Belize versus Mahahual, Mexico Part 6

Mahahual lighthouse.

Mahahual lighthouse.

This is my sixth part on my ongoing series comparing living in Belize to where I now live, Mahahual, Mexico. So far I have compared cost of living, medical and health care, food and drink, and the fact English is spoken in both places. Today I will concentrate on crime and safety in both countries.

I have already written several articles in the past concerning how safe Mexico is compared to the portrait painted by the USA media. Today I am going to include facts from the United States Department of State website. I will also give some examples of what I have experienced first hand.

Belize 2013 Crime and Safety Report

Belize is a high-crime country in Central America, located south of Mexico and east of Guatemala on the Carribbean sea. Tourism is a staple of the Belizean economy, and each year hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Belize. Favorite destinations for tourists are the cayes (islands), including Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, and the coastal areas in the south of the country, including Placencia. Tourists also frequent ecotourism destinations in the lush rainforests in the west and south.

Violent crime has risen steadily over the past several years.

Due to the extremely high murder rate per capita, Belize is the sixth most violent country in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, with an average of over 40 homicides per 100,000 residents. Murders are a growing and continuing problem for Americans, Belizeans, and Belize law enforcement and security. In 2012, Belize recorded 145 murders, setting a new record for homicides in the country. The murder rate was nearly 15 percent higher than 2011. The majority of the homicides in 2012 occurred in Belize City, where gang violence is rampant, especially on the south side of the city. A “gang truce” that had been in place since September 2011 ended in the spring of 2012, following a peaceful re-election of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) in May 2012.

In 2012, homicides continued to rise throughout the country specifically in the western and northern districts. Homicides increased in the Cayo district in the west, which is home to the capital city, Belmopan, and the U.S. Embassy. Homicides in Belmopan nearly doubled over 2011 numbers. Homicides also rose in the northern district of Corozal, which borders Mexico.

Much of the violent crime in Belize occurs on the south side of Belize City, home to several street gangs. Belizean officials, in November 2012, in an attempt to control the security situation in these areas, invoked a “declaration of crime infested areas” under the Belizean law that allows for law enforcement and security forces to conduct warrantless searches of personnel and property in “crime ridden” areas.

In January 2013, four prominent George Street Gang (GSG) members were found brutally murdered in an apartment building on the southeast side of Belize City. The ensuing panic and rampant speculation regarding the possible perpetrators led to the early closing of several businesses and schools in Belize City and generated a security message from the U.S. Embassy to U.S. citizens.

The majority of crimes are burglaries and thefts. Overall, corruption, human smuggling and trafficking, the drug trade, money laundering, and organized gang activity remain significant criminal problems. Additionally, in many cases, organized criminal organizations operate beyond the ability of the police to disrupt them. Compounding this problem is the very modest capacity to prosecute offenders.

Tourist attractions, including the cayes, remain some of the safest destinations. While crime against tourists exists on the cayes, it is less frequent and generally non-violent, though some notable murders have occurred, including the widely-publicized murder of a U.S. citizen on San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Tourists have been robbed while visiting archeological sites, and occasional violent crimes have occurred at resort areas on both mainland Belize and the cayes. Illicit activities in remote areas can involve innocent tourists.

The reporting of financial crimes committed against patrons of tourists destinations increased in 2012. There were several reported instances of credit card fraud against patrons of resorts and other local establishments. It is believed that several credit card fraud rings are active.

There have also been several reports of tourists being “set up” or solicited to purchase illegal drugs. The tourists are then arrested. Most have been fined and then released, but visitors should be aware that they could be sent to prison to await trial, and, if convicted, could serve their sentence in Belize, in according with Belize’s strict laws on illegal narcotics.

There have been reports of fraud committed against expatriates and Belizeans who have attempted to purchase land. Many expatriates have reported being the victim of scams in which land is purchased that was not available, or land was purchased that was legally owned by other parties. It has been reported that Belizean authorities have not been proactive in investigating these crimes and enacting measure to ensure that they do not continue to occur.

Drug-related Crimes

Across Belize in 2012, drug seizures were higher than 2011 with the exception of cocaine. Due to Belize’s location just south of Mexico and bordering Guatemala in the west and south, the transit of drugs, particularly concaine and precursor chemicals for methamphetamine, has risen. Belize was included on the 2011 and 2012 U.S. Majors List of illegal narcotic producing and/or transit countries.

In 2011, a plane carrying suspected violent drug smugglers crashed outside of Belmopan near the Belize Zoo. In 2012, there was a shoot-out between Belize security forces on the north part of Ambergris Caye that resulted in the deaths of four individuals dressed in military uniforms with military-style rifles, who had suspected ties to Central American gangs.

While Belize is generally a friendly and accommodating society, females should be particularly attentive to risks associated with being in public alone or in the company of only one other female. Sexual harassment and sexual assaults against visitors have occurred.

All the above information I got of the U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security website. Now I will give my insight and experiences with crime in Belize.

When I was living in Corozal, Belize in 2009 and 2010 I noticed an increase in crime then. I met several expats who lived in Consejo Shores who were robbed by people who laid planks of wood with nails in them in the road, to flatten the tires and then were robbed when they got out to check their tires. This happened more then once, and in fact there was a warning not to travel that road at night.

