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Local Island NEWS in English - Updated Weekly
News for the Week of April 13, 2015

Beginning in December 2002, Insider was proudly the first website to provide readers the Cozumel News in English.

Articles are slected from local newspapers which we feel will be of interest to our diverse audience. These articles are then translated into English. We cannot always investigate the veracity of a particular article but offer these translations as a reflection of the Cozumel community news just as reporters write it for Por Esto, Diario de Quintana Roo, Novedades and El Seminario and many other sources.

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Note: All translated articles are the property of Cozumel Insider and cannot be used, displayed or reproduced without express written permission from Cozumel Insider.

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Cozumel Arrivals: 25 Ships this Week
4/12 - Numbers remain high this week in Cozumel as cruise ship arrivals show 25 ships registered to dock for the second full week of April 2015. This is 1 more than the number of ships last week and 5 more than the "20 in port" which marks a "high season." With Easter and Spring Break Season now coming to a close, an estimated 75,000 people will visit Cozumel this week via these cruise ships leaving an estimated US$ 6 million dollars behind in the local economy before the slide into low season begins..

High season for cruise ship arrivals typically runs from November 15 - April 15 each year with the remaining 7 months of the year considered "low season."

This week TMM/SSA International pier will be a big economic winner as 10 ships dock there, also 8 will dock at Puerta Maya pier while Punta Langosta pier will also see 7 arrivals and the downtown San Miguel pier will have -0- arrivals with passengers tendering in.

This week begins with 5 ships docking on Monday, 5 on Tuesday, 2 ships Wednesday, 5 on Thursday, 5 on Friday and then Saturday will bring 3 ships in port and Sunday will see -0- ships in port.

View the Cruise Ship Calendar for this Week
Strong Competition from New Ferry Line
Ferry companies connecting Cozumel with Playa Del Carmen are beginning to give way to the onslaught in the demand for the new company ”Barcos Caribe” although to remain in competition, Ultramar and Barcos Mexico have lowered round trip fares from 326 pesos to 300 pesos. It is rumored that Barcos Mexico, in order to recover profits rented 2 boats to the highest bidder, one of which was sent to Cuba.

Of the approximately 3,500 individuals crossing daily, most prefer to do so in the new less costly Barcos Caribe. Since the more affordable Barcos Caribe started operations last February 16, Ultramar and Barcos Mexico have suffered great economic loss from tourists and locals who cross from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel.

According to unofficial information, the two ferry lines are thinking about lowering their prices and even to implement a similar plan as Barcos Caribe for the benefit of locals, which implies that residents of Quintana Roo pay only 69 pesos. However, none of this is official, even the new discounted rates are made at the time of purchase of tickets as the leaflets and fliers that circulate in the tourist area continue with the price of 326 pesos.
Secret Meetings Regarding Recent Sand Theft
Regarding the recent theft of sand from the Eastern shore of Cozumel, several officials and entrepreneurs were caught in a secret meeting at the beach club “Buccanos” located at the Club Cozumel Caribe Hotel. In attendance was Ecology Director, David Martínez Viana, the Environment Secretary of State, Carlos Rafael Muñoz Terab, Juan Barbachano (owner of the hotel), Fidel Ladrón de Guevara the business owner representative or person in charge of PR of the latter. It appeared for many in Cozumel that this was an emergency meeting regarding the case of the stolen sand that was discovered two weeks ago. As previously stated, the aforementioned establishment received part of the stolen sand and it also seems that Department of Ecology staff could be involved in this robbery which was made with the participation of various elements.

A photograph of this secret meeting was captured last week and began to circulate. Four people gathered around a table at the edge of the sandy beach while discussing a topic. The Director of Ecology admitted that the meeting took place at 11 a.m. in Buccanos. He said it was because Juan Barbachano intends to acquire sand in the future for the hotel’s beach area and that is why he now contacted the authorities.

This business that previously operated under the name of Buccaneers, receives daily cruise passengers that are transported to the beach club where they are offered services of restaurant, beach, pool, and watersports, although the area lacks sand, and this is why reporters went there to try to film and photograph, the space where they found the lounge chairs was on a sandy beach which was not there before. Fidel Ladrón de Guevara prevented them from filming there.

