Tag Archives: court proceedings in Mexico

No manches (You’ve got to be kidding)

 

ceramic pinata

La cantera da muchas vueltas!

 

My recent involvement in La Yacata business has been nearly non-existent especially since I last tried to quit the Mesa Directiva (Community Board of Directors) some time ago. (See Trying to bow out of La Yacata). I still answer questions and attend to people who brave the ferocious Chokis and knock at my door, point them to their lots, issue new certificates when lots change owners, and so on, but not much more.

So I was surprised when a few days ago, SuperPrez called me. However, I missed the call. He then sent me an email. Guess it was pretty important. He told me NOT to sign anything that R2 brought to my door and requested a meeting. In case you don’t remember, R2 is the brother of R1 who resembled Ronald McDonald and wanted to be president of La Yacata. R2 is also a lawyer and former presidente (mayor) of Moroleon and presented our case at court when we were slammed with 3 demandas (lawsuits). (See Demanda 1, Demanda 2, Demanda 3).

Anyway, I met with Super Prez to find out what was going on. It turns out that R2 (otherwise known as Rata (The Rat)) arrived at his office and threatened to sue La Yacata for nonpayment of services rendered. All righty then. When we had the discussion with R2 about payment for his services (see Negotiating for La Yacata) he gave a figure of 15% of the first lawsuit and 10% of lawsuit 2 and lawsuit 3 which gave us a rough amount of 300,000 pesos. However, we never signed anything that agreed to that sum either then or later. This was a verbal estimate on R2’s part, just so we could approximate what we could offer the well-hole driller.

As acting treasurer, I pulled together a list of colonos (community members) who have paid the $250 we requested from them to pay the lawyer’s bill and a list of the receipts I received from Rata when payment was made. Not including SuperPrez’s payments, the association has already paid 75,000 pesos to Rata. There is currently just under 3,000 pesos in the treasury. That 75,000 seems like a big chunk of money to me, especially since Super Prez and I did most of the work and he just handed it in all lawyered up and all.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Rata’s receipts for this 75,000 were unofficial. He didn’t have copies. He crossed out things and wrote other things right on the receipt, technically making them invalid or at least suspicious. One receipt was on a sheet of torn notebook paper. He did this so as not to declare the income and pay taxes on it. Hmmm.

Another interesting thing is that Chuchi is living in La Yacata. Yep, without water, electricity or sewer, just like the rest of us. Reportedly the reason is he lost his house in a debt payment. If you’ll remember Demanda 2, Chuchi tried to present into evidence the lien on his house in town that he took out to purchase the water rights for La Yacata. However, he had purchased the water rights in his own name, rather than in the name of the association. Furthermore, the person who sold him those rights listed as the lien holder of his house was a friend of SuperPrez and informed him that Chuchi defaulted on the payment and returned the water rights so as not to lose his house.

Chuchi also has several outstanding judgments against him in Ministerial Publico (Public Ministry) for lots that he sold that he did not have the right to sell, in other words, FRAUD.

Now I don’t know if Chuchi lost his house because of those fraudulent sales or the water rights issue or some other shady deal he had going on, but it just goes to prove La cantera da muchas vueltas. (What comes around goes around).

What strikes me as odd is the timing of R2 threating to sue La Yacata. R2’s earnings increased every single time a demanda (lawsuit) landed in our laps. It was in his best interest for these lawsuits to keep coming. He used the same defense for all three–so no additional work on his part. Then there was that comment Chuchi made to Rata “le encargo mio” (Keep my issue in mind) after we received the response to our offer from the pozo guy (See Negotiating La Yacata–The Response) What was that all about?

All of these thoughts, I shared with SuperPrez during our meeting. The approach he’s decided to take is to offer Rata (R2) Chuchi’s house in La Yacata, where Chuchi is currently living. HA! As Chuchi has no documentation giving him rights to that property, SuperPrez is in his legal rights to claim it and sell it (or in this case give it away). If Rata finds that deal unacceptable, well, we can start talking legal again. We could sue Chuchi for injury and hardship to the community in order to pay Rata a sum he feels is fair. Of course collecting it would be Rata’s problem. Or we could call a press meeting and show how Rata, the former president of Moroleon, is trying to squeeze the poorest of the poor for money. Remember, we have no electricity, no water or sewer. That would be fun!

