Foreign Asset Control and You

BY ORLANDO GOTAY / TAX ATTORNEY

If you are a US person who runs a business in Mexico and have not heard about OFAC, perhaps you should. OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control), is part of the US Treasury. It administers dozens of programs related to trade and economic sanctions to further US national security interests.

OFAC foreign asset control programs designate both foreign individuals and entities for economic sanctions. Some of these are country focused, such as Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. Others are broader, making designations under Global Terrorism, Narcotics Trafficking and “Kingpin” lists, among others. Because these are economic sanctions, the lists include entities in which target persons have a majority ownership too, even if the named entities themselves have no actual relation to what got the “owners” on the list. This is the so-called “Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) and Blocked Persons” list.

Sanctions are a bad thing. One does not want to be on these lists. Why is this relevant to you? Great question!

If you are a US person, you are not allowed- in fact, you are prohibited by federal law- from doing business, receiving or giving property to anyone on these lists. OFAC has a comprehensive database of listed persons and entities that change constantly. I just searched it to figure out how many entries it had for Mexico; it returned over seven hundred names. On the basis of a name alone, some businesses would hardly be noticed. There is a childcare center, hotels, even an air taxi service. But the rule is there and it’s on you to not do any business with listed persons.

Why? Because, you can be fined for a violation of OFAC sanctions if you have prohibited transactions with sanctioned persons. More serious cases could warrant more comprehensive actions, ranging all the way to criminal prosecution.

Compliance with these rules can be burdensome. There are screening services that will clear names for you. If you are operating a souvenir shop somewhere, you may not need to do much screening. If you are a real estate developer, the scope of your activities could be such where it may be worth the while, maybe even critical, to screen against the OFAC list.

Of course, the screening universe includes not only clients, but even partners and service providers.  Remember, it’s on you not to do business with them!  You were told.

Orlando Gotay is a California licensed tax attorney (Master of Laws in Taxation) admitted to practice before the IRS, the U.S. Tax Court and other taxing agencies.  His love of things Mexican has led him to devote part of his practice to federal and state tax matters of U.S. expats in Mexico.  He can be reached at [email protected] Facebook: GotayTaxLawyer or WhatsApp at +17604491668. This is just a most general outline. It is informational only and not meant as legal advice.

Victor Diaz Dies at 77

On Saturday, August 8th, Victor Diaz, loving husband and father of 4, passed away at the age of 77 in Tijuana.

He was born in Mexico City on December 1st, 1942, although he lived his final years in Rosarito, where he helped countless families move between the US and Mexico with his business “Fletes y Mudanzas Diaz”.

Mr. Diaz, an honest man of strong convictions, was very well appreciated in the local community, especially by the staff of this newspaper where he was a good friend and a client for over 5 years.

He is survived by his wife Juanita Ramirez, his four children, Victor Hugo, Jose Humberto, Leo Kenneth and Omar Saul, his 7 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

He will be greatly missed.

Border Closure Lengthened (Again)

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard proposed that border crossings with the United States be “closed” until September 21st, citing the continued spread of coronavirus in both countries. Per Aristegui Noticias, “Currently the US has had a resurgence in… the south belt, which is the southern part and so the border could not be opened now.”

Mr. Ebrard further acknowledged that the restriction of land border crossings has severely impacted trade and the economy on both sides of the border for the past six months. He emphasized “prioritizing health.” There has been a 48% drop in the VAT (Value Added Tax) paid through customs versus this time last year, and a decrease of 36% in the General Import Tax.

This may not be the final word on “closing” the border. The closure may be extended through October 21st, if necessary.

It’s Time to Write That Will

If you are like me, you don’t really want to dwell on death and dying. But it’s September, and in Mexico that means it is the month to draw up your Last Will and Testament, Mexican style. “Mes Del Testamento” or “Testament Month” is the chance to have your Mexican will created with a cost reduction of about 50%, or more.

Expats living in Baja should know that your American (or Canadian) Last Will and Testament does you no good if you happen to pass away while in Mexico. Now, if you don’t own your home and don’t have a lot of personal property, you probably don’t have a lot of need for a Mexican will. However, if married, this document will come in handy if and when the surviving spouse wants to sell a house, car, or other property.

There are several types of wills, but the “Open Public Will” suffices for most people. These wills can be simple and straightforward or inclusive of many clauses (Simultaneous Death Clause, No Contest Clause, etc.) depending on your individual situation.

