Tag Archives: Kidnapping

Surviving a Kakistocracy in La Yacata

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Kakistocracy occurs when the least qualified are in positions of power. That definition certainly fits Mexico to a T.

The whole mismanagement of funds and the lack of services in La Yacata can be followed back to having the least qualified person in charge for more than 20 years. (See Birth of the Revolution) La Yacata is just a small not-quite village, but how high does this bad governing go, really?

Let’s look at the highly publicized case of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School who disappeared in 2014 as an example of the ineptitude. To make this long story shorter, here’s a brief summary of the facts known to date.  On September 26 of that year, 6 innocent bystanders were killed, 25 were wounded and 43 protesting students were abducted by local police in Iguala, Guerrero, which is about 80 miles south of Mexico City. (See also El Dia del Estudiante) Various elements of human rights violations were perpetrated in this incident. Starting at the bottom rung, local police were guilty of homicide and attempted homicide in the initial confrontation. Then once the students were detained, they were turned over to the crime syndicate Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors) by local police enforcement who then murdered every single one. Talk about a breach in due process there!

On September 28, 22 local police officers were arrested for their participation in the abduction and murder of the students and bystanders. But this was more than a local rogue police force. On September 30, a warrant was issued for the arrest of the Iguala mayor and his wife as well as the Director of Public Security, all of whom fled. The mayor and his wife were able to evade arrest until November 4. The Director of Public Security is still at large.

The ensuing protests in Mexico had a domino effect on the government structure. On October 23, the Governor of Guerrero resigned once it became clear that he had actively protected corrupt officials and possibly contributed to a cover-up of the events that transpired on Sept 26.

The PRD political party founder and senior leader resigned on November 25.  PRD is the dominant political party in Guerrero.

The Mexican Attorney General had received prior information about the cartel ties of the Iguala mayor and did not act on that information and is currently under investigation. He resigned his post on February 27, 2015.

Further investigation has shown that the Mexican Armed Forces were also present on September 26 and did nothing to aid the unarmed students or bystanders. In fact, the Army tried to run interference by preventing wounded students from receiving medical attention at the local clinic. The current Supreme Commander of the Mexican Armed Forces is the current Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. The President also holds the right to appoint the Attorney General.

Thus, kakistocracy is evident all the way to the top level of government in Mexico. But it doesn’t stop there. Several experts have traced the hierarchy of power to the U.S. And as long as the U.S. is pulling the strings, Mexico will continue to be a kakistocracy. (See La Llorona Returns)

So how does all this make La Yacata the perfect place to live in the event of kakistocracy? Well, once the colonos (community members) became fed up with the local kakistocracy, we staged a coup, albeit a legal one and elected a new governing body. Although we have yet to succeed in uniting the community enough to really benefit ourselves, we have prevented the continued exploitation by the same corrupt representative. (See You can lead a horse to water, sewage, and electricity)  Therefore, we are all ready for the coming revolution!

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Failing at your own business–Taxi service

After dinner, last week, my husband began by saying I should hear him out about this plan he has and I immediately perked up and took notice. What new plan was this??? So he started with “There is this group of women and they would pay $100 each. . .” I thought perhaps he was talking about a tanda, which is a sort of chain savings plan where a number of women contribute a portion of their weekly earnings, paying it to the designated hostess and receiving it the week of her own hosting. I tuned out of the conversation for a bit while I tried to think of the word tanda and came back to full attention when my husband started making hugging and kissing pantomimes. What was he talking about?

His sister L, he continued, wanted to visit her young boyfriend (see Parenting challenge–Independence vs. safety) who is currently serving a five-year stint in the bote (jail) near Valle de Santiago on Sunday for a visit. She asked if my husband would drive her there in the truck. She had a group of 9 ladies or so that also wanted to go to visit their significant others and they would pay $100 pesos each for the ride. My husband pressed me to agree by saying we could drop them off at the jail, then go to the tianguis (flea market) in Valle and spend the day leisurely enjoying the shopping and refreshments with the profits of the trip.

