Paisano Pato's Island Blog and Cozumel News
Updated Almost Weekly
Most Articles are from Mexican Newspapers and as such should be taken with mucho grains of margarita salt!
- One of the first problems facing the new Mayor of Cozumel and her staff will be the past due bill owed to the island garbage hauler, PASA. According to PASA the city is in arrears for 6 months of service and a bill of about 15 million pesos is due. One city official with the out going administration spoke very briefly and stated that only about 5 million is owed. The city and the trash company have locked horns in the past and Cozumel paid the last BIG bill by giving PASA city owned land instead of pesos. We are reading that until the bill is paid PASA is reducing service to parts of the island.
- The 3 scenic beach overlooks on the East Side of the island are scheduled for much needed repairs. Officials say that the bedraggled palapas at each site will also me repaired. They noted that most of the damage to the overlooks occurred from people parking their motorcycles on them. They hope that some sort of signage posted at street level will encourage visitors to not park on the structures.
posted 6/10/2016Two years ago Mexico imposed a 10% tax on sugary beverages. The tax was an effort to stop people from purchasing soft drinks and so cap the alarming obesity and diabetes rates in a country where per-capita soda consumption is the highest in the world. After an initial drop soft drink sales are rising again. One issue is that even with the tax soft drinks are much cheaper in Mexico than bottled water with a 600 milliliter bottle of pop selling for 6.5 pesos and a bottle of water for 8 pesos. The tax of one peso per liter has raised more than $2 billion since January 2014, about a third more than the government expected.
- We have always been amazed at the beauty and tranquil waters of El Cielo on Cozumel and more than once have wondered if we could find it from the road and not have to visit the beach by boat. Reportedly 4 tourists decided to try the same thing and set off from the highway through the jungle teeming with insects and crocodile infested swamps, without even a machete to help break a path. After a brief hike the group was attacked by a swarm of bees and in an effort to escape the angry insects they scattered in all directions. One of the girls managed to get her cellphone to work and call for help. Some 18 hours later the last of the 4 adventurers were rescued by Civil Protection and elements of the Navy. Needless to say after reading about the trials of these tourists we will only visit El Cielo by boat!
posted 3/25/2016It is very rare when anyone on the island is charged with littering but Cozumel officials have apparently added littering to the list of fine-able offenses. Two individuals were caught dumping vegetable waste into a vacant lot near the airport and even though it was organic waste dumping it is still prohibited. The litterbugs were fined 13 minimum wages, about $53, and told not to litter anymore. Officials hope this incident will raise awareness and so prevent future littering incidents.
- The Electric Company on Cozumel (CFE) has started to take the theft of electricity seriously and go after companies and individuals who are not paying their bills. In the latest sweep two Internet providers and a pharmacy were caught using little devils to tap into power lines and so get free electricity to run their business. All three of the businesses complained that damage was done when the illegal little devils were unplugged but it is doubtful that any restitution will be coming from the CFE.
- We have always thought that Cozumel cab drivers used a peso exchange rate much lower than the going rate and it was confirmed in a recent article. We had thought the cabbie rate was 10 to 1 just because it was easier for cabbies to do the math but an investigation determined that they are using a rate of 13 to 1, which is still far removed from the actual rate of 17.7 to 1. No matter what rate the taxistas are using though tourists still lodge complaints about the lousy exchange rate they consistently offer.
- Only one island paper is reporting that in a surprise move, just before the end of his term in office, the Mayor of Cozumel has changed his mind on the environmental protection laws of the island (POEL). The new plan is to Green Light any and all construction projects no matter how devastating they are to the flora and fauna of Cozumel. Officials hope that millions of pesos will pour into city bank accounts once they start granting construction permits without the usual Mexican red tape. Immediate projects on Passion Island, the Aero Golf course, and at Punta Sur around Colombia Lagoon are already on the books. Environmentalists calculate that thousands of species endemic to Cozumel will be endangered as well as possible irreparable damage to island reefs.
posted 2/23/2016We have just come across an article that confirms a long held belief that all residences on Cozumel have actual numbered street address. Apparently not all Cozumelenos are aware of that fact and many owners and occupants do not know their home address. Another group that we have had experience with not knowing house addresses are island mailmen. We will often find a pile of mail that a mail-hombre had just dumped in the street because locating the actual address proved too difficult.
We are reading that an official in charge of installing and maintaining speed bumps (topes) on the island has apparently taken it upon himself to slow traffic down a bit. Citizens are complaining that more speed bumps have been appearing seemingly at random around the island. One large unpainted concrete tope that had been newly installed caused a spectacular moto crash that was posted to YouTube. Our advice is to watch out for those topes!
- Lots of us might still have some Mexican pesos that predate December 31, 1992. That was the date when old peso bills with lots of zeros were replaced by New pesos with very few zeros. We loved those 1,000 peso bills but they are worth pretty much nothing now a days. Unless you take them to Cozumel where an American tourist went on a shopping spree with the old money. The clerk in a clothing store failed to notice that the bills were years out of date and even gave the shopper change for the bogus pesos. The police were eventually summoned but the tourist was not located.
- There is a plan in the works to pave the dirt road that runs north of the Cozumel Country Club to the lagoon at the Isla of Passion. Officials say that to protect the delicate flora and fauna in the area only natural elements will be used in the construction process. One example given was porous concrete which will allow water to soak through and back into the soil. We are not sure if heavy earth moving equipment will be used in the sensitive area but Cozumel Environmentalists are already gearing up to protest the 90 million peso project.
