Tag Archives: rural communities 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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Protecting our assets Phase 7

wires in the backyard

The power of electricity in my back yard.

About two months before, one of the electric posts that had been planted in the swamp, fell to the ground. No one seemed to be concerned about the long-term impact of downed wires and the strain on the remaining wires connecting Moroleón to La Yacata. About a month after that, someone cut and stole a large section of wire. This released the strain on the remaining wires, and they hung lower than ever over the highway. I mentioned my concern several times to our new president, but he didn’t have the time or the inclination to do anything about it. So finally, the wires over the highway were cut, possibly by a passing truck, which left the wires laying loose on either side of the road. So again, I told our new president that someone was going to steal them if we didn’t gather them up.

He called the electric company, who insisted there were no wires connecting Moroleón and La Yacata, but gave their permission in event that there were, he could gather them up. Then he hired a crew to remove and roll up the wires. My husband was the acting supervisor, making sure that those paid to collect didn’t steal any. Nearing the end of the first day, having collected from the crossroads to La Yacata, one of the albergue (rehab) people drove past. Then 10 minutes later, Chuchi drove past. Another 20 minutes later, the police came and demanded to see the workers permit. They didn’t have one, as the electric company said there were no wires. So the police hauled them to jail and left my husband to watch their truck. He called me and I called our new president to see if he could go out there and resolve the problem. He did and everything was hunky dory. The gathering of the wires went on.

It was a nice change to be able to call someone with the power and influence to solve these sorts of problems. As it always seemed us against them, I dubbed our new association president—tra-la-la the Super Prez!

The second day the workers started at the crossroads and went towards Moroleón. First el contratista showed up and told them they could not take the wire since La Yacata still owed him money. He named a debt of $70,000 pesos, a figure he refused to give us when he went to his office. The workers paid him no mind and he went off. Then Jesus showed up. He also said they did not have permission to remove the wires. This time the men got irate and told him he better be off or else. So he left, not one to risk life and limb.

So the wires, the future hope of La Yacata, was in large rolls stored in my backyard, where it still sits.

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Who owns what? Phase 6

leaning post

With the wires cut and stolen, the tension was reduced, but the posts were still leaning.

So another week or so passed. Then a group of men came and started marking the roads. We hadn’t sent them to do any measuring or marking and when the workers were asked who they were working for, it was “Ingeniero Ching” which led us to suspect Chuchi. They finished their lot markings,  all of manzana (section) 7-C which I knew to belong to one owner, not being Jesus, and went on their merry way.

Another week passed. We were out with the goats and happened across Chuchi with his plans and certificates. Seems he was making out new certificates for the lots he had marked. I called the owner and told his secretary that Chuchi was in this very moment selling lots. His brother arrived about 15 minutes later, then he himself, but Chuchi had already gone. They were both angry enough to go and visit Chuchi in his home.  Chuchi said that things would continue as they always had done and called the police on the brothers to have them removed from his home.

In addition to this, a man came the week previously to locate his lots. He had bought the lots from the engineer who put the tubes down for the sewer some 10 years ago. I checked the records and lo and behold, there was another registered owner. Seems Chuchi had given an entire section of lots to this engineer in lieu of payment. So I explained this to the man, who was angry, but decided he needed to go and straighten this out with Chuchi. So what happened to the money that the colonos (associates) paid for the work? Right into Chuchi’s pocket.

We have been working hard to contact the persons we know to be owners of land in La Yacata.  The son of the original owner decided to call a meeting, requesting copies of payments and certificates to try and find out how much money Chuchi had received.  Hopefully, we could use this proof to put a demanda (lawsuit) against Chuchi for non-completion of something or other.  My husband complains that we ought not to be working for free, but I felt that in the long run, we will benefit as members of the community there.  Volunteering doesn’t bother me, although personal funds were in mighty short supply just then.

Chuchi continued selling lots, even to calling and offering deals to prospective buyers.  A few have thought to investigate a bit further and been referred to us, so did not fall into the baited trap, but others either didn’t suspect or didn’t care.

Along the way, we had another community meeting and proposed that the original owner’s son be elected as president of the association.  As R had yet to register his presidency, this wouldn’t necessitate any additional paperwork, but might just be the motivation we needed to make some real progress.    In order not to completely alienate R and his cronies, we suggested that he be the secretary in place of el plomero, who really didn’t have time to devote to this endless stream of meetings.  Even so, R’s feelings were hurt.  I was unanimously reelected as treasurer.