I reminded him that every single one of his sister’s plans has caused problems for us. Her last move gave my husband a hernia, her involvement in some of our money making schemes has cost us money and so on. As recent as a week previously, she and the strapping Cornhusker-grown wife of M were brawling in the streets while my husband was trying to close a deal on the burra (donkey)  and he pretended he didn’t know either of them. How could any idea of hers be a good idea?

What if she was planning on breaking her man out of jail? I could just picture them, 9 cholos climbing out of the wrenched jailhouse bars that had been tied to the hitch of the truck, holding their pants in one hand and hopping in the back of the get-away vehicle (driven by my husband) with police and their Uzis firing after us.

As it appeared I wasn’t going to agree, my husband played his trump card. Well, if that did happen, he said, it would be something interesting for me to write about on my blog. OK. I’m in.

This was one time that the reality didn’t live up to my imagination. We got up at the unearthly hour of 4 a.m. Sunday morning so that we could take care of the animals before we left. We began the pickup round for inmate wives and families at 5 a.m.

I have privileged status, being the wife of the driver, so I sat in the front seat. My son, however, was ousted to the back of the truck so that a wife and baby could be in the front. I also was given a baby, a little tike about 3 months old, to hold. Although the driver is required to wear a seatbelt, no one else in the vehicle is subject to that law. Therefore, we held the babies in our laps. Fortunately, neither baby was fussy, so it wasn’t as difficult as it might have been.

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The State Penitentiary outside Valle de Santiago

We arrived at the Ceresa (State Penitentiary) about 7 a.m. The ladies hurried to the gate, leaving their children behind in my care, to get their ficha (number). They came back 20 minutes later or so, happy. All of them had scored numbers between 30 and 40, so they would be towards the head of the line. Then they scattered again to hunt down pan (bread) sold by local vendors. They came back with 2 to 3 bags each. These sweetbreads were to leave with their incarcerated significant other for breakfast for the week. There seems to be a concern that the inmates aren’t fed, but I think that’s just not true. I’ve seen some recently released men and they are in no way starving–in fact they were some of the fattest men I came across in Mexico. But then again, maybe their wives and mothers are very conscientious about their weekly visit.

After the bread rush, the ladies rushed to the gate for a second time to claim their credenciales (visitor’s passes). Each lady has her own laminated card, complete with her name and picture, the name of the inmate she is visiting, and the relationship to the inmate. My husband’s sister is not married to her young cholo, so I asked to see her card. She is listed as being G’s concubina (concubine). I had no idea that being a concubine was a legal status here in México. Well, I expect that makes it easier for her to request conjugal rights.

So by then the sun had come up, so the ladies began to primp and preen as any girl might before a hot date. Gel and blush, combing hair and brushing teeth, even a quick change of shirt, something more feminine. I shamelessly eavesdropped while they worked on themselves and each other.

So I learned about the trip last week to see the hombres encuarados (nearly naked men) and some mean gossip about two other ladies that didn’t travel with us. I was especially interested in what their men had done to be in the carcel (jail) in the first place, but I didn’t know them well enough to ask. However, my husband’s sister was free with her own gossip. The one girl with the 2 kids that sat next to me was the daughter-in-law of the lady who gave us donuts. They were here to visit a man who was in for 7 years for beating another man to death with a stone in La Yacata. (Hmm, must have been before we moved there.) The mother of the baby I held during the trip was there to visit her man who had been arrested for selling drugs, like G. The older lady was there to visit her husband who was in year 7 of a 12-year sentence, but my husband’s sister didn’t know for what. And the last lady was there to visit her husband who was in for 30 years for kidnapping an elderly man and holding him for ransom.

Enough gossip, it was time to line up. They left their jackets, cell phones and purses in my care. My husband helped them carry their babies and bags of food to the line. They were called in by groups of 10. We waited until we were pretty certain they had all been admitted and then went to look for breakfast.