- We have just read some clarification regarding the new fees being charged at archaeological sites for use of personal cellphones, Go-Pros and other devices with video and still cameras built in. The rule to charge for video cameras has been on the books for 25 years but only this year have administrators decided to apply the 45 peso fee to other devices with cameras. One news report states that the fees won't apply to all tourists making videos but only those making professional videos! We think the people who decide whether a tourist is a professional or not will be the ones collecting the fees.
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- We can only apologize for the extra long hiatus from our postings. A major move, family issues and a total and almost irreparable computer crash all played a part. Things are back to normal now and hopefully we will be reporting on a much more regular basis. Lo siento!
- Cozumel's Carnaval season is in full swing with the big parade scheduled for Fat Tuesday, February 9th. Be sure to check out the other parades on Melgar beginning on Saturday, February 6th and smaller parades breaking out all over town. As we always say this is one of our fave times to be on the island so check it out.
- We are reading that visitors to archaeological ruins in Mexico will now be charged a fee for bringing their Go-Pro's, tablets and smart phones into the sites. We have been made aware that the attendants at San Gervasio are very serious about collecting the additional 45 peso fee.
- The latest island venture into opening a casino is reportedly about to become a reality. The casino operators seem to have all their permits in place and will operate 7 days a week from a location on 30th. Of note, Cozumel has never had a casino that has remained open for more than a few days.
- A local Cozumel newspaper article reports that the going rate to bribe a police officer on Cozumel is purportedly between 400 and 700 pesos. The bribe would supposedly get you a free pass for that offense, which includes drunk driving, bad or missing vehicle registration, and moving violations, just to name a few. The article noted that Cozumeleños are concerned as the little bite just keeps chewing away with not much being done to stop it!
- Cozumel is playing host to the big International Cruise Convention and Conference (FCCA) to be held in early October. It is expected that hundreds of movers and shakers connected to the business of cruising will be visiting the island. This is a big deal and always a great opportunity to showcase the many things that Cozumel has to offer. But instead of hosting the event in the newly remodeled convention center island officials have decided to erect a giant tent to hold the conference in. The tent is supposed to be very nice and even has air conditioning but many Cozumelenos are wondering what's wrong with simply using the Convention Center which was remodeled at great expense and also is reportedly very nice and air conditioned too.
- Cozumel's Deputy Director of Traffic reports that fewer cars are driving in the road dedicated to bicycles only on the East Side of the island. That can be a good thing for cyclists practicing for the upcoming Iron-Man or any of the many races the island has coming up. The new problem though is now with the signs that are posted along the highway that warn motorists that the road is to be used exclusively by bicyclists. So far 22 of the signs have been destroyed or vandalized. The Deputy Director notes that if they can ever catch the culprit or culprits in the act then they will have to repair all the damage.
- Officials report that over the last 4 weeks about 400 tons of kelp have been removed from the East Side beaches. It had been hoped the kelp problem would have ended by now but it shows no sign of abating and the removal work may be continued for another month. Reportedly all East coast beaches have been impacted by the seaweed, but the West coast remains mostly clear.
- Judicial Police are advising that because no one has been arrested for pick-pocketing then the odds are good that there are no pickpockets on Cozumel. They do advise that one should take precautions however so as not to encourage activity of that sort. If you are the victim of a pickpocket then be sure and report it to the authorities.
- Cozumel real estate professionals are reporting that sales of residential and commercial properties on the island are up thirty percent over the last 10 months. As the economy has improved abroad investors are looking to own a piece of paradise as well as see some appreciation on their investment and Cozumel just might fit that bill. Agents report that the properties that are selling the best are those priced in the $130,000 range.
- City Officials have apparently decided that the new and improved Benito Juarez Park is no place to have old street vendors selling stuff and not blending in with the look of the new park. These vendors, working mostly from push carts and selling a little bit of everything, could ruin the image that tourists might get of the park and Cozumel. After years of selling in the square the vendors are now suddenly seen as unfair competition for the established brick and mortar shops around the square. City Officials are not sure at this time where they will relocate the hapless street vendors.
- With Dry Laws going into effect at 12:01 am Sunday morning Cozumel officials will be on the lookout for any illegal booze sales that might occur during the Sunday elections. Shutting down legal sales of alcohol is SOP for elections in Mexico and no liquor by the drink or package sales will be allowed until Monday at 12:01 am. This year tourists staying at hotels to the north and south of town can still imbibe so not all the news is bad. We are reading that there are some 30 clandestine bars and beer shops around town though and Dry Days are usually good for business in those establishments. With only 20 inspectors to spy out illegal liquor sales it is a pretty good bet that spirits will continue to flow in spite of the booze bans.
- After spending 95 million pesos to remodel Benito Juarez Park we are reading that the park is almost finished...just a few more touches...and the grand inauguration will be any day now. Actually the grand opening is being delayed so slabs of concrete that were not reinforced with wire mesh can be ripped up and reinstalled correctly. The article does not say how much of the park will have to be redone but it is enough to further upset shop owners and restauranteurs in the area who just want business to return to normal.
- Officials have begun conducting inspections of beach clubs after getting complaints from locals that free access to the beaches of the Federal Zone is being denied by certain clubs. Managers at Playa Mia were reprimanded for installing a gate to bar access to the beach and the gate has now been removed. Officials did request that Cozumelenos who use the beaches be respectful of the area and the property of others. They were also encouraged not to litter or mess with the nesting turtles.
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- There are two things that a waitress in a Cozumel Cantina can't do with a customer. The first is have a drink with him. The second is to have sex with him. A few days ago one of the regulars at the bar El Pescador was caught in flagrante delicto with a waitress in a back room. The Head of Cozumel's Department of Verification, Andres Pavon Ramirez, said waitresses having sex on the job is not a good thing mainly because of the risks of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Reportedly the bar was shut down and we guess the waitress is looking for a new position.
