Some Baja Californians would rather secede than pay higher sales tax

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. Last week we reported on a proposed new tax on junk food and soda in Mexico. Well, consumers there better get ready to pay up. Last night, Mexico's congress gave final approval to the fiscal reform bill that includes the new tax, and that wasn't the only controversial measure in the bill. Another provision will raise the sales tax in Mexico's border states and that's highly unpopular with Mexican residents all along the US border. In Baja California, the state where Tijuana is located, the anger has even fueled a secessionist movement. Veteran border reporter Sandra Dibble with the San Diego Union Tribune explains how Baja residents will be impacted.

Sandra Dibble: What it means is higher taxes for consumers when you buy goods, the sales tax has now gone from 11% to 16%, which is the national norm. Until now, border regions have had to pay lower sales taxes.

Werman: So who's advocating against a hike in sales tax? I mean it's coming up to the national norm, so why should they disagree with that?

Dibble: Oh, I think the rejection of it is widespread, not just in Baja California, but in all of Mexico's border regions. In Baja California, the governor, the mayor elect, all the major business organizations are essentially against this increase. And they're saying it's look, we are right up against the US border. We are competing with one of the biggest economies in the world. We are not the same as Oaxaca or Ixtapa[?]. Our consumers can just cross and go to the United States for lower prices and this will be the effect of the increase in sales tax.

Werman: That sounds kind of like a threat.

Dibble: No, there's just a lot of anger and I think people are just trying to figure out what can we do now? It's a done deal though, the tax reform has passed. So I know this weekend there's gonna be marches and demonstrations. They're talking about possible legal actions if there's any possibilities of that. And then, you know, there's sort of secession movement.

Werman: What's going on with that because it's got a Facebook page, it's got over 130,000 followers since launching less than a month ago.

Dibble: I think it's just a measure of how people are feeling about this. I don't think at this point it's a serious really serious secession movement. I don't think anyone's taken legal action and nobody knows who exactly is behind this Facebook page, but a lot of people are liking it.

Werman: And is secession a new idea in Baja or has anybody kind of flirted with it in the past?

Dibble: Well, since I've been here, like since the mid '90s, I've never heard it, but I think there's been this longstanding feeling on the northern border that look, we're a different region and so Mexico doesn't understand us, they've never understood us and here's a little more example.

Werman: I was wondering, do people in Baja mentally feel significantly different from the rest of Mexico?

Dibble: I think they do. I mean I think they do when you listen even to the governor this week saying you know, we are different, we're right next to California...we are extremely hard working, we have to compete day after day with the United States...we get all the deportees that come from the United States, we get all the immigrants from the other parts of Mexico, we are a different region and we offer hope to a lot of Mexico, and we're also sort of an escape valve for people in poor regions who come here to find work and hope for the future.

Werman: Can the residents and lawmakers of Baja really convince the government to go back on the fiscal reform bill, at least for them?

Dibble: No, I mean it sounds like it's a done deal. It seems to me like maybe the only hope is legal action and that's what people are talking about now.

Werman: Reporter Sandra Dibble with the San Diego Union Tribune, thanks very much.

Dibble: Thank you very much.

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