Even by rural standards, there was nothing nearby that even resembled a store or restaurant. We stopped at a place that had a few tables set up in the yard desperate to eat. The only thing on the menu was carnitas (fried pork) which is not what I really wanted for breakfast, but the pico de gallo and salsa were very good.

carnitas express

Breakfast of champions in Puebla Nueva

So then we went in search of a gas station. We didn’t have to wait in line and they had free and clean bathrooms.

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Waiting in line at the gas station in Villa Nueva

We couldn’t afford to drive around and waste gas, so we went back to jail and parked under a mesquite tree outside the compound to wait for our passengers. With the heat and the owls hooting in the palm trees, I soon fell asleep.

Patience is a virtue that we have learned to perfect in México. My husband has taken up smoking to help him to wile away these long waiting periods and keep him calm. My son has learned to bring his rechargeable games (DS or PSP) when we expect something like this to happen. I bring my notebook to record everything for posterity. So went the afternoon. No shopping, no escaping cholos, nothing but the heat and an occasional passing vehicle.

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My siesta was disturbed by the passing traffic.

So at 3 p.m. we entered the prison compound again. My husband went to wait by the door when he saw ladies beginning to trickle out. I was approached by some other lady, not one that had traveled with us who said that she was the friend of Mari (I still don’t know which one was Mari) and that she was going to leave these 2 benches with us to take back to Moroleón. I said, sure. Then she went back for 2 more. About 30 minutes later, our passenger ladies came out loaded with things. My husband moved the truck closer to the door. The ladies were peeved that there were already furniture items in the back because that meant less room for their own things.

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Front door at the Ceresa

They had large wooden framed paintings of the Virgen of Guadalupe, several more benches, a large TV stand, a child’s desk, two children’s hat stands and some little end tables. My husband’s sister had a centerpiece sized paper swan that she was all paranoid about having damage. (I guess her man isn’t as talented as some and that was the best he could come up with.) After a bit of maneuvering of babies, women and furniture bits, we were finally loaded and left the compound at 5 p.m.

The significant other ladies all sported nice collections of hickeys that they did not have in the morning. I suppose it makes sense that since their men can’t be there to make sure the ladies aren’t stepping out during the week, that they mark their territories with hickeys during visiting hours.

One under way, I asked that lady in the front about the furniture. It seems there is quite a prison industry going on. The inmates that wish to work are given materials and a weekly wage (about $700 pesos per week) and make these items. Their wives and mothers then come and pick up the items and sell them in their hometowns. The inmates also make shoes that can be ordered through by catalog.

I was amazed. $700 pesos a week! I expect that the families of many of these inmate workers are earning more now that their men are behind bars than they were before. Work is scarce in this area. Crime does pay after all.

So we made it back to Moroleón before it began to rain, made the drop offs and arrived home about 7 p.m. After we fed and watered the animals, I asked my husband how much money he had made with this venture. He ruefully admitted that he only had $300 pesos free and clear, after gas and tolls. It hadn’t been a good money-making plan after all but it did make a good story.

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Safety and security (or lack of) in these parts

 

Masked persons may or may not be members of the official police force here in Mexico. Numerous crimes are committed daily by those dressed much like those pictured here.

Masked persons may or may not be members of the official police force here in Mexico. Numerous crimes are committed daily by those dressed much like those pictured here.

Last weekend, my husband and one of his friends A, went to Cerano for the weekly tianguis (flea market). On the way home, they were stopped by los cappuchis (masked ‘policemen’) who examined their papers, searched the vehicle and ended up demanding a mordida (bribe) which was all the cash the two had on them.

This is just another case in point in a long line of problems with the police or supposed police, it’s hard to say which is which these days. So why is it that those paid to serve and defend are in the midst of this sort of activity?

Perhaps because we live less than an hour from the Michoacan-Guanajuato border. The ‘police’ arrive in town, accept these not-so voluntary contributions, make off with parked vehicles, even as far as targeting wealthy-looking persons for kidnapping and head back to Michoacan, outside the Guanajuato jurisdiction.

I can’t even begin to list all the times my husband has been charged a mordida, which translates a “little bite” as in little bite of the apple. On the moto, in the truck, and even while on horseback, police have stopped, searched, and relieved him of cash or other easily transportable items like tools or cds.