- The head of Cozumel's Taxi Drivers Union, Fernando Marrufo Martin, says that complaints about taxi drivers have declined in the past few months. He attributes this decline to his being in charge of the union and his supervision of the drivers. Admittedly there have been some complaints mainly from tourists being over charged for a fare. Fernando says he has always been able to reconcile those problems before they could get out of hand. He added that if anyone has a complaint about a driver or the service received then please call the complaint line that has been pasted inside each and every cab on Cozumel. He will be happy to provide assistance.
- Interesting article noting that passengers on cruise ships to Cozumel are now spending less than the crew on board on the boat. When they hit the island the crew forks out about $100 a person, mainly shopping for clothes and stuff in supermarkets. Passengers, on the other hand, only spend about $80 each. This data was provided by the Director of Tourism on Cozumel. Also of note is that cruise ship passengers to the Virgin Island spend a whopping $250 a person and San Martin collects about $180 from those cruisers.
- It seems that tourist accidents on the island are becoming headaches for traffic officials. One article reports that visitors are having mishaps on a daily basis because they can't read road signs and don't know how to drive a car or motorcycle. Cozumel's Deputy Director of Traffic wants to require vehicle leasing agencies to be certain that tourists know how to operate the car or moto before they drive away. Tourists also need to have the rules of the road explained to them and to be made aware of one way streets. Of course for the unwary tourist even walking around the island can be hazardous as one individual learned when he fell in a big hole in the sidewalk on Avenue Melgar.
- Federal Health Officials have closed 4 food handling establishments on Cozumel. Three of the stores sold rotisserie chickens and grilled meat and one was a butcher shop. All of them were shuttered for poor sanitation in the food prep areas. Officials say the shops will be closed until they can correct the unsanitary issues. One of the owners lamented that if only he could keep his chicken shack open then he could make enough dinero to fix the problems. As usual the names of the stores were not reported in the press.
- The big, fun festival at El Cedral starts April 29th and runs to May 3. This is one of our favorite events on the island and is just a county fare complete with music, horse races, bull fights and lots of food and beer. Officials want to keep everyone safe and mischief to a minimum so there will be plenty of police officers and public security in attendance. Officials are also making a point of not allowing the sale of alcohol to minors. This year, like last year, there is not supposed to be any gambling. Since parking is pretty sparse we suggest taking the shuttle service that usually runs from near the Chedraui to El Cedral and costs just a few pesos. Like always we say check it out!
- Two gentlemen were arrested Monday night when they allowed their amorous nature to get the better of them. According to the newspaper article they began to dance and embrace each other while they were on Ave Melgar in front of the museum. Their arrest for disorderly conduct apparently took the majority of the Cozumel police force as 2 police cars and a dozen officers responded to assist in the incarceration.
- A couple of Cozumel issues have been raised in the press lately. Firstly, the gang of Sand Thieves have still not been found and the bulk of the stolen sand has still not been located. The odds are good that the sand and thieves will never be found. Also of note is that Benito Juarez Park is almost finished and reportedly looks great! The issue is the reports that the construction is of such poor quality that it is already cracking in spots. There is also a report that the bust of Benito Juarez, that had graced the park for decades and was moved during the remodel, has now gone missing. Officials are hoping to discover the whereabouts of the bust the before the square officially re-opens.
- The Cozumel press and island message boards have been abuzz with news of the latest sand looting that occurred near Punta Morena on the East side of the island. Just like the last time that a sand theft occurred in October of last year, no one heard or saw anything. The police officers stationed at Mezcalitos and Punta Sur failed to see any large dump trucks or earth moving equipment the night of the theft. This time though most of the sand had been located before it had time to be spread on any beaches. Costa Del Sol condos to the south and Club Cozumel Caribe, aka. Buccanos, to the north were the recipients of the fresh sand. Sadly, 500 cubic meters of prime turtle nesting beach that was protecting the island is now gone from the East coast and the articles, while they hint at who is to blame, suggest that the culprits will never be punished for their Environmental Crime.
- Several island papers are reporting that the Cozumel branch of the National Migration Institute (INM) is again on the hunt for illegal immigrants. Ten individuals in various bars and strip clubs were arrested for being illegally in the country and taken to INM headquarters. Some time later they were all released as it turned out they were actually Mexican citizens. The news articles were critical as to how the raids were conducted and questioned why they did not occur in any of the big jewelry stores in town were it is well known that the majority of employees are not Mexicans.
- We have Heard on the Street a report about a new gas scam on the island. There was the usual distracting and dodging done by the extremely polite and well dressed Pemex attendants and then the driver, who thought he was going to pay less than $10usd got the news that he really owed $32 US bucks. At first he thought the car's gas gauge must have been broken but when he questioned the attendants they informed him that he had pulled into the wrong station and this one had to charge 4 times the going rate for gas! As near as the driver can tell the station was the one on Juarez on the right past 65 as you head East. As usual gas buyers beware.
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- Cozumel police officials had high hopes that the many surveillance cameras they had strategically placed around town would serve to stop criminals and deter crime. They have had these cameras for years now and they did not come cheap. However it does seem most of them are cheap cameras. Officials report that at least 70 percent of them are currently not working. The other issue is that the picture quality of the ones that are working is of too poor a quality to identify suspects. The news report goes on to add that the cameras might not be worth the effort to save since no one can remember the cameras ever solving, or deterring, any crime.