This meeting was not well received taking into account the unofficial comments which have poured against this business located in the North Hotel zone, and supposedly the participation of two employees of the Department of Ecology who could be involved in the theft of the sand. The Federal Attorney for the Environment (Profepa) will have to carry out investigations to find those truly responsible for this theft of sand that has been one of the largest in Cozumel, or at least that has been documented.
Endangered Species Deaths Adding Up
The oldest inhabitants of the island of the swallows are in danger of disappearing. Endemic wildlife, such as the Coati, dies every day on the roads of the island. This endangered species can be found dead on the roads that lead around the Island on a regular basis.

Data provided by staff of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas indicate that the island of Cozumel is home to approximately 1,500 species of flora and fauna, of which 300 are birds. Island coati (Nasua narica nelsoni) is one of them, among the locals it is known as "Pizote". Christopher González Baca, Manager of the office of the Directorate of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Conanp), stated that there are less than 1,000 Coati on the island.

Last week a dead Coati was found on the road leading south of the Island. Sadly, it appears that it was run over by a vehicle. Please slow your speed as you drive and watch for any animals crossing roadways ~ even land turtles and crabs are victimized daily.
Mangrove Re-forestation Program Continues
Several weeks ago, Jorge Rescala Pérez, General Director of the National Forest Commission (Conafor), granted $ 20 million pesos for the mangrove reforestation program in the "Punta Sur" Ecotourism Park. This past week he toured the area once again with assistance from The Parks and Museum Foundation (FPMC) in Cozumel. "Humans have altered many ecosystems and is time to begin to restore them," explained the federal official, who added that the mangroves are a primary ecosystem of Quintana Roo.

Jorge Rescala granted a couple of minutes to be interviewed during the tour in which he pointed out that he sought to learn firsthand about the project of reforestation of mangroves. He said that Conafor supports such projects and actions such as the one of the FPMC, and that today provides support to this program of restoration. The intention is to have a forest inventory in various geographical locations of Mexico. "This includes the mangroves. The intention is to preserve", stressed the official." It should be noted that this type of vegetation is part of a natural barrier against hurricanes. "It's a natural way to maintain a vital balance", concluded Rescala Pérez.

The Official’s tour concluded with visits to Colombia lagoon, the area of sea turtle nesting, the Mayan archaeological remains known as "El Caracol," the Museum of the Celarain lighthouse and a boat trip to the natural pool area of the lagoon.

Working on the reforestation of mangrove project, are members of the “Youth for Conservation” group, which has been sponsored by the FPMC from years ago.
Aesthetic Cropping for Pets is Prohibited in Quintana Roo
The “Protection and Animal Welfare” of Quintana Roo, has prohibited the cutting of ears and tails of pets in the state. Therefore, veterinary doctors warn people against this practice, as it is now a crime that is punishable.

Until two years ago, Quintana Roo allowed pet owners to decide if they wanted the ears or tail of their pets clipped and had the possibility of taking them with veterinarians, who under anesthesia performed the process. Today this is considered animal abuse. Protective associations argued for many years that this was not correct and compared it to cutting any part of the human body for "aesthetic" purposes. There are people unaware of this fact and ask their doctors to perform the procedure and often even without the medical and sanitary measures required for surgery.

"Now, it is permitted to only clip the nails of pets but only the tip of the nail." The claw cannot be removed because this affects the nerves and can lead to bleeding. “Said Miguel E. Escobedo Gracia-Medrano, veterinary zoo technician.
Nail clipping is permitted because it is possible to do so from when they are puppies and does not represent any risk to their health.
Tequila Distillery Coming to the Riviera Maya
With the intention of making Playa Del Carmen a mezcal-producing municipality, the planting of seven acres of Agave in native land has taken place reported José Carlos González Anguiano, Deputy Director of Promoting Agriculture and Fishing.

Officials hope the final phase of the project takes place before the end of the year with the intention that the municipality could have its first distillery. "For now we don't have the cost of investment since we are still in the analysis phase of the product that will be planted, but we are confident that before June we will have the estimated cost." said the official.