There are a lot of gangs now in Belize, because a lot of young Belizean males have been deported from the USA after getting into gang trouble there. They have brought their gang knowledge and activities back to Belize with them. Also because of this there is a big influx of guns in Belize now.

Also being a very poor country there are a lot of burglaries and break- ins all the time. I knew a couple that went back to the USA for a month and when they came back they found the burglar bars had been lifted from their house, and everything inside was stolen. And this is just one example, there are countless others I have heard about.

When I lived in Corozal there was an outbreak of cars getting their batteries stolen from them as they sat on the street in front of people’s houses. Come to find out it was the garbage men, as they were picking up the garbage, one would steal the battery out of the car, while it was blocked by the garbage truck. Basically you can’t leave anything outside, or on the street, it will be stolen in a minute. Once I had a fan that broke, so I sat it outside up front, and I sat behind a tree and hid. It wasn’t 5 minutes when a guy sneaks up and looks around for a second, and then runs off with the fan. I thought that was funny, a guy stealing a broke fan that was no good for use, but that is Belize, they will even steal your trash.

During this last spring break while I was working at the Costa Maya Port, I met five University of Mississippi female students, who had been in Belize on their cruise the day before. They told me this story about how they went into Belize City to go on an excursion, and as they were walking a Belizean male came up and put some marihuana in one of the girls pockets, and told her she was so beautiful he wanted to give this to her. The girls told me they did not know what to do, they had not solicited, or even asked for anything. Well before they could take a step, a policeman came up to them and told them he had to search them for illicit drugs. The cop went right to the pocket where the guy had put the drugs, and he arrested them and took them to jail. He told them it would be a $500 USD fine, and they would have to pay or spend a year in a Belizean jail. He would not them call the USA Embassy, home, or the cruise ship line. They told me they were scared to death, and did not what to do, so they paid the policeman the $500 so he would let them out of jail. I hear stories like these all the time. Belize is a very corrupt country, and shakedowns of tourists by police happens all the time.

As for me, when I lived in Belize, I kept a machette beside my bed when I slept, and also carried it with me during the day. Also I never ventured much out  at night by myself like I do in Mahahual.

So in conclusion, in my opinion, and the U.S.A. State Department, Belize is not a very safe place to live. So if you are considering living or retiring in Belize, you might want to consider somewhere safer, like Mahahual, Mexico. Tomorrow I will talk about crime and safety in Mahahual and Costa Maya.

Thanks for reading,
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina

Costa Maya Port Update

Dawn at Costa maya Port.

Dawn at Costa Maya Port.

There are a lot of changes and improvements currently going on in Costa Maya Port, Mahahual, Mexico. The plans and permits for the new water park have been finished, and grading and construction is starting this summer. The new water park is being built next to the port and should be another great attraction for Costa Maya Port and the cruise ship lines. Also more tours and excursions have been added to accomodate the cruise ship lines for the future. For those of you who are new to this blog, or are reading this because of a cruise you may have in the future, I am including a brief description of Costa Maya Port and the history.

April 9, 2013 Woman thrown off ship 022

It is the first Western Caribbean port designed exclusively for the cruise ship industry and is strategically located just hours from Cancun on Mexico’s southern Yucatan Peninsula. Resembling an ancient Mayan city, Costa Maya is able to accommodate three ships at once, with the capability to dock Oasis and Epic sized ships, and entertain visitors at a destination that showcases the ancient and colonial heritage of the Mexican Caribbean with all of today’s modern conveniences.

Set against the deep turquoise sea, Costa Maya is comprised of three grand pavilions, artisan and costamaya shopping areas, a beach club, saltwater pools, fine restaurants and bars, and all the resources necessary to explore the surrounding jungle and coral reefs. It is the region’s most complete and diverse port of call, providing cultural, natural and archeological excursions. Costa Maya is one of ten ports in the Western Caribbean and is the winner of Seatrade Insider’s Port of the Year.

An all-inclusive destination with options for every traveler, Costa Maya creates an experience that begins as soon as passengers step off their cruise ships. From the pier, visitors are transported to a state of the art Mayan entertainment complex that features:

70,000 square foot shopping center and bazaar showcasing crafts made by local artisans and other unique items, including silver, leather, fragrances, jewelry, pottery, liquor and a variety of souvenirs.

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The southern Yucatan is a region shrouded in rich history and culture. Costa Maya, an ancient maritime trading post of the Mayan empire, affords visitors the opportunity to explore the natural wonders and jungle that surround the port. Bi-lingual experienced guides lead exciting and informative expeditions into the surrounding landscapes. When it comes to shore tours and marine adventures, Costa Maya’s selection is unrivaled.

The addition of the new Mayan themed water park will add another great venture for cruise ship tourists to enjoy, and also provide a new destination for Mexican Nationals to enjoy when they visit or vacation in Mahahual. The eco-friendly water park will have lazy rivers, water slides, zip lines, aquarium and Mayan cultural awareness activities. The park should be completed by the fall of 2015. I will provide more information about the new water park as it becomes availiable. I have heard the proposed name, but at this moment it is wanting for approval. The park will not only improve tourism, but provide a lot of jobs for the Mahahual community.