- We have always thought that Cozumel, and most of the Caribbean, was safe from ever being struck by a tsunami but the latest scientific evidence says we, and many others, may be wrong. Researchers from Mexico and the University of Colorado have discovered evidence that the entire eastern coast of the Yucatan was struck by a giant tsunami between 450 AD and 900 AD. A berm paved with boulders the size of washing machines has been found 400 meters from the coast and extending 50 kilometers between Tulum, Playa Del Carmen and Cancun. Soil samples suggest that 2 to 3 giants waves each at least 15 feet high struck the area with enormous force ripping rock from the seabed and driving it onto the land. The cause of the tsunami is currently unknown.
- It seems the wardens of the prison on Cozumel just can't get a break and are always in hot water. One warden gets caught taking prisoners to the beach for a day of fun and sun then another is arrested for brawling with a newly released female inmate he had been dating. The latest incident occurred when the new warden decided to take 5 convicts to an event at the Hotel B to promote their prison art and crafts. None of the cons escaped and there were no incidents except that the warden did not have the authority to remove the prisoners from the jail. An investigation of the warden is planned. There was no mention of what type of handicrafts the inmates had made for the show or if any were sold.
- The Benito Juarez park remodel is reportedly 80 percent complete but that does not mean the park is a safe place to hang out. Locals have complained that the construction area, dangerous drop offs and just plan big holes are poorly marked as hazards. Several tourists and locals have been injured when they stepped into unmarked pits or tripped over debris. The latest incident was early Sunday morning when an individual on a moto was killed when the bike he was driving crashed into a trench. While alcohol reportedly played a part, observers said the accident could have been prevented if adequate barricades had been in place.
- The time change in Cozumel to East Coast time has caused at least one problem on the island. Students not only have to get up earlier to get to class on time but must walk the streets in the dark...at least for right now. There are concerns that it is not safe for young children to be walking the dark streets alone. The Director of the High School complained that since the Mexican government made the decision to change the time then it is up to the government to fix any problems caused by that change. Cozumel's Director of Public Safety has pledged to have officers on patrol as early as 5:30 am to escort kids to schools.
- Two motos were involved in a collision on Cozumel and all 6 passengers were injured! A family of 4 with a 3 year old and a new born on one moto were the most shaken up but reportedly not too seriously. The other motorbike with 2 passengers were determined to have been at fault. Damages only amounted to some 4000 pesos. We were saddened to read about this but it is always a danger when too many people pack on too small a motorcycle. Legally only 2 people are allowed on a motorcycle but this law is routinely ignored by Cozumelenos and police alike.
- Mexico's Consumer Protection Agency (PROFECO) has come out with their list of the top 20 dirty gas stations in the state of Quintana Roo. Making the list of stations that have been caught regularly short filling customers vehicles are 2 on the island of Cozumel. One is the PEMEX at the corner of Juarez and Ave 30, a very popular gas station and the first one on the island. We are uncertain as to the location of the other station. The address is listed as station #10479 Block 003, Lot 01, Colonia. With an address that vague it could be any of the other 4 island gasarias. Fines may be forthcoming or they may not be, but as usual it is buyer beware when visiting an island PEMEX.
- Windy Nortes have been the norm for the last few days and the Cozumel Harbor Master closed the port to small boat traffic. Yesterday he opened the port under a yellow warning flag which tells boat captains to use caution because it could still be rough out on the seas. Maybe it would have been better to just keep the port closed since one dive boat with 14 tourists and another boat with crew only were swamped by high winds and rough seas. Reportedly all passengers and crews were rescued without injury. Shortly after the boats sank the Harbor Master decided to close the port again.
- Cozumel Officials are predicting that, in spite of all the rain, the remodel of Benito Juarez Park will be completed on time this April. We never count on things actually happening according to plan on any construction project though. Still no word on whether the Gazebo will be rebuilt or not.
- We are reading that construction may soon begin within Punta Sur park on a new villa development. Villas Xixim was approved by SEMARNAT even though Cozumelenos were highly opposed to the project. Punta Sur is one of those dwindling areas of Cozumel in which construction is very regulated and no damage to the environment can occur. Since the project will be located on the shores of lake Colombia which is surrounded by protected mangrove trees it is fairly certain that damage will be done. If the project does move forward than the question will be just how much damage will actually be allowed.
- Apparently there is more that is foul at the Cozumel Municipal Ball Park than foul balls. It seems that the restaurant Super Hit, the only restaurant located in the ball park, has been dumping used cooking oil and sewage into a nearby cenote...a cenote that was prized for its quality of water providing just the right nutrients to keep the playing field green and lush. Now when efforts are made to water the grass all that comes through the hose is a viscous substance with a foul smell. Players have been complaining for weeks but to no avail. There is hope that the department of Ecology will get involved and sanction Super Hit which is no longer a big hit at the Ball Park.
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- Cozumel cops have been using breathalyzers at traffic stops for some time now and it sounds like they might be having an impact. Police Officials say the use of breathalyzers has reduced traffic accidents by up to 40 percent which is a big deal. Cops are pulling about 50 drunk drivers a month off the streets with the majority of those arrests coming on the weekends. Drivers of motos are reportedly the biggest over imbibers. Police Officials suggest that even more rigid regulations will be applied in 2015.
- We were surprised to read that 2 Cozumel Cops were forced to resign from the force after they were caught drinking beers as they provided security in the little town of El Cedral. Surprised because we have seen officers in uniform having a beer or 2 while at lunch and thought was just part of the lifestyle. Both officers had been with the force for 10 years and interestingly one of them had been a witness to the big Diamonds International watch heist in 2011. He observed the robbery while hiding unarmed behind a hot dog venders cart. Unarmed because it had been a rainy day and he decided to leave his gun at home so it would not get wet.
