Homicide Rates in other countries

September 15, 2011

My friend Charlie sent me these stats that he collected from Wikipedia. These are the annual homicide rates per 100,000 population for a few countries. What I found intriguing is how high Jamaica, another favorite vacation spot, is compared to Mexico; four times as high. When was the last time we saw anything in the news about Jamaica’s high homicide rate? I guess the homicide is more sensational in Mexico. A lot of Mexico’s homicide is drug related and that which is drug related is the cartel fighting against themselves or the police/army. The numbers involving Americans or Canadians, unless they were involved with the drug business, is virtually nothing. But from listening to mainstream media you’d think we were getting knocked off regularly. My rant for the day.


El Salvador: 71

Jamaica: 60

Venezuela: 48

Colombia: 39

Brazil: 22

Mexico: 15

Costa Rica: 11

U.S.A.: 5

Canada: 2



Mexico’s positive Tourism Dept. changes

July 28, 2011

In a piece featured with CNN a few days ago, a number of positive measures are mentioned with regards to what Mexico is doing to help its ailing tourism industry.

  1. Mexico has begun allowing holders of U.S. visas to enter Mexico, opening up the possibility of tourists to the United States extending their trips south of the border.
  2. Brazilians, Russians and Ukrainian visitors can gain travel permission to Mexico on the Internet, with no need for a visa. (In 2011 to date, Mexico has seen a 40.9% increase in Brazilian tourists, a 58.1% increase from Russia and 32.8% increase from China, according to Mexico’s tourism ministry.)
  3. Finally, for travelers from other countries, visas to Mexico in many cases can be obtained through a travel agent, erasing the need for trips to embassies.

These are important changes that should make it easier for people to travel to Mexico. Point #1 is an excellent move, as it allows for people that are planning to visit the U.S. to now, with no additional paperwork, visit Mexico at the same time. And point #3, that visas can now be obtained through a travel agent and not have to visit an embassy, is also a great idea. But will it be enough?

Mexico has to look at other markets, especially over the next few years while the U.S. economy is on the road to recovery, and allow Americans time to really see the reports on violence in Mexico for what they really are: it’s taking place in very specific places, which in most cases are far from the popular tourist regions, and its being sensationalized. At some point Americans will begin to understand that millions of Americans visit Mexico every year without ever experiencing problems and actually have a very good time.

But until then, Mexico has to look elsewhere, just like U.S. investors are looking elsewhere, at emerging markets. The U.S. and Europe are going to be tied down with debt problems, both sovereign and public, along with high unemployment, for some time to come. Public debt and unemployment are going to make it hard for Americans to travel, while people in emerging markets are not experiencing similar issues. They are not plagued by high debt and unemployment. Investors are looking at foreign emerging markets for better returns, it looks like Mexico is as well for their tourist industry.

For U.S. travelers specifically, the Commerce Department’s most recent data — for 2009 — shows that 31.7% of all U.S. international tourists go to Mexico. From 2002 to 2009, while U.S. tourism to Canada fell by more than 27%, tourism to Mexico from the U.S. increased by 5.1%. This happened even though the overall number of Americans traveling abroad decreased, from a peak of 64 million in 2007 to 61.4 million in 2009.

These are impressive numbers, and coming from the U.S. department of commerce, not Mexico’s: 1 in 3 American international tourists in 2009 went to Mexico.

However, although these new markets may provide tourists, they most likely will not be providing people or families that may be interested in real estate. Mexico’s strongest target markets for real estate sales remains in the U.S. and Canada, where travel to somewhere warm is for most people, only 3-4 hours away. For the local real estate market to make a serious bounce back, it needs Americans buying second homes once again. With real estate values still falling in the U.S., it seems this is still a ways away. Although the local market seems to be holding its own, its a long ways from the boom years from 2003 to 2008.


Carnival continues visits, why not Princess Cruises?

July 16, 2011

A coule of weeks ago Princess Cruises announced the cancellation of visits to Puerto Vallarta for the remainder of the year based on ongoing security concerns in the region. When questioned about the move to continue visiting Puerto Vallarta, the line stated that they only visit ports of call believed to provide a safe environment for passengers and crew. Well, the American Consulate doesn’t seem to have a security issue with Puerto Vallarta, (The U.S. Consulate General has issued no advisories against travel to Puerto Vallarta and is not aware of any incidents that would have a significant impact on our current security assessment.) so why does Princess Cruises? Carnival Cruise Line issued a statement recently saying that although they will not be visiting Mazatlan, they will continue to visit Puerto Vallarta.

Carnival Cruise Line has evaluated continued security concerns in Mazatlan, Mexico and extended their cancellation of visits to the port. Carnival Splendor’s 7-day itinerary from Long Beach, California will now feature two days in Cabo San Lucas and a 12-hour stay in Puerto Vallarta. Carnival Spirit will also continue her nine-day itineraries from San Diego and Los Angeles from September 2011 to March 2012. The amended voyage includes two-days in Cabo San Lucas along with visits to Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and Ensenada. “We have been calling at Puerto Vallarta on a weekly basis for many years and at this time have no plans to discontinue our visits there,” a representative from Carnival said in a statement to e-Travel Blackboard.