There are several differences between wills in the US and Mexico. In Mexico, one must retain a notario (notary) to complete the Last Will and Testament. Obtain a form from the notario and fill it out completely. If you do not know Spanish, have someone knowledgeable help you. Take the completed form and two identical handwritten copies of your will. No photocopies allowed. The will must be signed and dated to conform to the Baja California Civil Code. In some cases you may be required to have your Mexican will translated into Spanish by a court-approved translator.

You must also bring an official ID with photograph and signature, and two color copies front and back. Acceptable IDs are a driver’s license (Mexican or country of origin), a Mexican voter’s card, valid passport, and/or permanent or temporary Mexican residency card. You must bring two witnesses with their official photo ID’s and two color copies as well. The notario will translate your will into Spanish and have it signed by you and your witnesses if you have not already done so.

The rules of will-making vary from state to state, so if you own property in two different states you will probably be required to have two separate Mexican wills drawn up. The cost varies by state and by the individual notario, depending on several factors, including the amount of property involved and the number of people involved. In September all notarios reduce their rates, but as of this writing, rates had not been set.

There is a list of licensed notarios at https://www.NotariadoMexicano.org.mx. Click on “Directorio” at the top of the page; click “notarios”, then select Baja California, and choose a notario from any of the cities listed. There are two registered notarios in Rosarito, Mr. Luis Armando Durazo and Ms. Ana Cecilia Thomas.

It is important to know that in Mexico there is no “right of survivorship” as there is in the US, so it is extremely important to have a will for each spouse handled by the notario. If the couple has children, said children are the direct heirs of all properties and the spouse very well could legally end up with nothing if not so stated in the will.

Certain assets such as your life insurance, bank account funds, owned home, and Fideicomiso may already have their dispensations to beneficiaries and legally transferable, but other personal property such as cars, boats, coins, jewelry, and stamp collections are all up for grabs unless their dispensation is officially recorded by the notario in your Mexican will. It is also wise to cross-reference your “country of origin” wills and any of the items listed above in your Mexican will to avoid any confusion among heirs.

Without a will registered in the national database, the government will divide your property among surviving heirs,  not including your spouse.

So get your elements and witnesses together. Remember, there are many others with the idea to cash in on this annual event, so a phone call to a local notario is a must. There is a lot of information online to help you with your preparation. Google “Mexican wills” and check out the information most relevant to your situation.

Plans to Renovate Binational Park on the Border Launched

BY JACKIE BARSHAK

“Build That Park” organizers launched a 12-month long public education and design development campaign to raise awareness and solicit input for a proposed bi-national park along the Mexican/U.S. border, where California meets Baja along the Pacific.

Hugging the boundary of the wall in Tijuana, the site is home to Friendship Park and the binational garden of native plants, which serves as a gathering site for a community advocating unrestricted access to both sides of the border. To the north, on the very southwestern corner of the U.S., 1.5 miles south of San Diego, a wildlife refuge inside Border Field State Park forms the perimeter to the other side of the border wall. On these and other expanded sites, including the bull ring to the south in Tijuana, chief architect James Brown envisions a park embodying values of peace, friendship, cooperation and security.

During the year-long design phase, input will be solicited from stakeholders, community activists, artists, designers, grassroots organizers and first nations people. Engagement with the public is key to formulating conceptual design plans that will be unveiled on August 18, 2021, the day marking the 50th anniversary of Friendship Park.

Building parks in cities sharing frontiers has historical precedent. At the US/Canada border crossing, green lawns and flowering gardens of Peace Arch Park, straddling British Columbia and Washington State, gives rise to a dramatic white arch, a symbol of peace, honoring the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812. On the Mexican border, the white stone border marker in Tijuana’s Friendship Park stands as a monument to the end of the 1848 U.S. Mexican war and the signing of The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. “The terms of that treaty have relevance to building a park on the border today”, said James Brown, “reciprocal benefit, cooperation and security for both countries outlined in that historical treaty are the values guiding the new park design”.

The design process will draw on a peoples’ history and the collection of personal stories woven into a visionary plan for the park. There will be international competitions for the design of vertical gardens, outdoor event spaces, interpretive centers with conference rooms, trolley terminals and pedestrian walkways, among other structures proposed in the building plans.