New water park design

New water park design

Proposed plans

Proposed plans

Also the tour and excursion system inside the port has been totally revamped. In the past most of the tour companies were independants, and this caused a lot of confusion and conflict at the port. Because of all the different companies vying for tourist dollar there was a lot of unfair practices and confusion amongst the cruise ship tourists. There is no more yelling at tourists and trying to get attention, like there is in other ports of call. Companies were constantly under cutting their prices to get customers, and a lot of unfair business practices were occuring. Also a lot of these companies were unreliable, and that also caused problems for the average tourist.

Now there are no more independants inside the port, and the port tours and excursions are now under one company, Groupo Cancun. This way tourists can charge their shore and excursion fees to their cabin on the ship, and also avoid a lot of problems like have occured in the past. In the past most of the independants only took cash, which is not convienent for a lot of cruise tourists going from port to port in different countries and locales. Also a lot of tour companies had no way to accept credit cards, which also was not convienent to the average cruise ship passenger. This new system will allow every passenger to experience all the excursions and tours in Costa Maya, all they have to do is charge it to their cabin on the ship.

This system started this summer, is already shown to help provide a better service for the cruise ship tourists, and so far people are pleased with the results.

Also with all the tours being run by Groupo Cancun, all excursions are run by professional tour guides, and all busses and vans are modern and have air conditioning. You will also be brought back to the port for your departure time with no problems, unlike sometimes in the past.

So to sum up Costa Maya Port is undergoing some big changes. The result is that the port has already seen an increase of about 20% over the last two years for the upcoming season and port officials are confident this is just the beginning of what will prove to be a huge increase in cruise ship volume or the next two to three years, as new contracts become available.

Thanks for reading,
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina

Belize versus Mahahual, Mexico Part 5 (cont.)

This post I am doing today is the Mexican side of medical and health care compared to Belize medical and health care. There is a lot of interest in medical and health for retirees trying to select a place to retire or live on the Caribbean and the tropics. Yesterday I wrote about Belize and the lack of good quality medical and health care there. As you will read in this post Mexico has the best health care in this area, and perhaps the best in Latin America.

CostaMed clinic, near port in Mahahual.

CostaMed clinic, near port in Mahahual.

HEALTH CARE IN MEXICO

One of your primary concerns when considering a move should be health care. Fortunately, you will find that, in general, health care in Mexico is very good…and in many places it is excellent. Most doctors and dentists in Mexico received at least part of their training in the U.S. (And many U.S. doctors have trained in Mexico, notably in Guadalajara.) Many of them continue to go to the U.S. or Europe for ongoing training.

Every medium to large city in Mexico has at least one first-rate hospital. And a big plus is that the cost of health care in Mexico is generally half or less what you might expect to pay in the U.S. The same goes for prescription drugs. Prescription drugs manufactured in Mexico cost, on average, about 50% less than the same drugs in the U.S. Plus, health insurance in Mexico costs much less than it does in the U.S.

Of course, the costs of medical care will vary by physician, hospital, and the gravity of your condition. On average, an office visit with a doctor—specialists included—will cost 350 to 500 pesos (about $30 to $43). A house call—yes, doctors in Mexico still make house calls—will cost about the same. Lab tests will cost about a third of what they cost in the U.S. A CAT scan often costs about 25% of what it does in the U.S. An overnight stay in a private hospital room generally costs less than $100. A visit to a dentist for teeth cleaning costs about $28.

Yes, in the major cities of Mexico, you can get good-quality medical care for serious medical conditions…including dialysis, major surgery…even live-in, 24-hour care…for a fraction of what you might pay in the USA.

The development of the healthcare system in Mexico is being carefully planned. This includes equipping hospitals with the latest in medical technology. Aside from having excellent medical practitioners and accommodating medical staff, the healthcare system of Mexico has continuously made a name for itself as one of the few countries that provide relatively affordable, quality healthcare. From medicines to medical services, everything is surprisingly just within one’s reach.

A large number of Americans travel south of the border every year to have dentistry work undertaken. If you can find a good dentist in Mexico, you can have excellent work done for a fraction of the cost as the same work would cost to have done in the USA or the UK, for example.

Mexico is awash with opticians and you should have no trouble finding someone to test your eyesight in most of Mexico’s larger towns and cities.

Most of the opticians you’ll find in Mexico are franchises which offer a complete eye-treatment service: from eye exams through to supplying glasses and contact lenses.

You will also be able to find local, independent, opticians some of which have been practicing for years and have a great deal of experience.

Pharmacies are ubiquitous across Mexico; even the small towns have one. You’ll always be able to find a 24/7 pharmacy somewhere locally in Mexico.

Before July 2010, you could buy almost any medications you ask for over the counter in Mexico—including a full range of antibiotics and powerful pain-killers that would only be available on prescription in the USA, Canada and Europe. Today, high-powered pain killers and antibiotics require a prescription from doctor before they will be dispensed by pharmacists. Contact a doctor in Mexico if you need to purchase these (now) controlled substances.

Because of the high cost of medications in the USA, many Americans are crossing the border into Mexico to buy their medicines. Some may be buying brand-names at discount prices; others may be purchasing generic brand medications.