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- So far only one island newspaper is reporting that a 3rd ferry company will be coming to the Cozumel - Playa route. They report that 2 boats are currently in Campeche being refurbished and the new company will be called Caribbean Boats. Supposedly space has been reserved for a ticket booth in Playa del Carmen and the ticket price as been set at 60 pesos each way. Service is expected to begin in mid January. What makes us suspicious is that no Cozumel official reports knowing anything about this business. No permits have been applied for and not even any inquiries have been made. We will not get our hopes up at this point. In the meantime the car ferry company, Molina-Aviomar, has just increased rates mostly for commercial vehicles...an increase that will certainly impact the cost of goods sold on the island.
- Social Media and one island newspaper have created a stir with the report that next year Cozumel was going to start taxing pedal powered vehicles like bicycles and triciclos. The Mayor got involved and stated that there would absolutely be no taxes applied to these vehicles and it was all pretty much a rumor. He then stated that there would be a property tax increase next year of up to ten percent. The bike tax might have been the more popular tax after all.
- Cozumel taxi drivers are hoping for a 10 percent rate increase by the end of the year or by January 2015 at the latest. Drivers say the cost of fuel and the fact that rates have not increased since 2009 make this rate increase a sure thing. Of note though is that the last taxista rate increase actually happened in 2012 and was for a whooping 20 percent.
- After 2 months of investigations PROFECO is now warning companies that have already been fined or cited for poor business practices that they had seriously better change their ways or get shut down for good. A delegate for PROFECO says they are offering no deals or waiving any fines that have been levied. The owner of a car rental agency asked that a fine be reduced but like the Soup Nazi the answer was No deal for you! So far 34 jewelry stores in Quintana Roo have been investigated and 26 of those were on Cozumel. More than 16,000 pieces of jewelry have been seized. The article also noted that 100 percent of the pawn shops on Cozumel had been suspended for violations.
- We had been reading that parents of rowdy, trouble-making teens and tweens were going to be punished for any mischief the kids might get into. Apparently there are already laws on the books to facilitate this and it is just a matter of enforcement. Cozumel Councilwomen Margarita Vázquez Barrios, spoke with a group of parents and advised them of what their kids could cost them if they misbehave. The offenses are the usual, drinking in public, drinking while driving, being drunk, drug use, participating in or promoting fights, damaging buildings, spraying graffiti, entering places without permission, making false emergency calls, damaging signs, sleeping on the streets, selling alcohol in secret, or abusing children and the elderly. Fines can range from 10 - 30 minimum wages or from about 600 to 1800 pesos. Not a big hit for a wealthy family.
- All ambulances on Cozumel, when they are dispatched by calling 066 (the island's 911), are required to provide patient transport to a hospital free of charge. We did not know this and we are pretty sure that most tourists don't know it either. So this makes a perfect opportunity for ambulance drivers to charge tourists for their services and charge them they do. The latest was a ride costing $650 with no receipt given to the injured party who had to cough up the funds. One Cozumel Official compared ambulance drivers to "vultures, just waiting for the wounded..." and added that this is "robbery in the wild."
- Carnival's cruise ship, Magic, became the first boat to be denied docking privileges at Cozumel because of the Ebola scare. Two passengers, one of which had been possibly exposed in Dallas, had been in voluntary quarantine in their cabins and were not showing any symptoms of the virus. No one on board was reporting any Ebola symptoms but Cozumel Officials decided that the safety of the island population was most important and advised the Magic to pass on bye and go back to Galveston. This first incident has island officials scrambling to locate infrared sensors or thermal cameras so they have the option of screening passengers before they allow them to mingle with the island population.
- No one seems able to explain how 40 cubic meters of sand dunes on Cozumel's East Side next to Punta Morena vanished overnight. Authorities estimate that 5-7 large dump trucks and earth moving equipment were used in the removal. At this time of year police officers are stationed at both ends of the East side road overnight to protect turtle nests and turtles during the egg laying season. None of the officers can remember seeing any dump trucks coming or going. It is against Environmental Law to disturb sand dunes, especially when they may contain turtle eggs, but on Cozumel sand is a highly prized commodity for beach clubs and hotels on the West side of the island. The last time such a sand theft occurred was 2010 when a fleet of dump trucks illegally hauled tons of sand to the El Cantil condos for their beach area.
- Mexican Better Business Officials, PROFECO, are now on a tear going after island jewelry stores. In the last two weeks more than 12,000 fake baubles have been seized at 21 unnamed stores all along Ave Melgar. Most recently 15 shops at the SSA Mexico International Pier where Royal Caribbean cruises usually dock were sanctioned. The bulk of the bogus bling was earrings, silver chains and bracelets. No mention was made of any fines being involved.
- Apparently it's Renter Beware when dealing with rental car and moto agencies on Cozumel. It is up to the renter, and not Cozumel transport authorities, to make sure stuff works. Basic stuff like brakes, windshield wipers, headlights and steering and that the tires look like they might not go flat as soon as the car leaves the lot. This has all stemmed from an incident last week when the brakes failed on a rental car soon after it left the dealer. The driver wanted his money back and the rental agency said no way and wanted to charge him another 500 pesos for the new dents in the car. The cops got involved and the renter did get his money back and did not have to pay for the damage.
- The Square, El Centro, Juarez Parque whatever name you know it by it is for all intents and purposes gone for now. An 8 foot high wall surrounds the construction site. The wall runs right through Plaza Leza Restaurant and Villas Dorado outdoor dining areas. Plaza Leza is closed for the duration. Dorado hopes to stay open using the indoor dining room. Mosiacoz is a little farther from the wall and they hope to remain open too. We talked to shop owners in Plaza Sol who are pulling out completely and still have to pay rent even though their shop will sit empty for months. It will take deep pockets for restaurants and shops to survive for the next 4-7 months or whenever the work is completed.