With the planting of the agave in the area of Playa Del Carmen, he hopes to also plant other products for intended harvest after the first half of 2016 such as Roma and Italian squash tomato, commented the official. "A project of such significance with a final product such as mezcal would be favored by the tourist market in the Riviera Maya".
Native Fauna of the Riviera Maya in Danger
The fauna population in surrounding areas (mainly the jungle) is in potential danger not only for local ecosystems, but for natural protected areas such as the reserve of Sian Ka´an, as the lack of natural barriers in this part of the State allows wildlife to be easily targeted. “This is due to abandoned dogs and cats that now live in the jungle” stated Abelardo Bermúdez Brito, who is a specialist in invasive species. "It is because these animals eat other species that could be fed to other native species, which breaks the food chain. This is based on observations that have been made," said the specialist.

He mentioned that this type of invasive species can become a problem not only in the Riviera Maya but to distant areas since in the Yucatan Peninsula does not have natural barriers such as mountains or rivers as in other places.

According to estimates by the non-governmental organization,”Coco´s Animal Welfare,” it was announced last year there are approximately 10,000 wild dogs roaming free in the Yucatan Peninsula area. It was reported that these dogs ate at least 164 chickens and 52 sheep.
Erasing Journalists in Mexico
“I suddenly had a clearer understanding than ever of the power that journalism has to give a voice to those who have been silenced by the crushing weight of violence.”

So wrote Mexico’s best-known journalist and human rights campaigner, Lydia Cacho, upon seeing her colleagues from the press gather to cover her arrival for interrogation before judges at Puebla, central Mexico, after what she calls a “legal kidnap” by the police.

The first stage of that prolonged ordeal 10 years ago had been a terrifying 36-hour drive from her home in the coastal state of Quintana Roo to the courthouse and jail, during which she had been sexually violated, threatened with death and “disappearance,” and horribly intimidated.

Cacho was to be charged with libel after the publication of a book, The Demons of Eden, which revealed a sex-trafficking and pederast-paedophile ring with connections to power on high. The appalling story of power’s revenge, its searing impact on Cacho and the implications of the affair for all reporters is told in a further book, Memorias de una Infamia (Memories of Infamy), in which, vindicated by subsequent events and trials, Cacho demonstrates that the pederasts and sex criminals were protected by the governor of Puebla state, by the judiciary and by people even higher up – with connections also to drug trafficking.

The foreword is written by the one reporter who worked alongside Cacho during her ordeal, revealing crucial material – including phone taps – that swung the narrative from the jaws of incarceration and torture into her favour. This was Carmen Aristegui, Mexico’s most famous broadcaster, who was sacked last month by her employer, MVS Radio, after revealing that the wife of President Enrique Peña Nieto had acquired a vast luxury property from a group that had won several lucrative government contracts.

The fate of the two journalists has stirred to fever pitch the discourse about repression of free speech and the acute physical dangers faced by journalists in Mexico. Scores of reporters have been killed – often tortured and decapitated – in what is now seen as a pincer-movement against their work by drug cartels and the state.

The Los Angeles Times reported: “The loss of one of Mexico’s most critical journalistic voices comes as revelations of corruption and killings by police and the army have roiled the country and plunged Peña Nieto into the worst crisis of his 27-month presidency.” While all this was happening last month, Peña Nieto was a guest of the Queen and the British government.

Cacho – who has won innumerable awards for her work and was made a Chevalier d’Honneur of the French Republic – will rally support this week for Aristegui and her endangered colleagues at the London Book Fair, part of a PEN festival focusing on Mexico.

Ahead of her visit, Cacho told the Observer: “After all these years, every time my mobile phone rings and I see the name of a colleague I fear the worst: assassination, kidnapping or forced disappearance. When I was arrested 10 years ago, I was not so well-known, at least not to the broader news readers; now I’ve published 10 books and still live under tremendous pressure from corrupted politicians and traffickers who want me either dead or exiled and silenced.”