A concept of ‘discount medications’ has gained popularity in Mexico during recent times, principally through the rise of companies like ‘Farmacias Similares’—a pharmacy franchise which offers generic drug alternatives to brand-name drugs. The issue with generic drugs on the cheap is that their precise source may be unclear.

Even brand-name medications in Mexico usually cost less (not always) than they do in the US and Europe, so buying the ‘real thing’ when you do have to take medications in Mexico may not cost you much more (your insurance policy might cover the costs anyway) and will mitigate the risks of generic or deep-discount medications.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the investment of private clinics and hospitals in Mexico, especially in areas popular with tourists and foreign residents, particularly retirees. For example, a new medical center in Merida has been receiving extremely good reviews from retirees in the area: the center was built, in part, to provide services to the increasing number of foreign retirees living in that region.

The doctors, nurses and specialist healthcare professionals working at Mexico’s private hospitals are exceptionally well trained and usually have access to the latest equipment, technologies and medicines. Although wealthy individuals still travel to the USA for some types of very specialist treatments (for example, Houston Texas is renown for it’s world excellence in cancer treatments), you can expect very high levels of healthcare and attention at Mexico’s private hospitals and clinics.

My personal experiences with medical and health care has been nothing but positive. I am a diabetic and I have to take several medications each day to control my blood sugar. These prescriptions cost me about $8 USD a month, and I can get them in Mahahual, and just about every town in Mexico. They are the same as the drugs in the USA, but for about one-tenth the price I would pay in the USA.

There is a CostaMed clinic near the port in Mahahual, that I go to when I need medical attention. The doctors there all speak English and the clinic is new and first rate. The difference I have noticed about the doctors here in Mexico is they actually sit down and talk to you, and ask your questions about your lifestyle and other things that affect your health.

My doctor at CostaMed in Mahahual.  Dr. Karla Velasco, speaks English well, and not bad on the eyes either.

My doctor at CostaMed in Mahahual. Dr. Karla Velasco, speaks English well, and not bad on the eyes either.

The first time I went to CostaMed for my checkup, My doctor sat me down and talked to me and inquired about my past health issues and concerns. I was not used to that, in the USA you are lucky if you can see a doctor. In the USA a doctor will see for 3 minutes and then order a batch of tests that will cost you a bunch of money. My doctor here weighed me, asked what I ate, if I bathed daily, did I smoke or drink, and other vital questions to help her determine my health status. It was a very good examination, and took almost an hour. She checked my diabetes and blood, and told me what I should eat and not eat in Mexico. In fact my check-up there was the best I have ever had, that even includes the USA.

Another thing I also like about the medical care in Mexico is, you don’t have to sit around for a couple hours, like you do in the USA, waiting on the doctor to get to you. If your appointment is for 10am, the doctor sees you at 10am, not 11 or 12, like you get all the time in the USA.

I also like the fact here in Mexico you can just drop by and see the doctor if you have a question or problem. One day as I was leaving work at the port on my bike, my ankle had swollen up and was sore, so I decided to stop by the CostaMed clinic on my way home. I would never try this in the USA, but I just walked in and told the doctor what my problem was. Well she stopped what she was doing and took care of me right then and there. The doctors and nurses seem to be a lot more helpful here than in the USA.

So if quality health and medical care is a big choice in considering where you may retire or live in future, Mexico beats Belize hands down. In fact there is no comparison, Belize has poor health care at best, in fact I got a comment on yesterday’s post about Belizean medical care from a woman who has had experience with Belize’s medical system, and she agreed with me.

Thanks for reading,
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina

Belize versus Mahahual, Mexico Part 5

CostaMed clinic, near port in Mahahual.

CostaMed clinic, near port in Mahahual.

I have been writing a series of articles lately comparing living in Belize compared to living in Mahahual, Mexico. Belize is touted on the internet and in magazines as the perfect place to live or retire for ExPats from USA, Canada, and Europe. Today I am going to compare medical and health care in Belize and Mexico. I wrote a post last week about all of the people from the USA that are now enrolled in Mexico’s universal health coverage, and it was the most read post or article I have ever written on this blog. The difference in health care between Belize and Mexico is staggering. Mexico outdistances Belize in every aspect of medical and health care. It speaks for itself when expats leave Belize and come to Mexico to get quailty health care.

HEALTH CARE IN BELIZE
But no matter what you may have heard before from sources touting the good life in Belize, be aware that medical care in Belize does not meet the same standards as medical care in North America, Mexico or the European Union. With a population of a little over 300,000, with more than half living in poverty, the economics are simply not there for the level of medical care you may be accustomed to in your home country. There is no level one trauma center in the country. The U.S. embassy and other foreign missions recommend that foreign nationals verify their medical coverage, especially catastrophic medical coverage including the cost of medical evacuation, before visiting or taking up residence in Belize.

Belizeans acknowledge, however, that it will take many years before the country’s health care system is on the same level with medical treatment in the neighboring countries of Mexico and Guatemala.

If you’re considering a visit or a move to Belize, rest assured that most minor ailments can be treated quickly—and cheaply—at doctor’s offices and clinics that can be found in all but a few remote areas. People who suffer from serious conditions can be taken to private clinics such as Belize Medical Associates (website: http://www.belizemedical.com) or Belize Health Care Partners (website: http://belizehealthcare.com). Both of these facilities offer excellent services and costs are still very reasonable. Belize does have a number of public hospitals but most expats prefer to use the private clinics.

