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No Exit.

28 March 2017

Mexfiles has been seeing posts like this one (from an “expat” facebook page) more and more.

Once and for all…




There is a fee for tourists entering the country. Given that traditionally tourists have overwhelmingly been entering from the United States, the fee as long as I can remember has been more or less equivalent to about 25 US$. With the alarming drop in the value of the peso against the dollar, it’s been raised to today’s $500 pesos ($26.27 as of my writing this). The FMM (“Forma Migratoria Múltiple”) … the same fee covering what used to be a bunch of different sorts of temporary entry visas with different rates for people like academics, journalist, business visitors, aid workers, and tourists) is acquired when one ENTERS the country. However, Mexican border control has been rather lenient with those who lose, forget, or just blow off acquiring their entry documents, merely requiring they get a replacement when they show up at border control… i.e., when they’re on their way out of the country.

Secondly, there is an “expat legend” that’s gone around too long that foreigners are ENTITLED to a stay of 180 days.  While it has been a long-standing policy to give 180 days to all entrants, border agents here — like everywhere else on planet earth — are permitted to exercise discretion.  My first stay as a resident, the agent took one look at the massive amount of luggage I was lugging (including a whole collection of Junior High level textbooks) and warned me that I couldn’t work in the country on what was then a tourist visa (which I started doing the next day, but that’s another story), but gave me up to 180 days anyway.

Even then, there were well-known exceptions to the SOP.  Entering Chiapas from Guatemala would usually mean a 30-day visa.   At the time, there was a “Mexican stand-off” between the government and the Zapatistas.  Too many revolution tourists were just showing up, expecting to be welcome with open arms (not firearms!) by the Zapatistas.  And, while certainly those of us flying in from the north were known to do so as well, tourists coming from Guatemala were perceived as more likely to be those who expected to “go native” or at least on their own personal vision quest (as the expense of the local Mayans).  In other words… fairly or not… those people seen as likely to cost the State considerably more than 25 US$ in added protection, services, possible health-care costs, etc.

Which brings me to my real problem with “border jumpers” and the assumed “right” to stay up to 180 days at a time.  The story I hear from these people is that, while actually permanent residents (minus a few days a year), they more than pay their dues, “not using the social services network”.  Unless, of course, there’s a hurricane, a flood, an auto accident, their house is robbed, or any of the other vicissitudes of life that require fairly costly state intervention.  Maybe the 25 US$ is enough in the way of insurance to cover these contingencies spread over the 20 to 25 million visitors who are here anywhere from a few hours to half a year.  How well it covers the costs of people who are resident “tourists”… in the way of more police protection for their neighborhoods, higher water usage than your average Mexican family, pressure on local governments for infrastructure development in “gringo ghettos” (often at the expense of development in other parts of the same community)… may not work out.  While the argument can be made that the permanent tourists “create jobs” (mostly cleaning up after, or serving the whims of said permanent visitors),  that argument seems to come most strongly from real estate sales people.

Nothing against the people living here, on a quirk in policy (unless they are whining that the policy isn’t generous enough for them) but it does seem as if the real estate types, selling those who otherwise don’t qualify for immigration, to settle here, are privatizing profits, while socializing expenses.  They are the ones pushing for special governmental services for the “community” that claims not to live here, but merely visit, while reaping the rewards of home and condo sales, with bathrooms beyond the imaginings outside of telenovelas for the mass of us, and (subsidized) electrical rates that allow them to use every appliance known to man.

Given the recent moves by the US administration to crack down on even the most innocuous violation of immigration policy north of the border, its a wonder that border agents still allow people to enter for six months at a time at all.

Fruit flies and the Superbowl, or NAFTA by other means

26 March 2017

This video is several years old, but as Joseph Stiglitz explains in the course of a much longer discussion of not-so-free trade agreements,  NAFTA was no impediment to protectionism (especially in agriculture) and giving the wealthy nations an unfair trade advantage over nations when it comes to trade policy.

Tennis (Court Oath) Anyone?

21 March 2017

DRAT! The “powers that be” thought they’d pull a fast one when, during the course of turning the Federal District into a State, they packed the Constituent Assembly by cutting down the number of citizen-elected representatives, and assigning more seats to the President (and, by default, his party) and our neo-liberal “mayor”. If there was a “conspiracy”, it was to weaken the Federal District’s quirky insistence on being out of step with the rest of the nation… consistently voting for the left, and passing more progressive legislation that only slowly makes its impact felt on the rest of the nation. In other words, the hope was to preserve the status quo.

Intislly, there was just a feeling that the exercise was simply a bit of legislative finagling, without much meaning to the average citizen. However, as Bernardo Bátiz V. writes, things didn’t quite turn out as expected, and that’s all to the good.

An historic break

(Jornada, 20 March 2017  My translation)


Mexico City’s new Constitution is an important and historical document., despite the lack of e interrest in the electoral process by which the 60 deputies were elected to the Constituent Assembly, in addition to those appointed, Only about a third of potential voters went to the polls. But,, once the assembly was in place, various non-governmental organizations, indigenous communities, neighborhood associations, merchants and others, together with many individual citizens, became increasingly interested in the various issues on the agenda and participated in discussions alongside the deputies.