Of her friend, Cacho added: “Carmen Aristegui is probably the most famous newscast journalist in our country. She was fired most probably for investigating the president, which happened months after I was fired from El Universal, one of the main national newspapers. If this is happening to us, the visible ones, can you imagine what local reporters are going through in the provinces, where rule of law is almost nonexistent?”

Cacho thinks the timing of Aristegui’s firing is accounted for by “the return of the PRI party, who ruled Mexico for more than 70 years. Peña Nieto’s advisers are obsessed with protecting his image at all costs. It seems they want us back into the 1980s, when nobody dared to investigate the president and his ministers.

“Aristegui’s team not only uncovered the fact that the president’s wife and his finance minister, [Luis] Videgaray, had received a couple of luxurious residences from a big construction conglomerate that was doing business with the federal government; they also exposed a network of corruption, a radiography of how the president is managing the country’s finances as if he was a feudal lord, as if laws, international treaties and transparency did not exist. This case exposes, once again, how a small group of politicians and tycoons handle all media permits in order to control freedom of expression, and they do so through monopolies and the destruction, persecution of free media and journalists.”

A report published by the London-based Article 19 organisation at the end of March and launched in Mexico City by Aristegui and Cacho – found that “under the current administration headed by Enrique Peña Nieto, the number of assaults on the press was nearly double that reported during [his predecessor] Felipe Calderón’s term of office … Failures in the justice system continue to prevail.”

According to a report by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission in January, 97 reporters have been killed over the past four years for doing their job. There have been 22 disappearances of reporters and 433 registered attacks since 2005, when the current drug cartel war began in earnest.

Just as the report appeared, a long line of murderous attacks on reporters in the state of Veracruz culminated in the discovery of the decapitated body of a freelance website reporter, Moisés Sánchez, who had disappeared in the small town of Medellín de Bravo. The mayor of the town has been charged with having ordered the murder, but activists believe the attacks on reporters – 13 in Veracruz alone – have been orchestrated on higher authority, in the state administration.

In her book, Cacho differentiates between “fame”, which she sees as something “for artists” and notoriety, which she says she has achieved simply by refusing to be silenced. Either way, her struggle has become what the great anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano calls “the Lydia Cacho cause.”

In her London appearances, Cacho will also focus on violence against women, and lifting the impunity of those who violate them. Ahead of the visit she said: “When Peña Nieto was governor of the state of Mexico [in the south of the country] the femicide rate went through the roof: up by 185%, according to specialist Humberto Padgett. Young women were being assassinated relentlessly. Some were taken by the cartels for sex trafficking; others, younger than 15, exploited as slaves in the opium and marijuana fields..

“Peña Nieto denied everything; on his way to the presidency he could have been the hero, approving gender equality laws, forcing the justice system to act as law requires. Instead he ordered journalists to be quiet, his team bought some off, and the honest ones had to flee the region, or where threatened, or killed by unknown criminals”.

A woman of passion as well as courage, Cacho surveys the scene: “These are dark times for our country,” she says by telephone from Quintana Roo. “Civil society is confronting the powers that be, but the free media is becoming smaller day by day; narco lords rule some states and provinces. There are not enough hours in a day to help those voices that need listening to, those hundreds of thousands of victimised families that need seeing. Journalism is essential in a country that lives in a silenced war, a masked war. They can erase us journalists from the mainstream media, and they can eliminate us physically. What they will never be able to do is deny the true stories, snatch away my voice, our voices and our words. As long as we are alive we will continue to write and what we have written will keep us alive”.

Cacho recalls the last time she talked to her colleague and friend Anna Politkovskaya. “We laughed in a hotel room, we talked about family and children, about love and work, we discussed the risk of our jobs. One morning watching the news I froze as I heard she had been assassinated after coming back from buying food for her family. This fact made me aware of my own mortality.”

But by way of a message to herald her arrival in Britain, Cacho insists: “I am a woman who will not give up her rights, nor will I sacrifice the rights of others to have a comfortable living. Being a journalist in Mexico is not a job; it’s a calling, a responsibility, never a sacrifice. It is to be part of the counter-power that makes life worth living.”