But since all these facilities lack the quality care of hospitals in the U.S. and neighboring countries, some many expats leave Belize for more complicated types of medical treatment. Many American retirees, for instance, return home for a few days whenever they want to take advantage of Medicare. Some expats also go to Chetumal and Merida, just north of the border in the Mexican state of Yucatán, and to Guatemala City and Antigua in Guatemala.

Expats in Belize also have the option of returning to the U.S. for health care and, in cases of emergency, to rely on evacuation coverage provided by an international health insurance policy. Evacuation coverage is particularly important because an ambulance flight can easily cost $15,000. If you’re prone to health problems, you should consider this option. Information on medical services is available from the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan, Tel +(1)501-227-7161, though the embassy staff doesn’t recommend doctors.

Belize City offers the highest level of medical care in the country due of course to the large population and client base, close to 100,000 taking into account suburban areas such as Vista Del Mar, Ladyville and Ambergris Caye. Several dental and private medical, lab and diagnostic facilities are available in this urban center. Most any serious medical problems can be treated at Belize’s main referral hospital, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (Princess Margaret Drive, Tel. 501-223-1548).

This is a modern public hospital but plagued by equipment problems,supply shortages, and management problems. Hardly a month goes by with stories such as improper treatment, wrong diagnosis, bodies improperly stored and so on. Being a government owned and operated facility this is to be expected. Horror stories are common, as with the Norfolk police chief who nearly died in Belize after contracting flu-like symptoms. But it is is hard to beat the rates, under USD $50. per day for a hospital room compared to $500 a day at a local private hospital.

The public hospitals provide basic medical specialties: internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics and OB-GYN. Karl Heusner Memorial also provides neurology, ENT, physiotherapy, orthopedic surgery and several other services. The quality of these hospitals varies considerably. Karl Heusner Memorial – named after a prominent Belize City German physician in colonial era Belize opened in 1997 and has modern equipment, such as a CAT-scan, though some Belizeans and expats complain that even this hospital is chronically short of supplies, and the imaging equipment is often non functional. It is not uncommon for patients at this main referral hospital to be told they need to do certain lab tests at a private facility as the hospital laboratory has run out of a reagent or a piece of equipment is non functional. Adding to the KHMH’s woes is a politically controlled board of directors and the load it must handle from the high crime rate in Belize City.

The Corozal Town Hospital has become a joke of a clinic and most residents in the area cross the border to seek medical attention at a Mexican government or private health care facility.

The ADO Bus from Mexico now has daily runs between Belize, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Merida. The latter is referred to as the “hospital run”. Merida in the Yucatan is a tier one one medical center with several specialist hospitals catering to the medical needs of most of Central America.

The Belize government has put forth the idea of developing Belize as a medical tourism center, offering services such as heart angioplasty, joint replacement surgery, pacemaker battery replacement and even heart surgery. To date limited procedures have been carried out at the government’s K.H.M.H hospital in Belize city under the guidance of visiting medical specialists from the U.S. But the fact is that medical care at Belize medical institutions owned and operated by the government are not held in high regard by Belizeans.

Increasingly Belizeans and expats living in Belize, use neighboring Mexico and Guatemala for specialized treatment. On one forum, one expat wrote:

“When I was in Belize recently, I talked with a fellow who had planned to go to Miami, Florida, for a hip replacement (he’s already had two knee replacements and one do-over in Miami.) But he ended up having it done in Mérida, Yucatan Mexico, for around USD $12,000. inclusive of hospital, surgeon fees, hotels, travel, etc. instead of more than USD $50,000 in Miami. Six weeks out from the surgery he is walking a little on his own and is very pleased with the results.”

In my personal experience with health care in Belize, I can only talk about Corozal and the hospital there. I had uninary tract infection and I had to go to the Corozal hospital for medical care. There was a Cuban doctor at the hospital, so I was explaining to her in Spanish (She spoke no English), what my problem was, and she got confused and thought I was explaining to her I had some kind of STD (sexually tramsmited disease). She starts pulling some long needle to stick me with in my private areas, so I said no, and ran out in the hallway and got the woman who came with me to the hospital to come into the office and explain to the doctor what I was trying to say (the woman with me was fluent in Spanish). Well after the woman explained my condition to the doctor they both laughed and thought it was funny, and the doctor prescribed me some anti-biotics and I should get some vitiamin B-12 shots over the next week to help my condition. The doctor gave me my first B-12 shot and told me to come back every other day for a week to get B-12 shots. Well the next time I went back to get my shot, there was a nice older nurse there and she gave me my next shot and everything was good. I should have stopped there, because the next time I went in to get my shot there was a male nurse there, and something about him did not look right. I thought about turning around and coming back the next day, but I thought to myself I am here why not. Big mistake, this guy gave me my B-12 shot in the butt, and I swear I could not walk for 3 days, I never went back for my other shots.

I have also noticed that the Corozal Town hospital reminds me of the hospitals I used to go to in the 1960s when I lived on USA Army bases in Germany, not that modern. Most of the expats I knew in Corozal went to a private clinic run by a church group from the USA.