SuperPrez is to meet with R2 (AKA Rata) sometime next week and lay our cards on the table. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Reconstructing the Facts

This is the intersection where the accident occurred.

This is the intersection where the accident occurred.

Before my father-in-law’s case could proceed to the higher court in Celaya, a mandatory reconstrución de hechos (reenactment) had to be held.  This required all participants, witnesses, lawyers, la juez (the judge) and a neutral perito (sort of like a detective) to be present.  This was scheduled December 27, the Friday after Christmas, at 9 a.m. in the morning.

As it turns out, in a rare weather fluke, it happened to be raining that morning, something that is far from common in December.  Since it had not been raining the day of the accident, the judge suspended the proceedings.  This angered many of the witnesses, since they had lost a day’s work and would lose a second day’s work for the rescheduled event.   Although it was a valid point, if the judge really was concerned about mimicking as close as possible the actual scene, she would have rescheduled this for mid-May.

Be that as it may, the proceeding was rescheduled for January 2, which was the Thursday after New Year’s.  We made arrangements for my husband to take his father to the courthouse and my son to help his aunt in the Tortilleria.  Unfortunately, we had in mind for some reason that January 2 was the Friday after New Year’s and so when my sister-in-called to say that we had been mistaken in the day, there was pure pandemonium.  I had already left for my classes and had taken my son’s phone with me to charge at the school.  So there was no phone in La Yacata for me to call to tell them of the mix-up.  I still had 30 minutes before the students were due to arrive, so I raced to La Yacata on my moto and arrived beeping at the house. When I explained the situation, my husband jumped on his moto and headed for the courthouse and my son hopped up behind me to go to the tortilleria.

When I dropped my son off, I glared at my sister-in-law and demanded to know why she hadn’t called sooner!  I then zoomed back to the school just in time for my first class of the day.

My husband was able to meet up with my father-in-law before the whole crew went out to the scene of the accident and therefore, provided some moral support.  He said that the lawyer remarked that since all the witnesses said different things, winning the case would be canijo (difficult), but he was going to continue.  The alternative is a murder conviction and jail time for my father-in-law and that just isn’t right.

So the next step is to wait for the court case to be called in Celaya and see what there is to be seen.

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Negotiating for La Yacata–Making the Offer

rainbow over la yacata

There are simple things, every day, that take your breath away.

We set up the meeting with el perforador del pozo (well hole digger) Friday at 6 (See Negotiating for La Yacata–The Preliminary Meeting) and received confirmation that he would attend. Super Prez asked that G, me, and R2 meet at 5:30 to make sure we were all in agreement with the offer that was to be made.

When I arrived, Super Prez informed me that he had an appointment with the iglesia (church) at 6 p.m. that he had forgotten about–a meeting with el padre (priest) about his daughter’s first communion. He had wished to leave G as his spokesperson, however, we hadn’t been able to reach him to tell him of the meeting. He thought about leaving R2 in charge, as he is out legal representative after all and charging us the big bucks, however, I wasn’t in agreement with that. I said that he couldn’t leave me as the spokesperson because I was both female and gringa (non-Mexican) and that might stir all sorts of hostilities with the macho men. Finally, he asked his brother to stand in his stead at the church meeting, which I am sure didn’t make his wife too happy.

At 6, the representatives of the pozo guy arrived. They were female, and here I had been worried about my presence!! R2 still hadn’t arrived and when Super Prez called said he was 5 minutes away. Twenty minutes later, he did finally call to let us know he was outside. Super Prez and I slipped out the side door to meet with him.

Our points would be–
1)while not acknowledging that the perforation had been made in the area known as La Yacata, we would propose that the association make good on the debt for the work done in the digging
2)that we would deduct the amount of the legal costs we had and would pay to our lawyer from the amount of the debt
3) that if this court case continued, it could become a penal case which would mean jail time for the pozo guy

We went back in and sat down at the table.