Lydia Cacho will appear at a British Council event at the London Book Fair, Gallery Theatre, Kensington Olympia, on Tuesday April 14; and for English PEN at the Free Word Centre, Farringdon Road, London, on Thursday April 16.

By Ed Vulliamy of The Guardian
Not Even James Bond Can Rescue Mexico's Image
The news went viral on social networks, while the main print and electronic media trumpeted it on front pages and in prime time as a brilliant coup for bolstering Mexico's international image: James Bond, the super-macho, all-terrain star of the spy world, had descended on Mexico City for two weeks during late March in the midst of staged Day of the Dead festivities.

The government hailed the filming of the opening sequence of "Spectre," which is primed to be the 26th Bond blockbuster, on locations in and around the Zocalo, the historical center of Aztec Tenochtitlan, in colonial Mexico City and the present-day capital. The set is a quick skip from the Great Temple, where, in pre-Hispanic times, high priests gouged out the hearts of victims stretched over a sacrificial stone and displayed the severed heads of war captives on a massive wooden skull rack that resembled an abacus.

The government of Mexico desperately seeks good publicity these days. The lengths it is willing to go for that were revealed by the website Tax Analysts in March, drawing on internal Sony documents hacked and made public by an unidentified organization possibly linked to the North Korean government: Mexican businessmen and officials offered Sony and MGM millions of dollars in in financial incentives and possible tax rebates to portray the country in a favorable light.

Among "elements needed to preserve the Mexican deal" listed in the leaked memo was the inclusion of a recognizable Mexican actress. Stephanie Sigman, star of "Miss Bala," a 2011 thriller about an aspiring beauty queen kidnapped by drug traffickers who is forced to work as a mule, was cast in a small part.

The irony of casting an actress whose image is so tied to the ongoing Mexican tragedy may be lost on international audiences, but not on Mexicans. According to a UN report, 63% of women in Mexico have suffered violence at the hands of men. Femicides are on the rise with 6 women murdered every day, according to the National Citizen Femicide Observatory. Among Latin American nations, Mexico leads in the number of disappeared women forced into sexual slavery.

The government's requirement to film at least four minutes of the film in Mexico City was satisfied by the opening scene, with Bond "taking off into the Mexican skyline" in a helicopter. The portrayal of Mexican police was to be favorable, according to the hacked documents -- the opposite of the reality exposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto himself when he called for disbanding police forces possibly infiltrated by organized crime in 1,800 municipalities throughout Mexico, beginning in Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán and Tamaulipas, states that lead the country in extreme violence.

Why should projecting a distorted and unrealistic image of Mexico in a Bond film matter so much to officials in a country where everyone knows the reality: that this is a country where 43 rural teacher's college students disappeared half a year ago, into a vast archipelago of the dead, where myriad clandestine graves yield remains that are never identified?

Since taking office in December 2012, one of President Enrique Peña Nieto's stated aims has been to reposition the image of Mexico abroad, which has been sullied by years of drug war violence that has left more than 100,000 dead and nearly 26,000 missing since 2006. He aims to boost international tourism, a goal that has become more urgent with the fall of oil prices by nearly half since last June, which cut revenue and jeopardized foreign investment in the country's oil industry.

The incentive package for the Bond film is believed to be as high as $20 million. This was obviously considered a fair amount for product placement of "Brand Mexico" in a movie that may be seen by billions. "Spectre" will be released worldwide November 6, days after the genuine Day of the Dead ceremonies in Mexico.

While bogus Bond violence was being filmed, thousands marched in Mexico City on the six month anniversary of the students' disappearance in Guerrero. Some of the families have been touring the United States to garner support for demands for justice and to emphasize their rejection of the government's official story, which is largely based on an unverifiable match of one tiny bony fragment to one missing student's DNA.

Mexico is not a failed state, but several of the country's 31 states are failed. Guerrero, with the highest homicide rate in the country, is the epicenter of institutional collapse where a dangerous mix of drug trafficking and poverty is larded with pervasive official corruption. In the village of Nuevo Balsas, in the rugged Guerrero mountains, marijuana and opium poppies used to be the main source of income. Since the Canadian company Torex opened the Media Luna gold mine a few years ago, there have been jobs created but worse trouble. Kidnappings and extortion have increased and security is in the hands of community police. As a lawyer in the town of 1,500 residents said, "There's more money and we're a blank check for the mafias. If you don't pay up, they kill you."