You can get most prescription drugs in Belize over the counter without a prescription, and most are cheaper than the USA. In fact they sell Valium, Prozac, Zanax, and all the other mood altering drugs and anti-depressants over the counter, which you can’t get in Mexico. So if you are a pill-popper and like Valium and things like that, Belize is not so bad. I met a lot of expats in Belize that took advantage of this, and took these all the time.

So as you can see, if you are interested in health care as a reason where you are considering to live or retire on the Caribbean, you might want to think twice about Belize. As you have read above, health care in Belize is mediocre at best, and in some places quite primative.

Tomorrow I will continue with health care in Mexico, and the advantages versus Belize, which there are many.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments or experiences you would like to share, feel free to comment.
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina

Banco Chinchorro, Snails and Coral World (Quintana Roo)

I came across this great article in http://www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx and thought I would share.  I translated from Spanish to English.  Banco Chinchoorro is a great scuba and snorkeling destination, and trips are booked out of Mahahual and Xcalak daily.  This article does a great job of describing all the beauty of the underwater coral and reef world in Banco Chinchorro.

Thanks for reading, Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina

 

Por: Salatiel Barragán

Banco Chinchorro, snails and coral world.

Banco Chinchorro, snails and coral world.

In the middle of the ocean waters of the Mexican Caribbean highlights a unique reef system, on which have been narrated stories and fabulous legends from colonial times to the present day: the Banco Chinchorro, place wrapped in mystery and located just over 30 km south of the state nearly uninhabited Quintana Roo, between the fishing villages of Mahuahual and Xcalak coast.
This isolated ecosystem is considered a coral atoll, and its name derives from the resemblance to a semicircular Caribbean network used for finfish fisheries in coastal waters. It has an area of ​​almost 800 km2, consisting of a sandy outcrop 46 km long and 15 wide. At its eastern perimeter presents an endless barrier reef with sections of white streaks where the waters break, and on the west they are discontinuous and fail to emerge to the surface. The waters off the reef lagoon, connected to the open sea, with an average depth of 5 m, but the most interesting place is the presence of land, which although low allows visitors to stay in any of the four islands in distributed center and the north and south ends.

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Key Center is the largest of these islands and, as its name suggests, occupies the central portion; much of its 5 km2 are composed of muddy soils and floodplain areas, but on the southeastern tip is a narrow sandy beach is used by groups of fishermen who have built rustic wooden houses to use as temporary camp.

Near this beach stand just over a dozen wood and cardboard constructions, known as stilts by the sea located within the floodplain or substrate, one or two feet above the water level. The vegetation here is dominated by the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), although there is on the southeast coast coconut, and some creeping plants and shrubs of the continent.

The lagoon “The Rabios” (so named because from November to May, in the branches of mangrove nest percent frigate or frigates) is located inside the fall and is connected to the sea by canals and estrechoskriksnaturales created by the flow of or continuous flow water crocodile. When storms or hurricanes hit the region, anglers use this site to shelter and protect their vessels until it passes the atmospheric disturbance.This fall has functioned as the central point of arrival for tourists coming to film, photograph and dive among the coral remains of sunken ships and centuries. On the other hand, is home to frigate birds, herons, cormorants, gulls, terns, pelicans, ospreys, birds, blue crabs and hermit, gray iguanas, lizards and the ever-present and annoying mosquitoes. There are also animals that once were harvested as a single resource and are now scarce as Gators swamp and hawksbill sea turtles, white and loggerhead that long just come to spawn in the little substrate is left of this nice place warm humid climate and average temperature of 26.5 ° C.

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At the northern end there are two small islets known as Cayo Norte; there are two lighthouses, one built earlier in the century and a more recent inactive and it is running to meet half century. To the south, near the end limit of the reef, stands Cayo Lobos, which is the smallest area housed in small palapas and temporary use of a few fishermen. The low land this fall remains exposed directly to the Caribbean currents that have caused changes in your fitness over the course of time, as evidenced by an old lighthouse now housed within the sea.

As watchmen on the horizon the dark silhouettes of huge cargo ships stranded on the barrier reef are outlined, and in the background have been located 18 galleons as silent witnesses of the danger that water locked. These old ships are Spanish and English in their majority powers throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries monopolized the navigation on this route between America and Europe. The solitude of these wrecks is interrupted only by gulls and terns that have taken over the rusted hulls to rest and often nest among his remains.

As corals are very slow growing but will gradually cover all parts of the vessels to identify potential remain mostly covered by limestone or coral skeleton, especially corals. Elkhorn (Acropora palmata), Star (Porites asteroids), Lettuce (Agaricia agaricites), Mountain (Montastrea annularis), Brain (Diploria strigosa) and Fire Coral (Millepora comlenata), known in the Caribbean Community underwater species.

