Gas prices in Mexico soared after the New Year, as a result of a federal deregulation that coincided with rising oil prices worldwide and a rapidly weakening peso. People across the country, nettled by a 20 percent spike, blockaded roads and gas stations, and marched in nearly two dozen states, including parts of Baja California. Protesters are continuing to call for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s ouster, and a return to lower gas prices.

Meanwhile, Ford has canceled its plans to invest $1.6 billion in a plant in Mexico, and opted to put money into expanding existing plants in Hermosillo, Mexico, and Flat Rock, Mich. The abrupt decision came as a surprise, but naturally was welcomed by automobile workers’ and manufacturers’ unions in the United States. Ford said that the decision had nothing to do with a potential 35 percent tariff on American cars made in Mexican manufacturing plants proposed by President-elect Donald Trump.

Ford currently employs some 85,000 people in the United States and just under 9,000 people in Mexico.

Beer, Wine and Climate Change

Baja California has begun construction on a new aqueduct in Mexicali for Corona beer. Gov. Francisco “Kiko” Vega de Lamadrid said that the move was not just to benefit Constellation Brands, but intended to make the entire state of Baja California more profitable and competitive in the face of ongoing droughts.

Climate change is also threatening Mexico’s wine production. The Valle de Guadalupe’s groundwater has been sufficient for generations, but that supply is increasingly salinated, and rainfall has been almost nonexistent in the past few years. (Saltier water is also affecting crops in San Diego County.) While some solutions have been floated to solve of the lack of water in the region (such as desalination plants or ways to make agricultural runoff suitable for irrigating vineyards), residents remain unconvinced that anything will change and are preparing themselves for far lower yields.

Tijuana’s Violent 2016

In 2016, Tijuana’s body count reached record levels with more than 900 homicides, making it the most violent year in the city’s history, according to Baja California’s attorney-general. The violence pushed ahead of its previous record (844) from 2008, but for similar reasons: turf wars between rival cartels, socioeconomic inequalities, corruption, and an astonishingly high rate of impunity. Murder rates have increased in cities along the border during the past year.

More Border News

• Tijuana City Councilman Luis Torres Santillan, who has been jailed in the United States on corruption and money laundering charges since December — just three weeks after he was sworn in — is to appear in court in San Diego Tuesday. Torres, a PANista (a member of Mexico’s National Action Party, known popularly as PAN) is one of 12 high-profile people named in the international case. Torres’ bail has been set at $5 million.

• A video shows the plight of people arriving at the international border via Tijuana to ask for asylum or refuge in the United States. The wave of people arriving from Haiti and various countries in Central America and Africa has slowed, but shows no signs of ending any time soon.

 A rare succulent has been discovered on Baja’s Colonet peninsula, and researchers say that it is only known to live there. The plant was discovered by a San Diego State University biologist while (as the story goes) he was listening to Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” when he found the plant, thus resulting in the plant’s scientific name: Dudleya hendrixii, or “Hendrix’s liveforever.”

The newly discovered plant is already threatened by developments, farming and off-roading in the region, and researchers are asking for Mexico’s conservation organizations to work with politicians to spare Dudleya hendrixii’s habitat.

• Big news in the world of cross-border dining: Mexican chef Javier Plascencia announced “he will be officially ending his longtime relationship with Mexiterranean Hospitality, with whom he opened Romesco in Bonita over a decade ago and launched Bracero Cocina de Raiz in Little Italy in 2015,” reports Eater San Diego.

Brooke Binkowski is a backpack reporter who has been covering the U.S.-Mexico border for many years. Find her on Twitter at @brooklynmarie.

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