Since the media have begun to reflect the rising popular anger over corruption, violence and impunity, they too are at risk and freedom of the press is deteriorating. Among the latest irritants is the firing of Carmen Aristegui, Mexico's most popular broadcast journalist, who last November broke the story of "The White House," a sprawling mansion in the capital's most exclusive neighborhood built for the president's wife, former soap opera star Angelica Rivera, by a company that has received juicy contracts from the government. It is widely believed that she lost her job at the behest of the presidency.

While prestigious journalists are usually protected by their high visibility, the human rights organization Article 19 has documented 656 attacks against journalists since Peña Nieto took office, including more than half a dozen unsolved murders in 2014. On Reporters Without Borders' 2014 World Press Freedom Index, Mexico is 152 out of 180 countries, between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq.

ACCENT BLUE The latest blow to "Brand Mexico" is a scathing United Nations report accusing police and security forces of practicing widespread torture. "Police and soldiers have regularly turned to torture to punish or extract false confessions or information from detainees in its so-called War on Drugs," the report says. "Frequently, victims are forced to sign declarations under torture and in many cases are convicted solely on the basis of those statements."}

Two recent presidential appointments are also troubling the public. Mexico's new attorney general, Arely Gomez, is the sister of a top official at Televisa, Latin America's largest media company and a key factor in Peña Nieto's electoral triumph. Gomez replaces Jesus Murillo Karam, whose credibility plummeted after he declared "Enough, I'm tired," abruptly ending the November 7, 2014 news conference where he had just given the official version of what happened to the 43 missing students: how they had been handed over by police to members of a drug gang, who incinerated their bodies at a garbage dump, pulverized the remains, packed them in plastic bags and threw them in a nearby river. On January 27, Murillo Karam stated categorically that this is the "historical truth." After taking office, Gomez was quick to give her position on the affair of the missing students, calling it an "isolated case."

In yet another bad sign, Eduardo Medina Mora, the former Mexican ambassador to the United States and previously to the United Kingdom, following his tenure as attorney general under President Felipe Calderon, has now taken office for 15 years as a supreme court justice, despite never having served as a judge. As attorney general he midwifed Calderon's disastrous and tragic "War on Drugs." He is widely suspected of having authorized Operation Fast and Furious, a failed program run by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that enabled Mexican drug cartels to get their hands on high-powered weapons, although he denies any involvement. As secretary of public safety under President Vicente Fox, his responsibility for human rights violations during operations by federal police in the repression of residents of Atenco, in the state of Mexico (governed at the time by Peña Nieto) -- whose protest against a new Mexico City airport left two dead and a number of women accusing the police of sexual abuse -- has repeatedly been called into question.

The hope these days is that Mexicans fed up with corruption and impunity will not accommodate political business as usual. Midterm elections will be held in Mexico on June 7 for 9 governors, all 500 seats in the lower house of the national legislature and other influential positions. Throughout Mexico, but especially in Guerrero, there are calls for boycotting the elections.

So while James Bond is cavorting in downtown Mexico City among giant skeleton props, leaping over rooftops and jumping into helicopters in an fictional exercise the government hopes will bolster "Brand Mexico," Mexicans all over the country are clamoring for a new deal and real justice.

Source: The World Post
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December 24, 2014 (Most Recent) Comprehensive Mexico Travel Warning
Because we are continually asked about travel safety in Mexico and Cozumel, INSIDER always maintains the most recent, complete version of the U.S. State Department Mexico Travel Warning HERE on our website for traveler convenience.

The good news continues to be that there are currently no regional security warnings in place that cover Quintana Roo, Cancun, Cozumel or Costa Maya so make vacation plans now to get here for some fun in the sun!

The Mexico Travel Warning dated December 24, 2014 from the Department of State can also be viewed in its entirety on the Department of State website.
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