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- The latest word in the media is that construction on Benito Juarez Park is now set to begin on September 22. As such, the 40 street vendors who work from carts or the street have been given notice to clear out. Some of the vendors have been offered space in the park in front of the Palacio. We are not sure where the rest of the vendors will end up or what will become of the established restaurants and shops that currently line the Park. Instead of the original 7 months mentioned now the work on the Park is only set to take 4
- As we say at the top of this blog, take everything you read in Mexican newspapers with a grain of margarita salt and we recently rediscovered that is indeed the case. We made a special trip to the town square to photograph the devastation caused by the remodeling that was supposedly already in progress. Surprise! Nothing has been done...no piles of dirt or ripped up concrete. There is no sign of any heavy equipment either. The gazebo is still there and the Sunday night concert is still happening. It was poorly attended due to a conflicting show at the Palacio, but for right now Juarez Park is still a nice place to hang out.
- The new lack of parking meters on Ave Melgar is keeping police busy writing parking tickets....more than 15 since the meters were removed. Fines for parking violations range from 319 pesos for just a little infraction all the way up to 1200 pesos if they have to get the tow truck after the offending vehicle. Supposedly the cops will give you 5 minutes to move your car and then the ticketing and tag removing begins. Officials say all this messiness could be avoided if the public would just obey the law.
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- Like it or not construction has begun on the 95 million peso remodel of Benito Juarez Park, one of the main social centers on the island. The plan is for the elevated area of the park (most of it) to be lowered to allow better access for wheelchairs and the handicapped. The band stand/gazebo will be removed, more cement benches will be added and supposedly the trees will remain. Some plans show a water fountain in front of the Clock Tower but island builders have never had any luck building, much less keeping, a fountain working. Four construction companies will be responsible for the work which will take at least 7 months, and discourage tourists from visiting the park for all of High Season. Cozumeleños are very mixed on the remodel. City Officials say this remodel will bring new growth and business to the area. Citymar would like to see that kind of money spent on repairing island infrastructure and others point out that officials have been talking about a sandy beach along the Malecon for years and that kind of money could finally make it happen. We are certain there will be more news to follow.
- For months Cozumel Officials have been lobbying to have Playa San Martin certified as a Blue Flag Beach, recognized internationally for its cleanliness, nice bathrooms, life guards and access for the handicapped. While Cozumel does have life guards at San Martin there are no ramps or facilities and the ever present seaweed and trash washed ashore can be impossible to keep up with. Officials may have to put their dreams of having a Blue Beach on hold as they decide if they have the budget to spend to add facilities at Playa San Martin as well as the constant maintenance it will take to keep the beach clean. For now it may have to be enough to have San Martin one of the few beaches in the country that is a No Smoking beach.
- We are stunned and amazed but it seems that as of Monday the dreaded Parking Meters of Melgar will be no more! Details are scarce but a deal seems to have been struck and the city will not have to pay an early termination fee to the owner of the meters, which are reportedly already being removed. The 25 meters will be transferred to a secure location on the island to await their fate. City Officials say that with the meters gone parking chaos will be prevented as it will be illegal to park on the drag (except for certain loading zones) from 9am till 6pm. No word as to who would be enforcing the new parking ordinance.
- The environmental group Citymar has denounced the company that is building the pier extension for Carnival Cruise Lines at Puerto Maya. Citymar is accusing them of damaging Paradise reef that is part of the protected area in the Marine Park. Additionally, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Conanp) in Cozumel filed a formal complaint with the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) in Quintana Roo for alleged damage to the reef. Some of the specific complaints are that coral colonies near the planned construction were to have been relocated and were not. Also filters to keep sediment from drifting over the reef and killing it are to be used and they are not in place either. Pictures just show construction junk dumped onto the reef. Of course Cozumel's life blood is the cruise industry and Carnival is the biggest player, so it is very doubtful that the pier construction will be stopped or delayed in the slightest.
- The Cozumel City Council has ordered the destruction of 19 bulletproof vests used by the police. The vests are from 3-5 years old and are valued at some 300,000 pesos. One City Official protested the vote saying that at least the vests, which have a life of at least 10 years, could be used for training rather then destroyed. To our knowledge no one has ever shot at an island officer who was wearing a bulletproof vest. Meanwhile the protective gear worn by Cozumel Fire Fighters was all over 20 years old until last week when new gear valued at 300,000 pesos was handed out to the 29 men who serve.
- PROFECO, Mexico's version of the Better Business Bureau only with clout, has been on a tear lately. Two weeks ago they hit the Cancun airport and shut down and fined airlines and car rental agencies for not posting the real rates for flying and renting. Rental agencies in Playa were also cited and closed with seals. Sunday they busted 11 car rental agencies on Cozumel and charged them with not being registered with PROFECO, not posting prices in pesos, not posting the total price and the list went on. This time PROFECO named the rental agencies and while there were several we had not heard of 3 were very familiar...Isis, Alamo and CP Rentals. Some of the Bad Boys in the car rental world that are always getting dissed, did not make the list and appear surprisingly honest in posting rates and providing info to the customer.