In this remote place the main activity is fishing, carried out by persons associated in cooperatives and free permittees that empelan whaling boats fiberglass bullet from 23 to 25 feet, with outboard motors from 40 to 60 HP and focus most of their efforts on capturing the two resources with higher commercial value: the spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) and the queen conch (strombus gigas), although species of scale advantage as chak-chi, the mere the abedejo, barracuda, snapper, snapper, shark and smaller scale extract precious black coral (Antipathes grandis). Regarding the snail, is harvested by free diving mask and fins, and stored in a mother ship. The quota set to protect this species is 2.5 tons per month. Similarly each fisherman takes three to 5 kg of lobster daily, supporting only a metal hook and sometimes using compressor or scuba tank.

I remember some years ago when I first visited the Chinchorro, was impressed when in less than two hours a fisherman pulled nearly 200 snail shell pink and orange near the western boundary of Cayo Centro. In this area have been extracted snails each season more than any other region of the country, and whether to complete a kilo of product need six to eight, depending on their size, can realize why the species is in danger .. The method used to catch snails swimming is gripped by a string of four to 6 m long, attached to the back of the boat that moves at low speed, while the fisherman looking in the background. Upon detecting an appropriate place this low for a long minute, then climb at least three copies. I must confess that I tried to do the same, but when he began to walk the boat felt the rope almost tore my arms and I could never find a partially hidden staircase between the sandy bottom and underwater vegetation in this gentle sway moved by currents

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The reef lagoon extends for tens of kilometers west of the Bank and is extremely productive. Under the water first identify what are sponges, sea fans and whips, and isolated colonies of hard corals and a huge variety of colorful reef fish like angel, chak-chi, the surgeon, butterfly, squirrel, sergeant minnows or tiny that hundreds are hidden under the rock from where voids and create a lively silver stain impossible to play because the stretching hand away quickly.

Seamen who fish here come mostly from Mahuahual and Xcalak, villages along the southern coast of the state. Xcalak is a fishing village that has little more than 300 inhabitants and is located at the far end of our own country, just 12 km from the border with Belize. Mahahual is a recent settlement with fewer people, and both are separated by 55 km of white road surrounded by slender palm trees and beautiful coastal scenery. Part of the attraction of these villages is that they are the closest sea bridge with Chinchorro, and they can get a speedboat and make the crossing in about 2 hours, depending on the engine power and prevailing environmental conditions at sea .

Chinchorro is a distant paradise still has abundant fishery resources and diverse marine life to marvel, and the possibility of hidden secrets kept by the sea and time to discover. However, we must keep in mind and remember that the overexploitation of resources can deplete the productivity of this place, which so far is one of the last places where the coral reefs and the memories of the past remain intact.
If you intend to Banco Chinchorro

To reach Mahuahual and Xcalak, take federal highway 307 Chetumal-Cancun to the population of Coffee, and from there follow a dirt road toward the east and toward the coast.

The city of Chetumal has all amenities and is located 150 km from Mahuahual, Cancun and about 300 km.

Doing Business in Belize vs. Mexico

I had planned today to write a post about Belize vs. Mahahual Part 5, comparing health care in both countries. But some events came up this weekend I wanted to share before I forgot.

I go to a Chinese restaurant around the corner from where I am staying a lot here in Playa del Carmen. The place is owned by a nice family originally from mainland China. I think they are from Shanghai. The food is very good at this place, and it is very popular among tourists and people who live in Playa del Carmen.

Entrance to Shanghai.

Entrance to Shanghai.

Menu

Menu

The woman who runs and owns the place is named Fanny Wang, and her family moved here from Corozal, Belize several years ago. They had a Chinese restaurant near the market in Corozal across from the bus station. They moved from China to Belize to start a new lfe, and they chose Belize because they had heard a lot of good things about it. A lot of Chinese, mostly Taiwanese, have moved to Belize and have practically bought up the whole country. Almost all the stores and businesses in Belize are Chinese owned and operated now.

Fanny Wang

Fanny Wang

I have talked to her several times in the past about Corozal, Belize, and the fact that we both lived there at the same time. So the other day during lunch, we struck up a conversation about comparing life in Mexico to Belize. I told her I was writing a blog comparing life in Belize to that of Mahahual and Costa Maya, Mexico.

I asked her which was better having a Chinese restaurant in Corozal, Belize or Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Well that set her off, and she started to tell me everything I wanted to know comparing the two.

She really had nothing good to say about her life in Corozal and running a business. She told me that after they opened their place in Corozal, she realized she had made a big mistake. They had a son in Corozal Community College at the time, and she told me she told her husband, as soon as the son graduated they were leaving Belize.

She went on to describe to me all the horrors of running a business in Belize. She told me that every morning they opened their business, there would be drunks laying in front of their business, passed out from the night before. Also she complained to me about how the police would come by and order beers and drink them, and never paid for anything. In Belize she said people in the local government were always coming by trying to shake her down for money or free food. Also she said every day, people would always come around begging for food or money.

They also had problems buying the necessary food and produce they needed for their business. She described to me how once a week she would cross the border into Chetumal and buy things like meat, and other things she could not find in Belize. She told me she got good at smuggling stuff back across the border from Mexico. She even had a special compartment in her van where she put meats and stuff to hide from border guards. She also described to me how she would drop off Chinese food to the Belizean border guards, so they would let her pass when she came back across, and not search her van. She informed me she could not have stayed in business if she had to rely on getting food and produce from Belize. (I know a lot of women from Corozal, that go to Chetumal once a week to buy household goods and food that they cannot get in Belize. Also consumer goods and food are a lot less expensive in Chetumal compared to Belize.)