All who asked to be heard were received; Innumerable groups and agencies presented their points of view, objections and contributions. The Indigneous Peoples’ and Original Communities committee held the most wide-ranging consultations, and was recognized for their work by the United Nations. Citizens of diverse political tendencies, from the far right to the far left, thronged Plaza Manuel Tolsá to lobby deputies as they headed from committee meeting in the Palacio de Minería to the Xicoténcatl Hall, hand us leaflets, petitions and even some drawings of late gestation fetuses…

Experts agree that it has been a very long time since a debate of this magnitude has taken place in Mexico outside of parliamentary groups; There was no coordinating comittee that took decisions behind closed doors to be simply ratified by the plenary: the consultations were just that, a place to listen to opinions and arguments, but never to make definitive decisions. Of the ten parliamentary factions in the Assembly, none cast unaminous votes. Within each, there were discussions and disagreements.

The result, celebrated by all, is a novel and advanced document, even though given the heterogeneity of the 100 participants it did not turn out to be an impeccable text from the grammatical or literary point of view. It is, instead, a signpost for what the people of Mexico expect.

The Mexico City Constitution represents a historical break with the neoliberal line of constitutional and legislative changes os the last 25 or 30 years.Indeed, the reforms to the federal and local constitutions and changes in secondary legislation during this period favored neoliberals, the most significant being the “Pact for Mexico” which gave shape to the [Peña Nieto administration’s] structural reforms.

Legislation, from Salinas to Peña, has tended to favor transnational corporate interests and the protection of private initiative The Mexico City Constitution breaks with that, moving towards a law with more social content, and restroring the concept of social law places the supreme value of society, not on the competition so dear to neoliberals, but on collaboration, solidarity and the concepts of equality and social justice.

The present leaders of the system, the unreading rulers of the country, do not know history. They are unaware that the French Revolution overthrew a 900-year-old dynasty after Louis XVI summoned the Estates General never imagining it would end in the Tennis Court Oath. Louis never dreamed that the representatives of the Estates General along with some from the nobility and the clergy would assume their responsibility as representatives of the nation and would not be content to passively accept the mandates of their lords and betters. As representatives of the nation they tried the king, changed the regime, abolished the titles of nobility and changed history.

The capital’s constituent assembly also took our role seriously. We approved an advanced document only after much work, and many debates. The powerful of the regime, who fight against it now, despite the fact that it was they who called the assembly in the first place, are frightened by the change of course, an outbreak of humanism and solidarity so contrary to neoliberal legislation.

They did not expect what happened; For not reading history, did not learn that people get tired, change, correct and straighten directions. The neoliberalism imposed on us from the outside is not the best for the development and happiness of the Mexican people; The capital is giving the signal for the change of course;The constituents were only their interpreters and that can not be supported by the guardians of the economic interests of the potentates.This is the only way of explaining such an excessive and well-concerted raid against the Magna Carta of progressive Mexico City.

Saving the rain forest, one chew at a time

20 March 2017

Chewing gum…  sustainable agriculture, and tropical rainforest protection all benefitting worker-management … what’s not to like?


Why I don’t like the word ‘expat’

19 March 2017

Calling oneself an ‘expat’ encourages a certain mentality and way of behaving, a sense of superiority and entitlement which we have to be vigilant of and challenge in ourselves and others. At a time when immigrants are being scapegoated, locked up and deported around the world, from LA to Rome to London, immigrants – regardless of the colour of our passports – have an absolute moral duty to stand up for one another.

Source: Why I don’t like the word ‘expat’


17 March 2017

Occupational hazards…

10 March 2017


Mexfiles has been amused and bemused by former Chihuahua governor Patricio Martínez’ semi-quixotic (though perfectly logical) demand for the return of some lands to Mexico that appear to have been ceded to the United States through surveying error, but he’s not nearly as ambitious (or as quixotic, perhaps) as the grand old man of the left, 82-year old Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solózano.

Martinéz merely points out that an estimated 85,000 hectares (about 280 square miles) of Arizona and New Mexico, surveyed in the 19th century (under frontier conditions).  The survey’s following the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (which has had to be tweaked a few times because of changes in the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo river-bed) overlooked a 8,130 Ha. rectangle in the corner of New Mexico, which Martinéz holds more accurate surveys would show belong to Chihuahua.  The surveys to determine the line of the Mesilla territory (sold to the United States in the Gadsden Purchase of 1855) he believes were purposely done incorrectly, to create a long triangular addition to the state of Arizona, totalling 75,636 Ha.


Martinéz appears to be perfectly serious about his claims, and is actively seeking new surveys using the most advanced techniques to prove or disprove his claims.  Amusingly enough, Donald Trump’s bids for a “great, great wall” presume that such surveying will become necessary, and quite possibly prove Martinéz right… vastly complicating any plans for the”Great Wall of Stupid”.

How serious Cárdenas is, I can’t say, but he is the grand old man of gestures.  Accompanied by his attorney, Cárdenas presented demands to abrogate the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo under which, according to the demand, was based on illegal actions by General Santa Anna and subsequently have never had the force of law. Returning California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona,  large chunks of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming to Mexico not exactly being likely, the demand proposes that the United States pay an indemnity based on 168 years of occupation, and lost income.

With interest, that’d add up to…. a zillion dollars?

To dream,, the impossible dream, to fight, the unbeatable foe….