It was quite a job organizing these receipts that come in, but we now had about 100 out of 650 that were more or less verified. We also decided that since Chuchi was still using the old certificates to sell and resell lots, that to protect our interests and the interests of the other rightful owners, we would issue new certificates signed by all members of the mesa directiva (community representatives).

The changing over of certificates took longer than expected. A full 6 months since we started and we were nearly half way through. The problem was contacting the owners. We had a tentative list of property owners and had made efforts through printed notices to contact those on the list, however, some had sold their lot, moved, or were currently in the US. Daily though, we had visitors to our house in La Yacata. Some on foot, some by moto, some by donkey or horse, some came on the bus, some in cars or trucks, and some have even come in taxis, just to visit us and bring their copies.

Then there was a problem with multiple owners of the same lot.  That has taken some doing to straighten out. We, or rather I, have had to tell a number of people that they had been defrauded and needed to register a complaint against Chuchi with the Ministerio Publico (Public Ministry) however, to date, I have yet to hear of any of these victims making a formal complaint.  It’s free, however, it is time-consuming, as is anything bureaucratic here in México.  There is also the fact that most of these owners are campesinos (farmers) and not well educated.  Some can barely write their own names.  To expose themselves and their illiteracy and the shame that they had been taken in by a glib talker, may be too much for them to do.  And so, those that have take more, and those that have not, continue to do nothing about it.

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Meeting with el contratista chueco Phase 5

leaning post domino effect

The fallen post with all its wires pulled on the rest of the posts in a domino effect, causing them to lean.

So el profe, R, the son of the original owner and I had a meeting. First, R started with the information that he had talked to the electric contractor in the presidency and had a list of requirements we needed, proof of work completed, authorization number, proof of payment, etc. We had already been to speak with him, so it really was redundant, but oh well.

The owner’s son tried to explain that el contratista more than likely had done the work without permission as he has never been in charge of projects, only an employee of the electric company. But R seemed not to get it. So we trooped over to el contratista’s office to ask for these documentation.

In el contratista‘s office, R began by asking for these documents, and el contratista wanted to know who had requested them. R gave the head guy’s name at the electric company, although they hadn’t been able to speak with him the last time they went. So el contratista admitted he had done the work but said he wouldn’t give us any documentation as he was still owed money. But he couldn’t say how much. And that he wouldn’t give us anything until he spoke with Chuchi as his contract was with Chuchi. He went on and on about professional ethics.

I was getting angrier by the moment and interrupted to ask whether his contract wasn’t with the people of La Yacata, but he was insistent that it was not. But I disagreed. It would be another matter if he had done work in Chuchi’s house, for example, then the deal would be strictly between him and Chuchi. However the work was done in La Yacata, a development jointly-owned by the property owners.

Then el contratista started to get more defensive. He made the statement that no one could obligate him to show his papers. I interrupted again. I said that we could obligate him. We could go to the Public Ministry, put in a demanda (lawsuit) against him, and he would be forced to show us the contract.

This shocked not only el contratista, but the other members of the committee. Seems that it was a social no-no, and el contratista went back to his professional ethics speech. R pointed out that Chuchi was not likely to pay him any money owed and asked why he would continue to believe that when it had been quite a few years that the work had been done, without full payment.

Apparently, el contratista was wealthy enough to not worry about getting paid or what he did was illegal and didn’t really expect to be paid fully. He made the statement that he didn’t want to start trouble and that if Chuchi didn’t pay, that’s ok. And that those that would be affected by a lien that he would level would be the people of La Yacata. Again I interrupted and said that we were people that lived in La Yacata, and we needed to know how much was owed so that we would know how much each of us had to pay. But he still didn’t want to name a figure. So I suggested since he didn’t want to give us any information, perhaps he would be willing to come to a community meeting and there present his bill to be approved for payment from the community members. He didn’t say yes. He didn’t say no.

He seemed particularly put out by R’s presence. He told R that what he was doing was wrong, but wasn’t specific. R took it to mean that having a new community council and stated that by law we were constituted. Then el contratista changed the subject. It made me wonder if R knew more about these dealings than he wanted to admit.

I was very angry about it as it was obvious there was no legality to the work done. El contratista as much as admitted it was a private deal between himself and Chuchi, and had nothing to do with the electric company. We were stuck in a position that really it would be better if he came and took away all the things he had done and leave it a clean slate to begin again. It’s probably better that I didn’t go along to any more of these sorts of meetings since I am not one to pussyfoot around the issue. I told as much to the owner’s son after we left.  I’m definitely lacking in the fine art of diplomacy.

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