Well as soon as their son graduated from high school, they closed up their business in Corozal, packed everything up they owned, and headed straight for Playa del Carmen. They had met several people from the USA in Corozal, that told them if they had a chance they should open up a Chinese food restaurant in Playa del Carmen, because Playa del Carmen was growing.

Well to make a long story short, they love it here in Playa del Carmen and Mexico, and could not be happier. They do a good business here with tourists and locals, and without the hassles and problems they had in Belize. Living in Mexico is the best thing they could have done, she said. She has a daughter in school here, that speaks Chinese, Spanish, and English. She also pointed out the schools here in Mexico are much more superior than those in Belize.

Buffet at Shanghai.

Buffet at Shanghai.

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This is just one woman’s experience with living and working in Belize I thought I would share, I am sure there are other people who could share some of these same problems and experiences also if they had a chance.

Thanks for reading,
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina

Americans living in Mexico praise ‘Seguro Popular’ Universal Health Care

 

My doctor at CostaMed in Mahahual.  Dr. Karla Velasco, speaks English well, and not bad on the eyes either.

My doctor at CostaMed in Mahahual. Dr. Karla Velasco, speaks English well, and not bad on the eyes either.

There is a lot of problems and controversy in the USA at the moment over Obamacare and health insurance. A lot of citizens of the USA now are without health insurance. In fact, I had an uncle and a good friend of mine die because they did not health insurance and could not afford to go to the doctor. That happens a lot in the USA now.

Health care in the USA is not affordable to the average citizen now, and the number one cause of people going bankrupt in the USA is medical bills. Not so here in Mexico.

Health care in Mexico is still very affordable, and quite good. In most urban areas, and Mahahual for that matter all the doctors speak English. In fact to graduate from medical schools in Mexico now, doctors have to be able to understand and speak English. Merida in Yucatan has some of the best hospitals in the world, and is a hot spot for medical tourism.

Medical tourism is people from the USA or other countries coming here to Mexico to get medical or dental work, at a fraction of the cost as say the USA. Everything from major surgery to complete dental work is a fraction of the cost of the USA, and the average is around 30% what it would cost in the USA. I met a woman last night who is in Playa del Carmen getting some major dental work here, and it is only costing her $1,500 USD, compared to over $7,000 USA in the USA. She informed me, even including her airfare and hotel room, she is still saving over $4,000 by having her work down here. I also know a woman who had a triple hernia operation in Chetumal, and it only cost her $1,400 USD, compared to the over $45,000 it would have cost her in the USA.

In Mahahual we have CostaMed clinic near the port, and all the doctors there speak English, and are well trained. CostaMed also takes a lot of USA health insurance, as well as other countries. I have gone to CostaMed on several occasions and they have always taken good care of me.

I will be in the near future writing a post about healthcare in Mexico compared to Belize, and I will go into more prices and benefits of Mexican health care. I am enclosing an article below I got from the Yucatan Times, that is about Mexico’s own kind of Obamacare, it seems to be working, and a lot of ExPats from the USA are signing up and taking advantage of it.

Thanks for reading,
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina

Published On: Mon, Jul 14th, 2014
http://www.yucatantimes.com

Universal Health Care is currently at the center of a heated debate in the United States, but in the neighboring nation of Mexico, it’s a reality.

Yes, now Mexico offers coverage to millions of uninsured people, and even some Americans living in Mexico have taken advantage of this new insurance programme.

10 years ago, half of Mexico 110 million people had no medical insurance whatsoever, because in Mexico like in the U.S., most coverage was linked to employment, but now they have universal health care, thanks to the “Seguro Popular”.

An American couple living in San Miguel de Allende Mexico, the town with the largest concentration of Expats in this country, wanted the insurance in case of an emergency, so they enrolled.

A few days later both of them were involved in situations that required medical attention, they found themselves in the Emergency Room of the General Hospital in San Miguel, twice in a matter of days. They got X-Rays, and then a bilingual doctor explained them that there were no broken bones, etc., and at the end, they were simply amazed to find out there was no cost.

Premiums are charged on a sliding scale, home ownership is one if the deciding factors, anyone can sign up for the government funded programme, most people that make little or nothing, children are fully covered.

Though access has expanded, the quality of medical care in Mexico may vary from state to state, and it’s not as good in poor rural areas. But at least, in this region of Central Mexico (San Miguel Allende), people seemed very pleased with the service.

At this point, you might be asking yourself: What do an American has to do to take advantage of the “Seguro Popular”, first of all, let’s make it clear that you do not have to be a Mexican citizen, you just need to prove that you reside legally in this country.

The question is: If Universal Health Care is becoming a reality in a country like Mexico, why does it remain controversial in the United States?

There are also a lot of free clinics in Mexico, where doctors and dentists go to villages like Mahahual and provide free health care to the people and children who cannot afford to go to a big city.  Here are some photos below of a recent free clinic here.

There are also a lot of free clinics in Mexico, where doctors and dentists go to villages like Mahahual and provide free health care to the people and children who cannot afford to go to a big city. Here are some photos below of a recent free clinic here.

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