January 8, 2014 – World of Latitude 38
For the sake of American and Canadian boat owners, the country of Mexico
businesses and workers in Mexico
, and marine
businesses and workers on the west coast
of the United States, we beseech you to take a few minutes to send your thoughts to Mexican and US officials, as well as the US media. This is very important, as we need thousands of emails sent to make an impact.
At the bottom of this page, we'll provide a list of officials and their email
addresses. If they are Mexican, send the Spanish version of the letter we provide or a Google
translation of one of the short sample messages. In the case of President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, US House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senators Feinstein and Boxer, it's a little more complicated, as you generally have to fill out your name and address before you can send a message. Please don't let this be an obstacle, as it's important to get their attention or that of their underlings.
If you want to keep it short and quick, send a message similar to one of the following:
1) I have followed the reports of tens of millions of dollars worth of US and Canadian boats having been illegally impounded in Mexico for more than a month. These boats need to be permitted free transit as guaranteed by international maritime law.
2) I have cruised Mexico aboard my boat before and loved the country and the people. But the unfortunate illegal impounding of 338 US and Canadian boats means I will not be returning any time soon.
3) I have spent years preparing my boat for a cruise
to Mexico, Central America
and the South Pacific
. The actions of AGACE have convinced me it's not safe for foreigners to bring their vessels to Mexico, so I will reluctantly bypass Mexico.
4) I was about to buy a boat/condo/property in Mexico. If AGACE can illegally impound foreign boats, there is no way I can believe my investment will be safe, so I am looking elsewhere to invest.
You get the idea. All these represent the thoughts contained in letters we've received at Latitude 38. Length and formality of emails are nowhere near as important as the number of emails. Be respectful, and please realize the actions of AGACE absolutely do not reflect the attitude of Mexico as a whole. President Pena Nieto, Immigration, Tourism and other major industries have emphatically been encouraging nautical tourism and trying making it easier for visitors.
If you want to get a more detailed message and explanation of the situation, we've created the following letter for your consideration. The President of the Mexican Marina Owner's Association has read it and said " . . . it describes the problem very clearly." The Spanish translation was done by the manager of a marina in Mexico that has not be hit by AGACE, but he is frightened not just for his marina, but for the entire marine industry in Mexico.
Three hundred and thirty-eight pleasure vessels worth tens of millions of dollars continue to be illegally impounded at 12 marinas
in Mexico. Most of the vessels are American and Canadian, and range in value from $10,000 to several million dollars. In many instances these boats represent the single
most valuable financial asset of the owners.
I am urging your help in seeing that this injustice — as well as the damage to the reputation of Mexico — is brought to an immediate halt.
In late November about 100 auditors of the AGACE division of SAT (the Mexican IRS), backed by a large contingent of marines armed with machine guns
, descended on seven marinas
in Mexico, from Ensenada to Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta
. Their goal was to make sure that all the boats in the marinas complied with Mexico's very reasonable regulations
for visits by foreign vessels, and they ended up thinking they had caught over three hundred foreign boat owners who owed big tax bills.
Unfortunately, the head
of the relatively new agency, which is charged with overseeing the importation of 'merchandise' to Mexico, is a politico and did not understand that foreign cruising vessels are not imported "merchandise" like appliances
, but rather a very valuable part of the nautical tourism industry. Foreign cruising vessels are not in Mexico for permanent importation, which is why they are issued 10-Year Temporary Import
Most of the 338 vessels that AGACE claimed were out of compliance were not out of compliance. The problem was that the owners were not aboard, and thus were not able to show auditors their Temporary Import
Permits, the location where their HIN numbers were permanently engraved in the hulls, the engine serial
numbers and so forth. It did not help that the auditors knew nothing about boats and were thus unable to distinguish between basic things such as boat brands from brands of electronic components in the boats.
Much of Mexican law is based on Napoleanic law, so if the boat owner wasn't around to show AGACE agents the necessary paperwork and numbers, the boat was assumed to be out of compliance, and thus put in 'precautionary embargo'. Embargoed boats are not permitted to leave the dock
. Astonishingly, AGACE has yet to officially inform a single
boat owner that their boat has been impounded, so many boat owners still aren't even aware that their boats have been impounded.
About a week after the initial raid, AGACE did a second check, usually with marina managers and their lawyers present, and found out that almost every boat they had impounded was actually in compliance with Mexican law. You would think that AGACE would immediately release these innocent boats. Alas, AGACE has said it will take 45 to 120 days for them to complete the paperwork necessary to do this.
This delay in freeing the boats is both outrageous and in violation of international maritime law that guarantees free passage
of vessels except in cases where a crime has been committed. The damage can also be seen in the sudden lack of interest by Americans in racing
to Mexico, the cancellation of a three-race series from San Diego
to Mexico, and American cruisers vowing never to bring their boats to Mexico. The reason is simple: foreigners now have reason to fear that their financial assets and investments can be capriciously taken from their control. Officials of other branches of Mexican government
, such as Tourism, have understandably been horrified by this action by AGACE, which they described as "ridiculous."
For the sake of the owners of these boats, as well as the wonderful country of Mexico and its people, I beseech you to do whatever you can to help resolve this unfortunate situation. Time is of the essence, for by the end of the week the Associated Press will be sending a story on this to every major newspaper and television station in the United States, at which point the damage to Mexico could be even more significant and long-lasting.
I want to emphasize that I, like all others who cruise
Mexico, love Mexico, love the people of Mexico, and believe in full compliance with Mexico's laws. Please see that the best 'ambassadors for Mexico' don't become victims of the unfortunate misunderstanding of the law by one small agency of the Mexican government