Spanning the two frontiers, the binational garden will encompass an expanded area, with greater opportunities to link shared ecosystems divided today by artificial political boundaries. Binational cooperation of the landscape will enhance control of exotic invasive plants and restoration of native flora. “After 15 years of working in the garden”, said Daniel Watman, founder of the binational garden, “and dreaming that some day the garden would outgrow the walls and end militarization, I’m ecstatic about the prospect of expanding native flora across barriers to bring people together and form collaborations that will improve the region we share”.

The fate of two countries sharing a border are linked. A binational park on the Mexico/U.S. border can serve as a model and living symbol of peace between the two nations, exemplifying what can be achieved through cooperation and collaboration.

Visit www.buildthatpark.org for more information about the project and to learn how you can help.

Second Stimulus Package

The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the monetary value of manufactured goods and services produced within a country for a specific period of time.

During economic crises, such as the one currently being experienced as a result of the coronavirus, people have less money to spend, and are therefore unable to purchase as many of those goods and services as they would under better financial circumstances.

So, when unemployment is high, manufacturers and service providers make less money and pay less taxes, and everything from infrastructure maintenance by the government to the general welfare of the population is negatively affected.

According to Fortune magazine, 44.2 million American workers had filed for unemployment benefits as of June 11th.

Members of the US Congress, most of whom are out of touch with the realities of their constituents, have wasted months arguing over the minutiae within a proposed second relief bill.

On August 9th, President Trump signed executive orders that he claimed would provide some relief to families and businesses, including payroll tax cuts, eviction moratorium, enhanced unemployment benefits, and student loan relief.

The truth of the matter is that those executive orders provide no permanent relief, due to the manner in which the orders are written.

Read the small print to understand why:

Payroll taxes are the source of funds for Social Security and Medicare. Without those funds, there will be no safety net for retirees.

His proposed benefits for the unemployed are to be cut from the $600 per week in the original relief bill to $400 per week, with the added caveat that each state would have to shoulder 25% of that amount. If cash-strapped states can’t afford to make that contribution, the jobless person receives nothing.

Eviction moratoriums cease at the end of the year. At that time, accrued mortgages or rentals become due. The order does not provide for cash to cover those dues.

The same goes for student loan relief. It simply delays the payment due date.

Even though Trump has said he supports a stimulus check (he indicated that he favors a stimulus check of $1,200 or even more), his executive order does not include those checks, because the separation of powers in the US Gov’t doesn’t allow him to do so.

Why? Because Congress controls federal spending, and the two houses of Congress must approve the passage of such spending through legislative action. And members of Congress continue bickering over the details of the stimulus package while millions of US citizens continue to suffer.

Trump claims he has already addressed many of the key issues that were part of the original stimulus package, so that all Congress needs to do is approve the stimulus payments as stand-alone legislation.

What’s bad for the US is bad for Mexico. Mayor Faulconer of San Diego reported that before the economic crisis, more than $1 billion in commerce crossed the border daily. Since the Covid-19 crisis began, businesses related to travel and tourism have suffered most heavily. Unemployment and quarantine have affected almost every aspect of business. Many on both sides of the border have closed for good.

Many expats living here in Baja received payments from the first round of assistance, known as the CARES Act.

People here who experienced the longest delays in receiving their checks appear to have been those on Social Security who have their SS checks directly deposited into Mexican banks. Some locals have still not received their stimulus checks.

Deaths due to the virus are on the increase in 17 states in the US.

This can largely be attributed to Instances of defiance to the advice of medical experts and government officials.

Several extreme instances of defiance were widely reported on all major news outlets: Thousands of motorcyclists gathering for a rally in Sturgis, SD; a crowded school hallway in GA; a mask burning party in Iowa; in all these instances, large groups of people gathered together, following none of the protocols recommended by health experts.

Here in Baja, people are too busy trying to care for their families to engage in such folly. According to Wikipedia, as of August 4th, the total number of reported cases was 14,130, with the death toll at 2,712. The number of reported new cases began to drop after July 31st.

Hopefully, that trend will continue.

There are so many ways that the highly infectious virus can enter the body. Masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, shoe sterilization, and social distancing are helpful processes by which to minimize the spread.

Even here in Ensenada, where the swift precautionary actions of the mayor helped to reduce infections by strictly controlling entrance to the city from the north and the south,  that caution is somewhat defeated by actions in local scenarios, usually due to lack of information.

