, and a restaurant.

There is also the Ocotillo Trailer Park and Motel – I don’t recommend it although it is near the center of town and not all that bad.

One of our readers wrote me:

MaryAnn, the first time I saw Jackson’s Hideaway I was visiting a friend who wintered there each year, moving his fifth wheel trailer between Oregon and the Anza-Borrego Desert on the snowbird route. I was in a little van which served me well for short trips but wasn’t all that comfortable on a long haul. I told my friend I’d considered heading into El Centro (30 miles east) to get a motel and he suggested Jackson’s have “something better.” He was right. About half of their spaces are occupied by trailers permanently installed on spaces–which they rent. Don’t think ‘trailer’ as much as ‘fully equipped cabin’ or maybe ‘motel room with kitchenette’. Clean linens, kitchenware, air conditioning, cable television…heck, even a coffee pot! And the rents aren’t much higher than the space rental for those, like my friend, who bring their own trailer.

And talk about quiet…noisiest thing in that neighborhood are the mourning doves that send up their mating calls at the crack of dawn. There aren’t any ‘services’ to speak of in Ocotillo itself (one bar, one so-so greasy spoon, one gas station) but El Centro is handy and has everything for shopping/dining. But the best feature of Jackson’s location is that it sits on the southeast corner of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park with an almost inexhaustible supply of hiking and 4-wheeling trails.

I’ve become a regular visitor, and plan to return again and again.

Ocotillo has a fire department, a church, an airport, a gas station, a small market with a restaurant, a bar two community centers, and two water companies. Most of the properties are on about a quarter of an acre, and for only $28 you can get up to 40,000 gallons of the best water you have ever tasted. The water is natural and comes from two huge aquifers and is among the highest rated water in the U. S. – or anywhere.

Ocotillo had a population of 281 as of July 1, 2016 and an average house price of around $40,000. One property with a manufactured home and several other buildings with a truck, a motorcycle several tractors and two RV’s sold about a year ago for $7,000!

Sound interesting? You bet!

We love Baja California, but Puebla?

Jim and I always like to write about all the things that are great about Mexico. However, as in most countries, not everything is great. We prefer those areas in Mexico which are contiguous with the western United States border—in short, northern Baja California. As Jim likes to say, “Boy am I glad we moved to Mexicali, where else can you rent a beautiful 4 bedroom house with a 3-car garage for 500 bucks a month!”

Mexicali is super, along with the Guadalupe Wine Valley in Baja California on Highway 3 between Tecate and Ensenada. The beaches from the U.S. border to Ensenada are as good as Malibu and at a small fraction of the price of traveling or living there.

Fuel thefts of gas by location

Fuel thefts of gas by location

However, farther south and deeper in to Mexico, the state of Puebla and other locations are suffering from the huachicolero effect: the people are not buying fuel from gas stations anymore and they are even abandoning their traditional farming activities. Sorry, but my job is to keep you informed.

People who engage in the illegal theft and sale of fuel (gasoline or diesel) and adulterated alcoholic beverages in Mexico are called huachicoleros.

The word “huachicolero” is derived from “huachicol,” which is an alcoholic beverage adulterated with cane alcohol and other compounds. This word is also used to name the stolen fuel which can be equally adulterated.

An estimated 10,000 illegal fuel outlets have appeared so far this year in Mexico. They are selling discounted fuel stolen from Pemex, the Mexican petroleum company’s pipelines and severely affecting sales at established gas stations.

These clandestine gas stations sell on the streets, in automotive shops, at tianguis [markets] and even have home delivery systems. The sales of established gas stations have dropped by 50% throughout Puebla, and in towns like Esperanza and San Martín Texmelucan, by up to 70%.

Gas stations in the Red Triangle region of the state—where much of the pipeline theft takes place, conducted by thieves known as huachicoleros—used to sell 10,000 liters of fuel a day but now those figures have dropped to between 2,000 and 3,000 liters. Consequently, legal filling stations are on the brink of shutting down because sales aren’t enough to pay for their expenses.

Pemex and Mexico are losing millions, gas stations are closing, as they are being threatened by the huachicoleros.

It is impossible for an established gas station to sell stolen fuel because their inventory data is connected to Pemex and the federal taxation administration, SAT, allowing for easy detection of any irregular delivery of fuel.

