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Ask an old gringo about tax cuts, wind farms, Alebrijes and egg sandwiches

Mexico is a very interesting country. Many things are happening. If anything hasn’t already happened here, it soon will.

Marvin West



Mexico is a very interesting country. Many things are happening. Nowhere else in the world are people protesting because taxes are going down.

The old gringo gets an assortment of questions and requests.

This is No. 1 for now.

Challenge: Please explain the complaints about the REDUCTION in the tax on soft drinks.

Response: Mexicans drink a lot of Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other soft drinks that are heavy in sugar. In 2013, the government blamed the drinks for alarming increases in obesity and diabetes. It imposed a one peso per liter tax on high-calorie soft drinks to discourage sales and save us from ourselves.

When the grumbling subsided, Mexicans concluded that the tax might reduce consumption and actually help health in the long run. The drink industry complained that the tax was killing (well, hurting) business.

Guess who the politicians heard? The lower house of Congress just voted 423 to 33 to reduce the tax by half on drinks that aren’t absolutely loaded with sugar. Coke and Pepsi applauded.

Concerned parents, health nuts and two or three doctors screamed in protest. Those elected to lead the country are killing (well, hurting) the children. Give us back our soft drink tax.

Stay tuned. Mexico is a very interesting country.



Question No. 2: Are pre-packaged egg sandwiches sold in grocery stores?

Answer: This is my first time to be asked about egg sandwiches. I have not even thought about egg sandwiches. I am reasonably certain I have never seen an egg sandwich in a grocery store.

I do believe the average neighborhood restaurant can make one in less than two minutes. OK, this being Mexico, the manana mentality might extend prep time to three minutes.


Question: Just heard on TV that Mexico is shipping electricity to California. True or false?

Answer: True. A wind farm in Rumorosa, Baja California sells all of its output to San Diego Gas and Electric under a 20-year, $820-million power purchase agreement.

All is not happiness and 110 volts. The contract is in federal court. Investors are advocating clean energy. California critics are claiming violations of the National Environmental Policy, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty and more.

Americans are disturbed on behalf of Mexicans. There is a complaint that the U.S. Department of Energy issued a presidential permit without one moment of consideration for environmental impact in Mexico.

Turbines are on a range of the Sierra de Juárez mountains. Endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep live there. So do mountain lions, California condors and golden eagles.

Those who don’t like the wind farm are absolutely certain wildlife is being disturbed. What if a migration pattern is altered?

Stay tuned. California is almost as interesting as Mexico.

 
Question: What happened to the big pipeline?

Answer: Coming soon or maybe a little later.

Pemex wants you to believe that the five-year pipeline plan (2015-2019) will solve the natural gas shortage and lead to more industry and significant development in the southern part of the country. No kidding. That is what Pemex said.

The pipeline is to be built in Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas. It will be financed by the Feds -- as soon as the energy secretary completes cost-assessment studies requested by the treasury and public finance secretary.

Alas, studies take time. They take longer in Mexico.

The next delay will be finding sufficient pesos in a tight budget squeezed flat by the decline in oil prices.

The alebrije is a uniquely Oaxacan variety of Mexican folk art. This one depicts a rabbit. © Alan Goodin 2007
The alebrije is a uniquely Oaxacan variety of Mexican folk art. This one depicts a rabbit. © Alan Goodin 2007

Question: What the heck was that parade of fictional animals in Mexico City?

Answer: As said previously, Mexico is a very interesting place. If anything hasn’t already happened here, it soon will. What you heard about but apparently didn’t see, was the ninth annual walk of giant, very colorful papier-mache creatures known as alebrijes.  Don’t feel bad. Many others missed the display by Mexican artisans who go to a lot of trouble creating conversation pieces. 

Alebrijes can be big, some 20 feet tall, maybe 500 pounds. Weeks and perhaps months go into each production. Sadly, not many people notice.

Fantasy sculptures were conceived by Oaxacan artist Pedro Linares in the 1930s – during an illness, during a dream. When Pedro got well, he started building the fantastic creatures he had visualized. The idea was contagious, even among those of sound mind. For some strange reason, it lives on.


Question: Do you remember the 2007 government seizure of $207 million from a Mexico City mansion? Remnants of the case are now in a federal courtroom in Roanoke, VA.

Answer: Ah yes, I do recall the story. Zhenli Ye Gon, 52, was charged with exporting into Mexico large amounts of restricted chemicals, said to be useful in making methamphetamine. The Chinese businessman claimed the shipments were part of his legitimate pharmaceutical company.

The investigation led to Ye Gon’s home in Mexico City, indeed a mansion with an indoor pool, wine bar and six Mercedes-Benz parked outside. Police found an assortment of weapons and the enormous stash of cash, mostly U.S. $100 bills.

Interesting recollection: The money, when stacked together, was about the size of a king-sized bed. So,you ask, how did Ye Gon end up in Roanoke? He was arrested in Maryland. The U.S. District Court in Washington dropped charges, citing problems with evidence. Since then, Ye Gon has been in Virginia, fighting extradition.

Mexico wants him to face charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and illegal possession of guns.

For some unexplained reason, Ye Gon doesn’t seem nearly as interested in what happened to his $207 million as he does staying out of a Mexican jail.

 

Published or Updated on: November 2, 2015 by Marvin West © 2015
Contact Marvin West

Marvin West, mostly retired after just 42 years with Scripps Howard newspapers, is senior partner in an international communications consulting company. This column is from his forthcoming book, “Mexico? What you doing in Mexico?”  West invites reader reaction; his address is westwest6@netzero.com.
 

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