- Cozumel's parking meters have struck again and this time a family of Mexican Nationals took the hit. A family of 8 visiting from the Yucatan decided to grab a last meal downtown while they waited for the car ferry. They had vacationed on the island for a wonderful week but they had apparently never parked in town. They asked a security guard if it was alright to park and, after he assured them it was perfectly fine, they left their 2 vehicles on Melgar and went to lunch. The sad ending to their vaca was that the meter police pulled the cars tags, a 447 peso fine had to be paid and the family missed their boat. The Yucatecan family's take was basically this was a terrible way for out of towners to be treated and they do not plan on visiting the Island of Swallows any time soon.
- We are reading reports that the only Bowling Alley on Cozumel has been closed. The article is confusing but it seems that the builder/owner of Caribbean Bol leased the land back in 2001 and spent 14 million pesos building the facility. The Cozumeleno who owns the land says some of the $3000 a month payments have been missed so authorities of the court seized the building for back payment and evicted the occupant. Everyone is now lawyered up but hopefully something can be worked out so the island's only bowling alley can be saved.
- The turtle nest count on Cozumel has taken a big hit so far this season. Last year the number of Loggerhead, Hawksbill and green tortuga nests were over 4,000. So far this year the total stands at less than 1,300. Scientists are not sure why the turtles aren't laying in the usual numbers but guess it might have something to do with the hot dry weather the island is experiencing. But from what we have seen it looks like pretty typical island weather for this time of year.
- Shades of the 1920s, speakeasy's and bath tub gin...well maybe not yet on Cozumel but island T Men are certainly going after illegal sellers of hooch with a vengeance. So far nearly a dozen establishments selling booze have been shut down and authorities say they have their sights on at least 10 more. The majority of these illegal boozarias are located in peoples homes were they sell beer 24 hours a day and really do a thriving business after most legal bars are closed. But the T Men also cleaned up at a local car wash where, we guess, cars would go in dirty and come out clean and loaded with liquor.
- The long awaited Airplane Park has finally been completed and is generating good island buzz among users. The plane was opened for business in May and 588 students and parents used the digital library and other services during the month of June. The project cost over 2 million pesos and took several years to complete. In fact it was doubted that the "biblio-plane" would ever be completed and there was even talk about dumping it in the ocean to make another artificial reef. The park is located in San Gervasio Colonia at 130 Ave and Hidalgo.
- It is not business as usual for prosecutors of the municipal treasury on Cozumel who have been without power in their offices for about a week. No fans, no computers and not any power to charge cell phones or really do their jobs, and all in a small very hot office with only one west facing glass door. City Officials say they have paid the 1000 peso CFE bill and there is just a delay in reconnecting the power but the guys in the hot office say they have heard this before when the power was cut for none payment earlier in the year.
- Island hotels are having their best summer holiday season in 3 years with occupancy rates of over 70 percent as hundreds of Mexican Nationals are flocking to the Island of Swallows. It seems that even the high price of ferry service from the mainland is not putting off travel this year. Some of the visitors were happy to comment on what they thought of Cozumel and what would make it better. On the plus side many nationals were delighted at how friendly everyone was and noted that even though they weren't locals they still received the local discount at many places. Some tourists also thought that prices were not nearly as high as they had been lead to believe. On the down side several visitors thought that the parking meters should be deactivated during the summer holiday season or at the very least have better operating instructions.
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- Cozumel Officials are asking that tourists and locals alike stop posting complaints on Facebook and other social media sites but rather report any problems they may experience on the island directly to authorities such as the police. It seems that several police officers, accused of abuse of authority and theft, got a mention on Facebook. The incidents are being looked into but officials say that the correct way to report matters like this is to file a complaint with the City Comptroller or other legitimate authority. But social media is the way of the world now and in many cases seems to work faster and easier then waiting in a little office to fill out a bunch of paperwork that will probably not make a difference anyway.
- We reported some time ago that it is now a violation for overeager salesmen along Ave. Melgar to harass tourists in an effort to get them to come in and spend money in their shops. It looks like officials are taking this very seriously and have arrested a salesman who was half a block from his store and threatening tourists with violence if they did not return to his establishment and buy stuff. Enforcing this regulation might make walking on the shady side of Melgar in the morning a real possibility again.
- Cozumel Cops have decided (again) to take a Zero Tolerance approach to enforcing the mandatory Helmet Law. Everyone on a moto must wear a helmet that is secured on. The helmet must be one designed for a motorcycle operator. A construction helmet, bicycle helmet, or in at least one case a colander, will not pass inspection. This ordinance has been on the books since 2010 so most islanders should be aware of it by now.
- Two people were sent to the hospital after they were attacked by a swarm of bees near Playa Mia. The fire department was called to the scene and blasted the buzzing bees with a fire hose. Firemen have been called out for 168 bee swarms so far this year which is a big drop from the 610 attacks that they responded to in 2013.
- We always enjoy reading the latest news of Cozumel and trying to keep up with all the comings and goings on the island. But we were surprised when we discovered that apparently some of the island papers are following our blog too. One of our blog photographs of Benito Juarez Park was recently featured in a news article concerning the possible remodel of the area. We did not receive a photo credit and there probably won't be a pile of pesos waiting for us the next time we visit the island but hey our work has finally gone international!
- City Officials are all in a dither about what to do when (if) the parking meters on Ave Melgar are ever removed. The Mayor is worried that when (if) the meters go away then Melgar will turn into the parking chaos that it was before the meters came along in 2010. The press noted that back in the day locals loved the convenience of parking close to the ferry pier for free while they hoped the boat to the mainland for a couple of days. The Mayor said that he had a plan in the works to prevent total chaos but chose to not share that with the media. Meanwhile, the parking meters on Ave Melgar are still in place and the company that owns them still have not said they are going to pull them out and leave Cozumel.