Everything seemed pretty straightforward to me, but the conversation got a bit out of control.

We exchanged greetings with the muchachas (young ladies). Both looked to be in their mid-twenties and were reportedly nieces and lawyers of the pozo guy. I was not sure why such a macho man as the pozo guy would send women to represent him, unless he thought that their youth and femininity would help his cause. His local legal representative (and Chuchi’s lawyer) is also female.

We waited until the first muchacha abogada (lady lawyer) made the offer. She said her uncle wanted a payment of $560,000, without any more talk interest or court costs, and he would like it sooner rather than later.

So SuperPrez countered with the fact that he had made a similar offer when this all started some 2 years ago and had been refused and that was before he discovered that the perforation was outside of La Yacata. Now the situation was complicated by the fact that the association would have to make arrangements with the current owner to even use the pozo (well) AND that these court proceedings were to cost us $300,000 pesos. So the counter offer was $200,000.(See The third demanda–What the…?)

The first muchacha abogada (lady lawyer) didn’t think that offer would be accepted. She said that her uncle was paying her with properties rather than cash and that each party would have to assume the responsibility of the court costs. She directed her comments to R2 saying that as lawyers they had to be understanding about payments and accept what was offered. (If you’ll remember, R2 has not accepted an offer of property as payment from the association saying that his children have to eat 3 times a day and properties won’t feed them. I will point out that his grown children are not starving and in no way, shape or form, will they starve if he accepts the land offer.)

So somehow or other, SuperPrez brought me into the conversation. He pointed out that the population of La Yacata is that of extreme pobreza (poverty-level) and here was la maestra (the teacher) who left a first-world country to live in such destitute conditions and was writing about it. I have no idea what prompted him to mention that little tidbit.

Regardless of his reasoning, I used that trailer as a segue into my main point with a “well, you can all read the book when it is published but what you have to understand now is that the population of La Yacata is very angry about the current legal situation.” This is true. In fact, we haven’t even wanted to mention that there is a third demanda (lawsuit) against the colonia (community). And since we haven’t wanted to mention that, we haven’t had any juntas (meetings) all rainy season. And without juntas (meetings) we haven’t been able to collect any payment to pay the lawyer for the money we owe on the first case, much less the second, and now there is a third… How are we to convince the colonos (community members) to pay for the pozo (well) when many already have and furthermore we have no proof that the perforation is even usable?

The fluffy muchacha abogada (lady lawyer) asked if the colonos understood that both the colonia and the pozo guy had been defrauded by Chuchi. We all nodded, but that didn’t change the fact that we had received threats from colonos (community members) about this issue with some coming into SuperPrez’s office and threatening to fix the situation with ballasos (bullets).

So R2 chimed in and pointed out that the situation could become penal (he likes that phrasing) with Chuchi and the pozo guy both doing jail time for the fraudulent pagaré (promissory note) that was currently being investigated by a neutral investigator set by the judge.

Even with that blatant threat of jail time, the ambiance remained pleasant, not exactly friendly, but not hostile. The first muchacha abogada (lady lawyer) said that she would present the offer to her uncle and let us know his answer.
We agreed to meet the following Friday at 6 for the results and further negotiation.

Super Prez dashed out of the office, an hour late for his meeting with the church.

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Demanda 3…. What the….?

Just when things looked like they were wrapping up with the second lawsuit (see Demanda 2 and the Visit from Desorrollo Urbano) and we could proceed with projects estimates for the water, sewer and electric in La Yacata, there came another demanda (lawsuit). Unbelievable! This demanda (lawsuit) was from the very same perforador del pozo (well-hole driller) that sent the first lawsuit (See Demanda 1) and for the same reason. He claimed that La Yacata owed him money for services rendered, this time in the amount of $500,000 pesos plus interests and court costs.