Exchanging cash, entering data on ATM keyboards, handling produce, bringing packages purchased in open markets into the home are but some of the dangers of exposure,

It’s difficult for everyone to be as careful as they should. But it’s essential that we all try.

The flu season is coming soon. That virus alone kills thousands. Add Covid-19 to the mix, and it could be deadly.

The prevailing wisdom is that this crisis is far from over.

Stay home if you can. Be careful if you go out.

Isla Guadalupe

Ensenada, the Cinderella of the Pacific, boasts many natural attractions, and one of its finest is Islas Guadalupe, a volcanic island about 400 kilometers southwest of the bustling city of Ensenada in the Pacific Ocean.

While the pandemic Covid-19 rages, primarily north of the border, and the news media focuses on the growing number of cases and deaths there, it’s refreshing to focus on something beautiful, something spiritual, something to restore our love for the natural world and the spirituality of man’s interaction with nature.

Guadalupe is one of 24 delagaciones (subdivisions) of the city of Ensenada, and currently has about 150 permanent residents, most of whom live in Campo Oeste (West Camp) and whose livelihood is mostly lobster and abalone fishing. The West Camp residents live on the northwestern part of the island in a small bay that provides shelter from the strong winds and Pacific swells that thrash the island during the winter months.

Electricity is provided by gasoline-powered generators.

Large quantities of water are brought to the island aboard military vessels, although there are several natural springs which serve as sources of fresh, potable water.

The island has 2 major climate zones: One is very arid and semi-hot, from sea level to an altitude of 800 meters, and the other is also very arid but temperate, at altitudes above 800 meters.

The island was formed by the eruption of 2 separate volcanoes that are now extinct.

American and Russian fur hunters were attracted to the island in the 18th and 19th centuries by the proliferation of the Guadalupe fur seal, which they had hunted to near extinction by 1844. It was reported in 1827 that a Hawaiin Islands vessel had spent several months there hunting the seals and had collected 3,000 sealskins.

Islas Guadalupe shares the California Chaparral and Woodlands Ecoregion with the Channel Islands of California in the US, but unfortunately, most of the interesting and exotic plant life on the island has been wiped out by herds of feral goats, which were brought there in the 19th century by European whalers and sealers as provisions for when they made stopovers there.

The eradication of the plant life included many species of trees, including Guadalupe palm, Guadalupe pine, Guadalupe cypress and island oak.

Removing the goats from the island became a priority, and those that are taken off Guadalupe are sold to the state of Sonora, by permission of the Mexican government (including SEMARNAT) and the conservation group Grupo de Ecologia y Conservacion de Islas. By 2007, the goat removal process was complete.

On April 25th, 2005, Guadalupe was designated as a biosphere preserve.

The island is also well-known for the proliferation of great white sharks off its shores. Marine biologists have studied them for years, but little is known about the juveniles, so the studies are concentrated on expanding the knowledge regarding the movement and habitat use of the adult sharks.

What little is known about the juveniles comes primarily from studying juveniles in captivity and those that were tagged and followed from marine biology centers in the US and followed via tracking devices as they migrated to the Baja island.

Researchers found that while juvenile white sharks stayed close to the island during the day, adults moved offshore during the day and moved in close to the island at night, indicating that the adults had a higher tolerance for cooler temperatures than the young sharks.

Adults patrolled in deeper waters in November and December, when northern elephant seals returned to the island to give birth to their pups during the winter post-breeding migration.

Research also revealed that young great whites remained in close proximity to the island for 12-14 months before departing to deeper waters, while adults began coastal migrations prior to their offshore migrations.

The sharks are attracted to the island because of the diversity of prey.

Islas Guadalupe has a long and storied history, and, as any ecologically rich environment, has suffered at the hands of greedy humans who plundered its wealth to the point of extinction.

Thankfully, the Mexican government has finally declared the island  a biosphere preserve.

What this means is that the natural beauty of Islas Guadalupe will be able to heal, at least as much as possible, by the patient and loving hands of Mother Nature.

Consumerism in Mexico Catches Up

There has been a lot in the news lately about junk food sales in Mexico. Earlier this month, Oaxaca’s Congress passed a law that banned the sale of high-calorie drinks and junk food to minors (those under 18). The “ley anti-chatarra,” or “anti-junk food law” was approved by all but one of the lawmakers. Shortly thereafter Adan Lopez Hernandez, Governor of the state of Tabasco, stated that he will introduce a similar bill to the state congress.