While established fuel vendors see their sales plummet, a report by Pemex says the sale and distribution of stolen fuel has become the main productive activity in various Puebla communities.

Sources within the state oil company told the newspaper Reforma they have identified not only communities but whole municipalities that have abandoned traditional farming and livestock breeding to steal fuel, tapping into the 131 kilometers of pipelines that traverse the state. Selling stolen gas is proving to be a far more profitable activity than farming.

At least 17 municipalities are experiencing an economic boom as a result. One is San Matías Tlalancaleca, where 14 communities are now engaged delivering stolen fuel instead of milk.

The activity does have its drawbacks, continued the Pemex sources: disputes over control of the black market for stolen fuel have generated confrontations among locals, culminating in murder, vehicle theft and vendettas.

After last week’s confrontations between security forces and fuel thieves in Puebla, the leader of a local pipeline tapping gang has been forced to leave the town of Palmarito Tochapan, Quecholac.

De los Santos was employed as a municipal police officer in the neighboring state of Veracruz before relocating to Puebla and creating a network of fuel thieves, or huachicoleros, according to investigations by authorities.

Gustavo Martínez Jiménez, also known as “El Vieja,” was identified by residents of Palmarito as being responsible for the confrontation on May 3, 2017 with federal forces, where six civilians and four soldiers died. As a result, neighbors forced Gustavo Martínez Jiménez to leave town even throwing stones at his home.

Meanwhile, efforts are under way to contain and stop the increasing violence among gangs stealing fuel. The state of Puebla and the National Defense Secretariat have deployed a joint force of 3,000 soldiers and police officers.

State authorities reported that up until early May of this year an astounding 149 illegal pipeline taps had been located and over 2 million liters of stolen fuel had been recovered, along with 1,123 vehicles used to transport it.

So far, this year, 354 people have been arrested for their participation in fuel thefts.

Tapping pipelines and stealing the fuel in Puebla’s Red Triangle region is controlled by the Zetas and Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) crime cartels, according to Pemex and government officials.

According to Pemex sources quoted by the newspaper Reforma, small bands of huachicoleros have focused on communities in the municipalities of Tepeaca, Acatzingo, Quecholac, Palmar de Bravo and Acajete.

The Red Triangle sees such a high incidence of fuel theft because of the large number of gasoline pipelines crossing it from the Gulf of Mexico to the central states of Mexico.

A Pemex official said on condition of anonymity that most of the thieves are Zetas and the confrontations witnessed in recent months are part of a turf war for total control of the region and the stolen gasoline black market.

He said members of the Zetas and the CJNG train people living in the Red Triangle municipalities in pipeline tapping and fuel distribution.

One of the local leaders in pipeline theft is known only by his nickname, El Bukanas. A former construction worker and farmer, he now controls the activity in Palmar de Bravo and has been tied to instances of kidnapping and homicide.

After a massive crackdown by federal and state forces last March, El Bukanas is believed to have fled to the neighboring state of Veracruz.

As tourists, these are not the folks you want to mess with—or even buy your gas from. Jim and I want you all to stay safe.

June 27, 2017 Update:

Fourteen months after the creation of seven military units dedicated to safeguarding Mexico’s petroleum pipelines from theft there is no sign that they have made any difference.

In March of last year Petróleos Mexicanos either paid for or donated seven facilities at which National Defense and Navy officials were to be deployed, where their sole mission was to be the protection of the state oil company’s infrastructure.

The facilities were strategically located in the states of Puebla, Baja California, Sinaloa, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Veracruz.

The Puebla facility, for example, constantly monitors a Pemex storage and dispatch terminal, where officials can detect minute changes in the pipeline’s pressure caused by leaks or illegal taps, allowing them to respond immediately and investigate.

In spite of the increased surveillance, the number of illegal taps reported through 2016 and so far this year has continued to rise unabated.

Meanwhile, Puebla Governor José Antonio Gali Fayad has announced a second stage of the Zaragoza Shield security program, which has recovered 2.5 million liters of stolen fuel and resulted in the arrest of 450 people.Public Security Secretary Jesús Morales Rodríguez said 182 state and municipal police, 30 patrol cars and a helicopter have been assigned to the operation, which has a broad security mandate to combat home and vehicle robberies and muggings as well as pipeline theft.