Since the judge ruled in our favor in the first lawsuit, we had assumed that would be the end of it, because no case can be reopened once the final verdict has been rendered. Not so folks! The claimant (el perforador del pozo well-hole driller) submitted a Pagaré (promissory note) and a claim that did not specify why La Yacata owes him money, just that the community does.

pagare

Promissory note

Our mutual acquaintance Chuchi had been summoned to give a confessional (testimonial) about the details of this debt, because of his good moral character (or so the summons read). I asked Super Prez if we could submit questions to the confessional. Lying before the judge carries a hefty fine and jail time so he may be more apt to tell the truth and finally finish this travesty of the justice system. He said he would look into it with R2, who continued to be our legal representative.
The basis of this lawsuit was the Pagaré (promissory note) and a copy of it was included in the summons. It was dated 2007 and signed by Chuchi with p.p. in front of his name. This p.p. is the legal abbreviation (por poder) and indicated that Chuchi was the legal representative of the community. However, in 2007, R was the registered president of La Yacata and we have the testamento (document) to prove it. The amount of the Pagaré (promissory note) was an even $500,000, half the amount of the first lawsuit. The address of the debtor was listed as calle Puebla (Puebla Street) which was where Super Prez currently has his own private business office, not Chuchi. Super Prez did not open his office until 2008 and had the town registration to prove it.

On the back of the Pagaré (promissory note) was the handwritten notation that the well-hole driller dude received two payments on the interest, one in 2009 for $1,200 and another in 2011 for $1,500. Writing anything but the names, address and signatures of the guaranteers on the back of a promissory note invalidates it, but I guess no one told him this. Furthermore, in 2011, J was the registered president of La Yacata, not Chuchi and I was the treasurer and I certainly didn’t authorize any payments for a well from the community funds.

So the first Monday in June, I went to drop off some papers at Super Prez’s office and chat about La Yacata progress when he informed me that he was to report to court that morning and I was scheduled for Tuesday. He had known since Saturday afternoon but didn’t want to tell me so that I wouldn’t spend Sunday fretting about it. He also said that R2 was on his way to the office, so I should wait there to talk to him. So I did.

As R2 was going over some of the questions Super Prez would be asked, I pointed out that I was the treasurer of the association when the second payment on interest was supposedly made, so I knew for a fact that the community hadn’t made a payment because I had never received a request for payment nor made a payment from the community funds. R2 was so pleased with this information that he clapped his hands, however, it occurred to me that as our legal representative, he should have already known that.

So Tuesday came and I arrived at the juzgados (courthouse) at 10:30 as requested. R2 arrived 15 minutes later (early for Mexican time) with R’s wife. I never quite understood why she was brought to testify since R was president and then secretary of the association and a person can not be represented by another person, but perhaps it was because R was currently out of the country. Regardless, she was called to be the first witness, then me, then…could this be…Chuchi!

Chuchi arrived at 11:00 and was greeted by R2, if not warmly, then at least with a handshake. R’s wife and I nodded our heads at him and turned away. Chuchi was, at least, clean, if not well dressed for a court appearance in khakis and t-shirt. He also carried a used water bottle. It appeared he brought his own courage (vodka) with him.
R2 took me outside and gave me a general gist of what his questions would be. I was a little concerned about the first one–what my name is and spent some time practicing in my mind while I waited. The problem was that my Mexican identification used my married name but the notario (lawyer) that registered the mesa directiva (community council) used my maiden name since women in Mexico do not change their names when they marry and to top it all off he spelled my maiden name wrong.  So I was not sure how to answer that question.

So R’s wife went in for her testimony and Chuchi and I waited outside. After about an hour of waiting, it was my turn. I thought we would actually be in a courtroom, but no. Our testimonies were recorded in an office room with what seemed to be acoustic panels on the walls, drawn blinds, a computer that looked to be from the 1980’s and bright blue office roller chairs. I admit I was hard pressed not to spin on my chair during questioning.

R2, the female lawyer representing the pozo guy, the secretary and myself were the only people in the room. R’s wife was sent out at first but since Chuchi was outside, she was called back in so that the two witnesses would not collaborate on their answers.

