Paisano Pato's Island Blog and Cozumel News
Updated Almost Daily
Most Articles are from Mexican Newspapers and as such should be taken with mucho grains of margarita salt!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- It seems that the estimate of stray pets on the island grows with every season. The latest article suggests there are more than 20,000 abandoned cats and dogs roaming the streets of Cozumel. Officials warn that stray animals contribute to serious health issues and say that there is not a real way to control the problem short of animal roundups and that just incurs complaints by animal rights advocates. Sterilization of strays and pets is one of the options available to officials so they and the Humane Society are offering free spay and neutering now through June 8th. More than 300 procedures were done the first day the service was offered, but the 15 veterinaries and 40 student assistants hope to do more than 600 daily. Still only a drop in the bucket compared to the total number of stray animals on Cozumel.
- We have come across an odd article regarding a new policy for tourists departing Cozumel via the ferry boats. It seems that Port Authority Officials will now require names and address info for travelers taking the ferry to Playa, just in case of an emergency. This is in response to the ferry sinking in Korea some time ago. Officials say that while they don't expect a ferry boat to sink they are just being prepared in case one does. Sign out desks are supposed to be installed in the Cozumel departure area of the ferry pier. The article did not say whether passengers coming to the island from Playa will also be required to give their contact info.
- In a turnabout from the current policy Cozumel Officials have decided that restaurants and bars serving alcohol will no long be able to extend their hours of operation. Restaurants will only be licensed to serve drinks until 1 am and cantinas only until 7 pm. In the past bars and restaurants could apply for, and usually receive, an extension to sell booze for holidays, special events, long weekends or pretty much anything that might be an excuse for a party. The goal of City Officials is to try and reduce the consumption of alcohol by Cozumeleños and in so doing reduce car accidents and domestic violence on the island.
- The environmental group Sky, Land and Sea (Citymar) has launched a campaign to halt the proposed remodel of Benito Juarez Park on Cozumel. Citymar is concerned about the proposed remodel because no one in the public has seen any of the plans or even knows what the budget is. Citymar would prefer the funds be spent on reforestation, drainage repair and lighting rather than another make over of the park. This sounds like a similar remodel that was proposed in 2010 when the then mayor wanted to rip out the trees and add more concrete to the park.
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- When the new Federal Tax Law went into effect the first of this year there were a lot of predictions of doom and gloom in the island press. Critics of the law said it would result in the end of small Mom and Pop businesses on the island and that may be the case. The latest reports in the press note that some 100 of these neighborhood eateries and shops on the corner have closed for good. All the paperwork involved and the expenses of operating a small business legally are way more then most of these tiny places ever made. Another result of the law is that it is now even harder to start a new business on the island. We will definitely miss some of those colorful and convenient little island shops.
- We always say that things can change fast in Cozumel and this story just confirms that. Two days ago, in a surprise move, one of the ferry companies, Mexico Boats, jacked up prices by 10 percent for people as well as vehicles to and from the mainland. As usual Cozumel's press and social media responded most negatively to this affront. The next day the Governor of the State got involved and apparently pressured the company to NOT raise rates. So the rates have been returned to what they were which still makes the trip the most expensive boat ride in all of Mexico!
- Cozumel's Hard Rock Cafe has been shuttered after 20 years of operation. The managers of the Hard Rock owed more than $250,000 in past due rent and other debt. Court Officials and police seized the property during business hours last Friday and ushered tourists and employee's out the door. They did let employee's take some T-shirts. No word on what the owner of the property's plans are for the old Hard Rock location but reports are that some 50 ex-employees are looking for new jobs.
- Last Friday two American tourists survived a harrowing experience while para-sailing on Cozumel. Reports conflict, but it seems high winds snapped the tow rope and the para-sail, along with it's passengers, flew ashore into a high voltage pole and entangled in the lines. Rescuers cut power to the lines (along with the entire south end of the island) and freed the para-sailors who were taken to hospital for treatment for their injuries. In an interview with the Captain of the Port, Alfonso Rodríguez Loaiza, minimized the accident and said that any water sport can be risky. He added that if the media continued to play up the incident then it could harm the image of the island. In that vein he refused to comment on who owned the boat involved or when it was last inspected for safety.
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- From what we are reading it sounds like Ventanas al Mar, the only hotel on the East Side of the island, is building a swimming pool at the property. Unfortunately the owners of the property failed to get permission from the appropriate governmental agency to build the pool. Since the hotel lies in an environmentally protected zone it is doubtful that they would have been granted permission at all. That may be the reason that most of the construction work has, reportedly, been done at night.
- The Mayor of Cozumel says that things won't change much in Juarez Park, the town square, and the sole purpose of the remodel is to bring life back to the area. He stated that no landscaping would be removed and that the distinctive features of the park would remain the same. The park would just be made more "modern." When asked if the public could make suggestions as to the remodel he said that at this point it would be difficult and costly to change things, but that the public should just trust that all would be well in the park.
