Neri Ramirez, CEO, Corozal Free Zone: “The Corozal Free Zone opened its doors on February 1st to Mexicans. Since the Free Zone opened we have a good flow of traffic coming into the Free Zone. An average between 400-500 vehicles on a daily basis but eventually it went increasing from 600-700 vehicles per day and recently it went up higher up to 700-900 on Sundays. So we are getting very good results since the opening of the Corozal Free Zone. I could give you exact numbers. February 1st to 28th of February 13,9789 vehicles came in to the Free Zone and then on March 1st to yesterday the 29th 18,186 vehicles so you can see that in the month of March 5,000 vehicles more than last month came in already. When you combine both of them you’re looking at 32,164 vehicles had come in to the Free Zone since the day it opened. When you multiply that times four you’re looking at 128,000 persons visited the Corozal Free Zone. In addition to that our COVID marshals on the ground are doing a very good job. Since the opening of the Corozal Free Zone we have not received any COVID positive case in the Free Zone.”
Reporter: So in terms of the hundred thousand persons you say entered the Free Zone in that time period, in term of dollar value what does that translate to ?
Neri Ramirez, CEO, Corozal Free Zone: “That translates into a lot of money. I mean talking in the hundreds of thousands to millions.”
Since the reopening of the Free Zone, more than eight hundred workers have returned to earning a salary. Ramirez says that no one has been sent home as COVID-19 measures are being strictly followed.
Neri Ramirez, CEO, Corozal Free Zone: They are working. Nobody has been sent home. All business, 161 businesses are operating in the Free Zone and you are looking at 1,100 employees have their job. We implemented a plan. We came up with a plan where we have all Mexicans coming into the country through the new bridge that’s the Chactemal Bridge. The reason why is because they have to go through the OIRSA spray they have to sanitize the vehicles that’s the first step. Then the second step is whenever they come to the Free Zone before entering the Corozal Free Zone gate they need to sanitize their hands, there is a COVID marshal checking their temperature and in addition all passengers are asked to come out the vehicle and they walk in through a walk in tunnel. So these are the steps that we at the Corozal Free Zone are taking serious and in addition we have fifteen COVID marshals who are being assigned by block in the entire Free Zone and they have time enough to go twice per day on each individual business and they have a thirteen protocol checklist that they are checking and in addition they check temperature twice for all employees. So this is what we have been doing from the beginning and we are continuing to do it up to now.”
Also speaking on the issue of the Corozal Free Zone is Minister of New Growth Industries, Kareem Musa. According to the Minister talks have been ongoing between the Ministry of Foreign Trade and its Mexican counterpart.
Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “The Free Zone is still open and still operational. Obviously there is always that possibility and threat that they could make a decision to prevent their Mexican nationals from coming into our Free Zone and that would be a huge travesty because it’s an enterprise that we have been definitely trying to clamor for the Corozal residents; I think it’s some 700-800 employees that are gainfully employed in the Free Zone so we are looking at that very carefully. We are of course negotiating with the Mexican government to see what can be done to continue to keep the Free Zone open. The Free Zone is of course a very huge benefit to the northern residents of our country and in this very dire economic time it is a much needed enterprise and so we as a government we will ensure that we negotiate with the Mexican government to keep the Free Zone open it is something very essential for the economic activity of the north and we will do what it takes to keep it open. Of course it is dependent on them ,the Mexican government, if they decide to put a lock on it and to prevent their Mexican nationals from entering the Free Zone then it’s a decision that we will have to address and certainly try to find some other way of getting employment to the northern districts.”
Reporter: Has the government had meetings with the Mexican officials over this issue ?
Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “As far as I’m aware yes through our Ministry of Foreign Trade. I don’t have the details of that but I can inquire about it.”