I needn’t have worried so much about the name question. The secretary used my identification to get the information. Then I was asked where I was born, if I lived in México now, if I was related to the pozo guy or Super Prez and whether I could read and write. I later asked R’s wife if she had been asked the same and she said yes, even the same questions about the case, so I didn’t feel as affronted about being asked if I could read and write after that.

The questions and answers from R’s wife were already in the computer and when I answered, the secretary only changed answers. I was a bit worried when at question 7 the computer shut down, but only the last question was lost.

I was asked whether I had any interest in the outcome of the case, whether I had any malice toward the pozo guy, whether I knew the pozo guy and whether abonos (payments) had been made by the association, all of which were no. I was asked whether I knew Super Prez and since when, whether I knew Chuchi and since when, whether Chuchi had been president of the association and when, and when we began using the office on Puebla, all of which I could answer easily. I must not have been as wordy as was expected since the secretary would ask me “y qué” when I would answer with a sí or no. The final question on the list was not allowed by the judge, so I wasn’t given an opportunity to answer it.

I was never asked directly how I knew this information, so I hope that point was made clear through the copies of the testamentos (documents) that registered the 3 presidents of the asociación since Chuchi was ousted and their councils. I also didn’t think I answered some of the dates well since I didn’t have the exact dates and could only give years, but I answered truthfully so no jail time or fine in the future for me.

R’s wife and I were then sent out of the room while Chuchi and his bottle entered for testimony. She and I had a chance to talk a bit. She seems nice and normal, not like R who sometimes se van las chivas–or in other words gets off track. She had known my mother-in-law and even remembered that it had been a year since her death, however, I don’t remember seeing her at any of the funeral services last year, just her husband.

When Chuchi came out, he wasn’t happy and neither was the lawyer for the prosecution. R2 slipped out and gave us the ok sign, pleased with the way things were going. Then we had to wait while the testimonies were printed out and given to the judge for his approval to be admitted as evidence in the case, then sign every page of our testimonies. While we were waiting for all of this to be completed, Chuchi gave different lawyer $500 pesos right in front of R’s wife and myself. As we were leaving R’s wife commented on this to R2, identifying the lawyer to him, and he wasn’t pleased but said it must have been on some other matter. Chuchi also tried to talk to the female lawyer that was legal representation for the pozo guy and explain that he had never turned over the accounts because they had been asked for 3 months after the new mesa directiva (community committee) had been elected. The lawyer’s response was to put up her hand signaling that she didn’t want to hear any more and turn away. If it comes down to nit-picking about dates, I have a dated copy of the letter we took to his office to formally request the documentation and others can be called in to testify that he was publicly requested to hand over the papers at the junta (meeting) prior to the letter and refused in front of more than 30 colonos (property owners). (See The Battle for Power)

Another lawyer greeted Chuchi while we waited and asked if he was promoting himself politically. Chuchi was the candidate for PT in the last election campaigns and recently was in the newspaper posing with the PT representative for Guanajuato. (See Politicking) Chuchi made no response and the lawyer went on to say that instead of being here in court, he should be campaigning in the colonias (neighborhoods) because that is where la vida (life) is and then he left.

Finally, we were able to leave at nearly 2:00 in the afternoon. My faithful husband had waited outside for me and was a bit cranky having not eaten his lunch yet. We arrived in La Yacata just in time to see the woman who delivers the summons for court drop off a summons for my father-in-law.  I haven’t yet heard the outcome of that particular summons.

On a post script to the day’s adventures, R2 was contacted by both Chuchi and the pozo guy to see if we could reach an acuerdo (agreement).  I don’t know what they think to bargain with as the items we want (the permit to drill a well and the certificate to the water rights) were never obtained by them.  Plus there is that little matter of court costs.  Just for the first demanda (lawsuit), la colonia (neighborhood) owes R2 $100,000 pesos.  When the verdict for the second demanda (lawsuit) is rendered, we will owe more money.  Then, of course, there is this one.  And as a third point, I am not sure that the lawsuit can be stopped at this point.  Then there is the idea of justice that hasn’t been satisfied, at least for those of us that have been defrauded by these men.  So I guess we will see what they have to offer and go from there.

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