- Several creatures of the sea were in the island news last week. In the first article islanders reported finding a "poacher" chopping the tail off a sting ray he had captured on the north shore. The people who discovered this were most upset and violence was threatened. Before matters could get physical the poacher fled the scene. The other sea life concern is that starfish are being handled too much by divers, dive masters and tourists and their numbers are in danger of being greatly reduced. Just taking a starfish out of the water for the few seconds it takes to snap a pic can result in the death of the animal. According to the Cozumel Department of Ecology starfish and sting rays are NOT protected species so there is no penalty or fine for killing, maiming or just taking one home in a sack. The Department of Ecology's philosophy of let your conscience be your guide may not always be the best solution.
- City Officials are taking some heat regarding plans to overhaul Juarez Park. Word is that the city plans to tear down the gazebo, where bands play every Sunday night, rip up some trees and make the area a vast promenade. By that we assume an open space paved in concrete. The Mayor plans on holding a meeting to address the concerns of Cozumeleños. We agree there needs to be some concern and that some parts of paradise should be left alone.
- Soriana grocery store has come up with a novel program to relieve shopper's fears of buying rotten meat and fish. They are now allowing customers to open any and all packages and give them the sniff and touch test. If they pass then the customer can buy the product without concern. If there is some question of taint then they just put the item back on the shelf for someone else to deal with. We hope this program does not catch on with other island grocery stores.
- While Soriana does what it will, seemingly with impunity, both Sam's Club and Bodega Aurrera have had their bakery and deli shut down for health violations. The Bodega was selling expired products in the deli while Sam's featured unsanitary conditions in the bakery as well as expired products. Both stores may be fined for their violations.
- Complaints about the popular island grocery store Soriana have surfaced in the press and on Cozumel Facebook pages. Customers have accused the store of selling spoiled food, posting incorrect price labels and having a notable number of cockroaches on the premises. Investigations have also turned up building code violations that have not been corrected. In what is apparently an effort to limit the number of complaints on Facebook Soriana employees are trying to stop shoppers from taking cellphone pictures of questionable products inside the store. As a result many shoppers are taking their business, and their cellphones, to stores where shopping is less of a hassle.
- The price for limes has skyrocketed all across Mexico and is running about 50 pesos a kilo on Cozumel. Because of the high price sales of the tasty fruit are down on the island but limes are still in demand. In what is being called the theft of the century a truck containing 600 crates of limes was hi-jacked in route from Tabasco to the town of Cuitláhuac in Veracruz. Thieves took almost all the limes and left the truck.
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- Much has been made of the new Cozumel Information Booth set up, again, in Playa del Carmen. The booth, which sits on the pier where tourists and locals queue up to wait for the ferry to Cozumel, is supposed to be manned by college students. We are reading that on the weekends, when tourist traffic to the island is highest, the booth sits empty with no one to hand out brochures or tout the advantages of a visit to the lovely isla. Officials have been working on solving this issue for several months but so far have had little luck.
- We read an odd report about a stop light falling into the road at the intersection of Ave. 20th and 15th near the Yellow Church. What is odd is that the stop light has been repaired by using a stick and bailing wire to hold it in place until a more permanent solution can be found. We suggest avoiding island stop lights if at all possible.
- Who can we believe when one news story states that there will be a stronger police presence on Ave Melgar in town to provide more safety for both tourists and locals. Then the same day another article appears detailing that the real reason more cops will be on Melgar is because of the recent failed robbery attempts at the Diamonds International jewelery stores in both Playa and Cancun. Officials want to prevent any similar incidents so cops will now be stationed near the Cozumel DI locations. Safety is always good.
- It's Fat Tuesday and tonight is the last Carnaval parade on the island. Reports are that it has been a great Carnaval season with hotels at 95 percent occupancy. Food vendors are seeing high sales of the usual faves like churros, marquesitas, and mayo smeared corn. On the other side of the coin, police are reporting that they made 144 arrests over the weekend, most of which involved people consuming too much alcohol and creating a disturbance. The Chief of Police suggested that people coming to the last parade should be sure and lock their casas and chain up their motos to avoid tempting thieves.
- Carnaval season is in full swing on Cozumel with all the usual color and pageantry. In our estimation, the best nights to be on the island are those of the big parades up Melgar. The first parade is scheduled for March 1st and the last one is Fat Tuesday. There will be live music in Benito Juarez park and in front of the Palacio those nights too and nobody gets much sleep! You can keep up with all the goings on at the Official Carnaval Website.
- Mexican Tax Reforms have begun to take a toll on Cozumel small businesses. The required costs of complying with the new tax, specifically the hiring of an accountant to do all the paperwork, have proven too much for more than 23 establishments who have closed their doors. The tax increase went into effect January 1 and this closing down of businesses is exactly what was feared by opponents of the tax. Officials say most of the businesses closed were small operations like snack bars and grocery stands frequented by locals, but they all provided a service to the neighborhoods and a small income to the owners. The article also noted that this time last year 77 new businesses had been opened. Compare that to 23 closed so far this year and it does not look good for the Mom's and Pop's of the island.
- Cozumel Marine Park Officials are reporting a significant reduction in the amount of coral bleaching seen on island reefs. That's good news especially since 2012 was a terrible year for reef bleaching but since then the system has come back very well and now it seems the effects were only temporary.
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