Princess Cruises has stated that the cancellation of visits to PV is only until the end of this year and then they will re-evaluate the situation. Perhaps by then they’ll understand the situation better, like Carnival and the American Consulate seem to.

American Consulate clarifies position on security in Vallarta

July 16, 2011

I’m currently not in Vallarta, so I guess I missed a couple of articles that were featured in a couple of the local newspapers about how the American Consulate feels about security in Vallarta for Americans. Whatever was written, it seems they misquoted or it was taken out of context, as this was recently sent out by the Consulate in a press release. Good to have it clarified that they do not have any concerns about American security in the region.

Guadalajara, Jal., July 13, 2011—Statement of Daniel F. Keller, U.S. Consul General to Guadalajara, concerning statements attributed to U.S. Consular Agent in Puerto Vallarta.

“I am deeply disturbed by statements which appeared in a recent news report published by at least two news media organizations based in Puerto Vallarta under the headline, ‘Preocupa a Consulado Inseguridad en Puerto Vallarta.’ The statements, which are attributed secondhand to U.S. Consular Agent Sra. Kelly Trainor, are taken out of context and attribute to Ms. Trainor things she did not say.  Moreover, the statements are made to falsely imply that the U.S. Consulate is concerned by the present security conditions in Puerto Vallarta. The U.S. Consulate General has issued no advisories against travel to Puerto Vallarta and is not aware of any incidents that would have a significant impact on our current security assessment.  The Consulate is prepared at all times to respond to legitimate inquiries from media representatives — which did not happen in this case, American citizens, and other interested parties.  This specific report, regrettably, is irresponsible and does not meet the standards of professional journalism.”

Manufacturing Business in Mexico is strong…

July 12, 2011

This article was featured in the NY Times yesterday. Here’s some of the highlights:

When the latest bloody headlines from the drug war in Mexico reach headquarters in New York, Ken Chandler, the manager of an American electronics manufacturing plant here, jumps on the phone. He is not begging to come home. He is begging to stay. “We try to put them at ease, to say it is not time to pack up,” said Mr. Chandler, who oversees the company’s operations in this border city, where the military arrived last week to help purge drug cartel members from the police department.

Not that his employer, Spellman High Voltage, needs much assurance. Like a crop of other manufacturers at the border, including six companies in this city alone, Spellman is expanding its operations, with a new plant under construction after making a calculation that offers one of the starker paradoxes of these violent days in Mexico. Despite the bleak outlook the drug war summons, the Mexican economy is humming along, not without warning signs, but growing considerably faster than that of the United States.

Over all, jobs in Mexico’s manufacturing sector increased 8.2 percent to 1.8 million as of January, the most recent figures available, driven mostly by what Mexican officials called regaining health in the auto and electronics industries, the engine of the economy along the border.

Mostly American-owned and in border states, the plants import raw materials duty free and export assembled products, lowering the cost of goods in the United States and providing jobs that pay more than the Mexican average (typically $8 to $16 per day on the assembly line) but a lot less than American wages.

Some of the new or expanding plants come at the expense of plant closings in the United States. Electrolux, which makes washers, dryers and other home products, closed a plant in 2009 in Iowa but opened one in Juárez last month that is expected to employ 400 people. Others are from investors farther afield. Foxconn, a Taiwanese firm that makes iPhones, Dell computers and other electronics, is one of several Asian companies taking root. It opened a plant in Juárez last summer. Down the coast from here, Posco, a Korean steel manufacturer, has announced plans to expand its operations with a second plant that will employ 300 people by 2013. Several other companies plan to built or expand in other states as well.

Over all, the Mexican economy, the second largest in Latin America after Brazil, grew 5.5 percent last year, its fastest pace in a decade, and is expected to grow 4.5 percent this year, driven largely by manufacturing as well as internal growth from an expanding middle class. The American economy, by contrast, is expected to grow between 2.7 percent and 2.9 percent in 2011, the Federal Reserve projected late last month.

Economists say Mexico’s growth would be even stronger without the cartel violence, which in the last five years has left more than 40,000 people dead, according to the count by national newspapers.

Why do they have to put it that way? Over 90% of those killed were narcos killing each other or being killed by police and/or the army. The other 10% consists primarily of the army or police killed fighting against them. There has been little “collateral damage”, as Rumsfeld used to like to say…

The Bank of Mexico reports foreign investment was $17.7 billion last year, far off pre-recession levels of $25 billion and fed in good measure by a single transaction, the purchase of a one of the country’s largest beer companies by Heineken.

Security costs are rising to protect property and shipments, and safety remains the top concern expressed by potential investors, said Bob Cook, the president of the El Paso Regional Economic Development Commission, which helps recruit businesses to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico’s most violent city. “But we are still working with more companies now than we did three years ago,” he said. Business is business, and the proximity to the United States is hard to pass up. The rising cost of labor, transportation and the renminbi have made some companies reconsider Mexico instead of China, he contended. Despite several murders a day, trade between Juárez and Texas rose 47 percent last year to $71.1 billion, he said.