We once made the mistake of reporting a particularly big mordida to the chief of state police several years ago. We filled out the report and had it sent to Guanajuato. The police involved were suspended 2 weeks, but had their revenge. My husband was out and about and had a flat tire one day. While waiting for the tow truck, the same police that we had reported stopped and arrested him on a pretext of obstructing traffic or something or other. Two years later, he gets a summons and we make the trip to Guanajuato where his license was suspended for 180 days. In the scheme of things doesn’t seem like much, however there were the expenses of the trip there and back and the nuisance of 6 months without a license, then having to pay to have it reissued. So it seems there isn’t anything else to do but pay up.

Things can be much worse than a mordida. Kidnapping happens on a regular basis. Typically the kidnapped victim is an adult male whose family has money. I suppose women are not kidnapped because there is some doubt whether a ransom would be paid once her reputation is compromised by being in unchaperoned, unknown parts with unknown (probably male) kidnappers. Male victims on the other hand, have a plethora of female relatives that will pull out all stops and get the money for the ransom together.

My husband was kidnapped our first year in Mexico. We had gone to Cerano to visit his relatives (seems a dangerous corridor to drive) and were stopped by the ‘military’ on the way back. They searched our vehicle and asked some questions and saw that we had cash on hand. My husband had some 2000 pesos in his wallet to buy a door for the house. From me they gleaned that we had some land (although its only 2 measly lots) and our vehicle was luxurious for these parts as we were still driving our 2000 GMC Sierra. After all that, we went on our merry way back to La Yacata.

Someone on the ‘military’ team alerted the kidnappers that we were potential victims and they followed us to La Yacata. Otherwise, remote as it is, no one would think to look for us there. Additionally the address that was on my husband’s license and registration was that of his brother’s house since La Yacata had no street names yet. Unsuspecting, my son and I got out at the house and my husband took the truck up the hill to cut some inquierta (a vine plant that grows in trees and has orange flowers and black berries) for the goats to eat.

About 30 minutes later, his parents and I were outside talking and saw the truck attempting to come down a road that was not finished. We wondered aloud what on earth my husband was doing since he knew that road was closed and went back to the conversation. A little while later, a green van came down the road, again with little comment from us.

But my husband didn’t come back. I sat at the door all night and waited for him. His brother thought he might have gone drinking and stayed in town, but I knew him. He would not leave us alone all night.

Around 5 a.m. he pulled up and practically fell out of the truck. He had awoken in Uriangato, a neighboring town, dazed and disoriented.

He doesn’t remember much, but says that when he had jumped down from the tree, there were about 5 or 6 young guys. There must have been one behind him with something on a cloth to make him pass out, because he said the next thing he knew, he was lying on a bed in an unfamiliar room. Gathering his wits, he broke the window and jumped out. Someone entered when he was jumping and tried to restrain him, but he shook him off. Then he spotted the truck parked down the road, took out the spare key which was hidden under the front bumper, opened the door and revved off, relieved of his wallet and, of course ,the money, and various little things that had been in the truck. It took him some time to orient himself and find the road back to Moroleón, but find it he did.

For a time he was shaken up, but then he was angry and wanted to go and try to find the guys. That phase passed too. We were fortunate. Several other persons of my acquaintance have been kidnapped. Its quite an ordeal, no water, no bathroom, physical and emotional abuse, calls and messages to family members to pay up. The physically and emotional trauma is intense and causes life-long problems, both in terms of health and psychological issues. And emotionally, if it happens in your own home, how does one recover the sense of security lost? Not to mention the monetary aspect. The current going rate is $500,000 U.S. dollars, not exactly chump change.

For our part, we sold our nice truck and bought a 1980 model with a few bangs in it already. Looking as poor as we are, perhaps trying to blend in, has relieved some of our anxiety. However, the random stops and searches, valid pretext or not, the mordidas, kidnappings, robberies have not been halted and makes a daily trek to the store a voyage frought with unexpected dangers.

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