At the end of last year, Mexico’s lower house of Congress passed a ruling that certain pre-packaged foods and non-alcoholic drinks would now carry a listing of calories, and amounts of sugar, salt and fats, within a black octagonal symbol appearing on the front of the product. Any ingredient that is in excess of the Health Secretariat guideline will appear in white lettering. After approval in the Senate, it was declared that additional ingredients would include GMOs (genetically modified ingredients), in a “direct, simple, visible, and easy-to-understand way,” according to the lawmakers.

Some of these products are cookies, jams, preserves, soup, evaporated milk, and pre-packaged chips. So much of what is sold in markets are packaged from bulk, and these products are not required to have the warning, although they are as bad, or worse than the commercial products, including small packs of nuts, tamarind candies, and sugary caramel sweets.

An additional warning on products will inform shoppers of the risk of developing diabetes, cancer, heart problems or obesity. Recently, caffeinated products and artificial sweeteners were added to the list, with warnings that these products should not be consumed by children, and cannot include likenesses of celebrities, cartoons, or cute pets on their labels.

These new guidelines are not directed to a small percentage of the Mexican community; three out of four Mexicans (about nine million people) experience obesity and diabetes. According to MexicoNewsDaily.com, the Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell declared that “67% of those who have died from the coronavirus in Mexico had chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, or cardiovascular disease…associated with the consumption of junk food.” Oaxaca’s health services department claims that 28 of every 100 children aged between 5 and 11 are overweight or obese,

Some companies have already begun including these labels, but there is a grace period until March, 2021 before all companies must be compliant. And not everybody is in favor of these new labeling regulations. The National Agricultural Council (CNA) fears that the warnings would “negatively affect the economy” by scaring consumers. Obviously, food and beverage organizations are against anything that may prohibit consumers from purchasing their products.

Like the US, Mexico added new taxes to the products deemed the most harmful; but just taxing these products more does not discourage consumers from purchasing them. President Lopez Obrador launched “awareness campaigns” to inform the Mexican community of the harmful effects of a diet high in calories, fat and salt.

The tax increase of junk food and cigarettes is expected to bring an additional 62 billion pesos (about $3.1 billion USD), according to ElUniversal.com. st

Small mercados are already experiencing a decline in sales. One study showed that 150,000 of Mexico’s “corner stores” closed the first half of 2020, with the threat of another 50,000 closing each month. These closings are not solely due to the slump in junk food sales. The coronavirus had much to do with the closure of shops of all kinds in 2020. A large percentage of products sold in OXXO markets are snack foods containing high levels of sodium and sugar.

To outlaw the sales of unhealthy foods, which hurt the small businessman most, is only one side of the challenge. Perhaps commercials featuring candy, cookies, sugary cereals, and beverages should be banned too, just like ads for cigarettes were banned in the US in 1970.

Many ask if these new laws will actually help anyone. Minors may be unable to purchase these items, but their parents still purchase the products for them, regardless of the tax increase. Junk food is cheap, and healthy food such as beef, fish, fruits, and veggies costs more, especially since COVID put a crimp in the processing and shipping of certain foods.

Mexico is not alone in the fight against unhealthy consumption. Other countries that have already instituted programs such as this one are Peru, Uruguay and Chile. As of today, at least ten Mexican states are considering similar bans, including Puebla, Tabasco, Colima, Chihuahua, Hidalgo, Sonora, Guanajuato, and Baja California Sur. MexicoDailyNews.com reports that “Federal legislators from four different political parties planned to propose a nationwide ban on the sale and marketing of junk food to children.”

The state of Nuevo Leon is going a bit further, working on initiatives to amend the state health law, a law on children’s rights, and another to prevent obesity in all age groups, citing obesity as a nationwide epidemic.

Voting… Your Privilege, Your Right

Many (5.7 million) US citizens live outside the United States, and 2.6 million of them can legally vote. In Mexico alone, there were 64,852 Americans of voting age in 2014.  Many of these expats don’t realize that it is perfectly legal to vote in United States elections even though they no longer live on US soil. As a US citizen, if you hold the right to legally vote in the US, you have the right to vote anywhere in the world. Americans living on foreign soil are allowed to vote for the offices of president, state senator and the local representative (based on the physical address used while living in the United States) while living full time outside the country.