“Central location, great infrastructure, suppliers and labor pool,” he said. “Those things haven’t been tampered with by organized crime.”

See the full story here.


Paradise remains safe and welcome…

July 11, 2011

I believe the best way to overcome the the negative and sensationalist coverage of Mexico is to hear from Americans and Canadians who actually live in Mexico and hear how their lives have been affected. For an overall majority, their life has not been affected; they continue to live their lives and for them “paradise remains safe and welcoming”. Here’s a piece from a US newspaper, the Bemidji Pioneer.

As a U.S. citizen and former Bemidji resident, now living in beautiful Punta de Mita, Mexico, near Puerto Vallarta, I am saddened by all of the negative media stories about Mexico.
These stories are, in many cases, very misleading. My little piece of paradise remains safe and welcoming, contrary to some media reports. My local friends and neighbors are suffering financially, as these stories continue to be in the news. For those of you who have traveled to Mexico, you know what a lovely and hospitable place most of Mexico is. Yes, there are problems in some areas, just as in many parts of the states. But, we shouldn’t be writing off the entire country. It is a very large and diverse country with wonderful history, beautiful scenery, wonderfully affordable cuisine with fresh seafood and local fruits and vegetables, and hospitable people who love and cherish their families and neighbors. We have felt very welcomed here. I could share many positive stories with you about our life in retirement here in Mexico. I have felt safer here in our little village than I sometimes felt in little Bemidji. Our crime rate here is very low. Please do not buy into the idea that all of Mexico is dangerous. Come on down. Talk to your friends who have been here and they can tell you that this is a delightful place. You will receive a warm welcome.
Shari Seeling Cronk

Americans still flocking to Mexico…

July 3, 2011

according to an ABC news report, quoted by Michael Zenn of BoomerAbroad. Unfortunately no links were included for the report, or for the one by the LA Times, but it all sounds good!

Recent reports strongly indicate that the highly televised Mexican drug war has not stopped most Americans from traveling or moving South of the Border.  In fact, according to an ABC News report, of the 5.25 million Americans living in other countries, the vast majority (over 1 million) live in Mexico, and many more may be on their way.  A number of Mexican communities now virtually look like U.S. suburbs and in some cases American and Canadian property owners outnumber locals.
No Fear Here
In areas far from US border towns, such as Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Mexico’s drug war is a distant and far away place.  In fact, when surveyed, most Americans living here feel that they are much safer than in cities like L.A., New York, Chicago, Atlanta or Miami.  Indeed, recent statistics prove them to be right.
According to a report last year by the LA Times, tourist areas in Mexico are 12 times safer than Tampa or Honolulu, 17 times safer than Dallas or West Palm Beach, 26 times safer than Orlando or Houston and a whopping 39 times safer than the U.S. capital, Washington D.C., and Americans and Canadians are coming in droves.
Why Here, Why Now?
Americans and Canadians are sneaking South of the Boarder for all the usual suspects: tropical weather, pristine property, tree-lined beaches, white-sand, warm turquoise water, crystalline coastlines, the beckoning beach lifestyle, and a litany of other adjectives.  But perhaps this time they are descending on magical Mexico for a compelling new impetus altogether.
When the global recession hit, many retirees and investors were driven south where life is cheap and the living is easy.  A dollar down here buys roughly 30% more, taxes are negotiable, and the economy is rebounding at a rapid pace.  Personal debt and the credit crisis are virtually non-existent since Mexicans do not generally use credit to buy things.
Surging Economy
That could explain why the Mexican economy is surging (not sputtering) out of the global recession, recording a 4.3% growth rate in the first quarter of 2010 alone (much faster than the U.S.)  And if you had invested $10,000 here in 2000 you would have witnessed a 232% gain in your bank account.
Perhaps the biggest bonus for retirees and investors in Mexico has been their opportunistic purchases of homes, condos and real estate property.  In key areas, real estate development in Mexico is far outpacing growth in other countries. For example, Playa del Carmen was named the fastest growing area in the world just a few years ago and Tulum, just to the south, is poised to grow even faster in the next 5 years.
Healthcare Heaven
The other goldmine that Americans and Canadians are getting in Mexico is the veritable healthcare jackpot they enjoy that includes full medical, dental and vision coverage for about $600 a year. This government run healthcare plan (IMSS) was created for Mexican employees but is also open to legal foreigners. Imagine a healthcare-fantasy world where there are no deductibles, no co-pays, no limits, no prescriptions to pay for and even pre-existing conditions are covered after 1-2 years.  No small reason to make your way to Mexico.
There are now over 18,000 major American companies currently investing and operating in Mexico and it is estimated that over 1 million Americans are buying, building and or retiring here.  In truth, no one knows exactly how many American or Canadian retirees, entrepreneurs, and families are now traveling or making plans to relocate to Mexico. One thing’s for sure, it’s not a few, it’s not slowing down, and there seems to be no end in sight.  And for those who might doubt it, just ask the Mexican locals and they will quickly remind you “they’re moving in all around us!”.
by Michael Zenn, Boomers Abroad