- There is a report in the press that Cozumel diamond merchants are very concerned that sales of diamonds and gems on the island are way down. Indeed, worldwide diamond sales are down 40 percent over the past 2 years, so of course the island would be impacted. One of the store owners stated that tourists coming to Cozumel now have very little money left to spend after paying for their all inclusive cruise. The businessman lamented that pretty much the only things tourists are buying these days are items made of silver.
- We are not sure what it takes to get arrested on Cozumel but being caught red handed with the evidence is apparently not one of them. Five fishermen were stopped on suspicion of illegal fishing. They had equipment in their boat just for catching conch and lobster. They denied that they had been fishing for anything. They also had 40 pounds of conch in their boat the possession of which is a federal crime involving fines and prison time. Three hours after they were arrested they were released when Cozumel's Attorney General decided there was not enough evidence to hold them.
- We like the positive spin on this story about the Cozumel Police Department's tow truck which has been out of service for several months. Now the tow truck has been repaired and the good news is that owners of cars wrecked in accidents will no longer have to pay the high prices charged by private wrecker companies that the city was forced to use. With the old tow truck back in service citizens will save pesos whenever the city wrecker is pressed into service. The bad news is that with the city wrecker back in service illegally parked cars are once again being hauled off to the impound yard where the car owners face a ticket for their poor choice in selecting a parking spot.
- Cozumel Cops have been pressing their breathalyzer into service in an effort to rid the road of drunk drivers. To that end they have determined that there are 3 levels of drunkenness that drivers can fall into and the more drunk a driver is the more jail time is involved. Drivers who are just a little drunk will spend 12 hours in the hoosegow. Get a bit more tipsy and you may fall into the second degree drunk category which would entitle the driver to 24 fun filled hours in the Cozumel lock up. But beware of being big time drunk because that entitles the operator of the vehicle to interminable 36 hours behind bars. If underage teens are stopped for drunk driving then we think that their parents get to do the time in jail for them.
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- Several of the island rags are reporting that the evil parking meters on Ave. Melgar could possibly, maybe, almost certainly...be gone really, really, really soon. We have reported on these rumors before and then nothing comes of it and the meters stay. But this time city officials say they are only one meeting away from a deal with the owner of the meters and when the meters go away the city will not have to pay a multi-million peso early termination fee. The city is receiving 22,000 pesos a month as it's share of what the parking meters take in and that, at least, is something in the city coffers. We are not going to get our hopes up though that the meters will be gone anytime soon.
- Cozumeleños and ex-pats alike all recognize the sound of the little whining engine and immediately start looking for the distinctive cloud of white smoke that lets them know where the mosquito spraying pickup is heading. When we hear the engine whine we start closing windows and doors to keep the fumes out. Well, with dengue season still ongoing, island officials are advising everyone to NOT close those windows but to let the cloud of chems just float on in and kill whatever skeeters might be lurking behind some piece of furniture or under the bed. We have read that the spray being used is water soluble, non-toxic, and sometimes even invisible, but it is still not something we want inside our casa.
- Cozumel Officials, in a effort to make sure that all tourists are treated with respect, have decided to go after harassing merchants. A memo has been sent out to shops along Ave. Melgar advising merchants to stop trying to strong arm tourists into shopping in their stores. No longer will it be allowed to grab a tourist and pressure them to just take a look. Officials do not want to cause merchants to lose business but rather to make sure tourists feel safe and have a good impression of the island. As a side bar to this it will now be a violation for a shop to display lewd and suggestive statuary and art in store windows. Aprons that offer a surprise when lifted will also not be allowed! To date some thirteen individuals have already been warned and repeat offenders will, supposedly, be fined.
- So many tourists are posting pictures of themselves playing with the starfish at El Cielo that Cozumel Officials have decided to step in and try to halt the practice. The Department of Ecology hopes to raise awareness of the problem through a campaign called No Stars No Heaven. While starfish are not endangered when they are touched or removed from the ocean they can die. Because holding them makes such a good photo tour guides will actually offer to take the picture instead of advising that the creatures not be handled. The head of the Marine Park stated that already 6 fines have been issued against boats and tour guides in the park.
- Federal Police on Cozumel have a new weapon in the war on drugs that they are already using at the international airport. Two Shepard dogs were trained by the US Border Patrol and donated to the Cozumel Feds. As usual, they are very well trained in sniffing out marijuana, cocaine and heroin, etc., but they also have a nose for money! Large amounts of dollars, euros, pounds and pesos are detectable by the pooches. While it is legal to bring amounts over $10,000 per person into Cozumel it is illegal not to report the cash. We guess the sniffer dogs will encourage more disclosure at the airport.
- City Officials are making an effort to crack down on unlicensed vendors selling stuff on the streets of Cozumel. Officials note that by selling without a license the vendor is stealing from legitimate businesses and, of course, the city does not receive any licensing fee either. The biggest offenders seem to be the guys with a truck load of furniture coming over from the mainland and setting up shop in a shady spot off a busy street. Officials are giving fair warning that truck load furniture salesmen will have their wares confiscated if they are caught. The same Officials are also going to crack down on the guys that juggle fire at stop lights or sell candy on the streets.
- For decades it has been a Federal crime in Mexico to harm turtles or their eggs, but that does not deter some people. Miguel Angel Reyes Espinoza has reportedly made a career of dealing in stolen turtle eggs, has been caught several times over the past three years and has always been released, much to the frustration of Cozumel Police. The latest incident was last week when Miguel was caught red handed with 120 turtle eggs in his possession. He some how escaped capture only to be apprehended the next day, on the same beach, with 68 loggerhead eggs in hand. The Island Press reported that once again the alleged turtle egg thief was released from jail without paying a fine or doing any time. Frustrating indeed.
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