Absentee ballots play a critical function in the outcome of federal and state elections. Several sitting senators and representatives were elected only after all absentee ballots were tabulated.

It’s easy to request an absentee ballot. You may request a ballot at www.VoteFromAbroad.org. Select your home state from the list and make note of the important dates listed on the site. Each state has different “due” dates for each election. For example: For the November 3 general election in the State of California, registrations to vote must be postmarked by October 19; ballot requests must be received by the office by October 27; and completed ballots must be postmarked by November 3 and received by the third day after the election. To determine whether or not you are still registered to vote, enter the personal information requested on the home page and if you’re registered, you’ll be directed to a voting site.

Some states drop names from voter rolls when a certain number of elections were missed without a posted ballot. Some states require a periodic “check in” with your local office every four or six years. If you neglected to reply to an official notice from your (US) local election office, they may drop you from the rolls. Some states will remove the names of anyone who does not vote in the previous Presidential election. Do your due diligence and make sure prior to October 1 that you are legally able to vote.

If you have registered for absentee voting your ballot should arrive by early October for the November 3 election. If mailing within the US, return the ballot by October 27. If outside of the US, mail in the ballot by October 13. And if you do not receive your ballot in time, you may fill out the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) from www.FVAP.gov. Print, sign, and send this ballot directly to your State Election Office.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) www.FVAP.gov has conducted an Overseas Citizen Population Analysis that consists of who can vote, characteristics of overseas voters (ok, Mexico is not “overseas”).

In 2014 elections 93,000 absentee ballots, representing just 4% of eligible voters, were received. The rate of return on ballots depends largely on the country where the expat is living. For many of us in Baja, we receive our US ballots in our US mail which is delivered regularly, and return it promptly. But there are many of us who leave it in our “in” box until we find it during spring cleaning. The top three reasons for not voting were people faced absentee voter issues; potential voters felt “out of touch” with their local or national community; others had no particular candidate preference.

Ballots should be mailed to either your US home of record (physical address) or your mailing address in the US.  It’s ok to use an old home address. The last place you legally lived in the United States is your “home address,” Even if it has been torn down to build a Walmart. (Just don’t use it as the address at which you want to receive your ballot).

You may request registration information or download a federal postcard application at the FVAP site. Follow all the requirements. This IS a federal document. If online isn’t your thing, you may contact them at FVAP – Department of Defense; 4800 Mark Center Drive, Suite 05E22; Alexandria, Virginia 22350-5000. Phone: 1-800-438-8683; email: [email protected]

You may wonder why I am writing this article so far ahead of the November election. FVAP suggests requesting your ballot for this year’s general election by August 1, if you are not previously registered to vote by mail. You must be at least 18 years of age and absent from your voting residence. For individual state information and voting procedures, go to: https://www.FVAP.gov/YOUR STATE NAME HERE. There are PDF downloads, state voting guidelines, your state election website, and a list of local election officials.

Your home state may allow for electronic voting. For information and formatting correct for your home state, send an email to [email protected], or call 1-800-368-8683 for information regarding completing and faxing your ballot electronically.

Another voter aid site is UOCAVA, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act under the auspices of the US Department of Justice. Enacted by Congress in 1986, this includes all members of the US Armed Services, Merchant Marines, their families, and was expanded to include “US citizens residing outside of the United States.”  This site has many of the same services as FVAP.

www.OverseasVoteFoundation.org will also provide information on voting, registration, election dates and deadlines, voting requirements by state, a Directory of Election Officials, candidate information, and a help desk.

Also, the US Consulate is available in Tijuana/Otay Mesa, and can help with your voting problems and needs by providing information. There is a very good driving map on their webpage, https://mx.usembassy.gov. Their mailing address is American Consul General; Box 439039; San Ysidro, CA 92143-9039. The Consulate can provide information but you cannot vote at any US Embassy or Consulate.

If you would like to claim a new legal residence, you should contact a Judge Advocate General Officer or legal consul to ensure there are no illegalities.

Do your duty. It’s your right…your privilege.  Remember YOUR VOTE COUNTS!

Que Pasa in Baja?

Same-sex marriages not approved in Baja. The reform that would have allowed same-sex couples to be legally married did not get enough votes to be approved by the State Congress.

The controversial reform would have needed at least 17 votes in order to be passed but it only received 15 supporters. There were 3 votes against it and 7 abstentions.

Several groups of people from both sides protested outside of city halls all over Baja to get exposure for their cause.

Two of the absentee voters, Claudia Agaton and David Ruvalcaba, were heavily criticized as opportunists and traitors because they had been supporters on social media against homophobia.

 

Rosarito desalt plant project canceled. The newly created “State Water Commission of Baja California” announced that it had decided to cancel the huge desalt project that was being built in Rosarito because it was too expensive for the State and they wouldn’t be able to bear the monthly cost of almost 8.5 million dollars.

The project was being built by a group of companies that had a contract with the state government to sell most of the water to them, with the remainder going to the Otay Water District. The State government is trying to get out of the contract on the basis that there was a breach of contract when the construction didn’t advance as planned.

“For starters, the project was just too big, it’s like buying a bus to take your kids to school, it’s a massive solution”, said Salomon Faz from the State Government.

The government is already in talks with the company to reach a mutual agreement, while it also looks for another place to build a new desalt plant with a smaller capacity.

Faz stated that even with the cancellation of this huge project, Baja had its water supply assured for the time being.

 

Ensenada police protest. The union for city police officers said that their members were going to be working under protest because their most basic needs hadn’t been met.

They are asking for wages that have not been paid and the lack of monetary support from the force when they have to be relocated to another district.

In order to avoid affecting the population directly, they decided to protest by not writing any traffic tickets, which they are hoping only lasts a few days or until their demands are met.

 

No wine parties this year! Provino, the association that unites most of the winemakers of the Guadalupe Valley, has released a statement saying that because of COVID-19, they won’t be able to hold any wine parties this year.

The wine parties would be celebrating their 30th anniversary this edition.

Santiago Cosio Pando, head of PROVINO, stated that these activities generated over $37 million USD last year alone, that will be lost this year to the Coronavirus.

 

Controversy over Playas toll booth stirs fight. Just one day after Governor Bonilla successfully “took over” the Playas de Tijuana toll booth while stating that it was going to be free for everyone passing through it, federal forces from the National Guard took them back from State Authorities and said they were not closing the toll booth.

Governor Bonilla said that the toll booths were put in place originally to pay for the development of the scenic road, but that by now the road should have been paid for by 4 or 5 times its value.

 

Baja 500 finally canceled. After going back and forth between the city and SCORE International, the city has finally put its foot down and decided to cancel the event completely.

SCORE had already announced that the Baja 500 race was being moved to August but got reprimanded by the city because they said they had not authorized that.

The plan was to have a no-spectators race in August, but the city government was afraid of fans and visitors’ agglomerations which could spark a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases.

This, along with the cancellation of the wine parties, will be a hard blow for the local tourist industry which were looking forward to these events in order to keep their businesses afloat during this tough pandemic.

 

Baja popped up in the Trump-AMLO meeting. According to the multinational company Sempra Energy, their $2 billion USD investment planned to expand operations on the “Energia Costa Azul” project was one of the main topics discussed by the two presidents.

The investment will be applied in a project to store, transport, liquify and distribute natural gas that would come from the USA and would be exported to several countries via Ensenada.

The complete project is expected to generate about 30,000 jobs, and bring much needed prosperity to both sides of the border.

 

Baja Congresswoman under fire. Montserrat Caballero, State Congresswoman from the Morena party, has been under heavy criticism this last week when she was caught drinking a can of Tecate Light beer while on a virtual congress session.

 

Rosarito closes beaches on weekends, again. Just a couple of days after the city had decided to reopen beaches for sports activities every day from 6:00 am to 10:00 am, city officials decided to completely close access to the beach on weekends.

The decision came after several beaches got packed with families that were clearly not there to participate in any sporting events.

The city said that they didn’t have enough personnel to monitor the beaches constantly while open, so they decided to close them on the weekends.

They are still open for sports activities, Monday to Friday, from 6 am to 10 am.

 

Sharp Healthcare offers FREE webinar. Dr. Andres Smith, global patient services medical Director at Sharp Chula Vista and President of Cruz Roja Tijuana, is offering a free online one-hour webinar this coming Wednesday, July 29 starting at 10:00 am.

Dr. Smith will discuss COVID-19 updates for the U.S. and Mexico, including current border status, what to do if exposed or have a positive COVID-19 result, and what to expect when seeking medical care.

For information or to register for the webinar contact Minerva Santos at (858)-499-4962 or email her at [email protected]

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