I am ending a 20-year relationship with Mexico and that is very sad for me. It’s kind of like the end of a marriage. At some point, the relationship turns so sour that one of the parties has to leave. In this case, it is me.
What makes this even more sad is the fact that I love Mexico. I love its natural beauty, from the desert, to the mountains to the pristine beaches. My family has loved it all. But most importantly, we have loved the Mexican people. Our relationships are more like family than even friends. I have personally invested millions of dollars in your country. But I give up. Your government clearly does not want me any longer.
I want to make it clear that I am not here to lecture Mexico. I am not here to tell it what to do or how to do it. It is simply not my place to do so. I am only letting Mexico know why our relationship failed and maybe, if it so desires, not to have so many future failures. Let me share with you my story.
Two decades ago, my brother and his wife bought a beautiful property in San Miguel de Allende and established roots. Deep roots. He built a beautiful home, two casitas, hired full-time staff whom he considers family, and started giving back to his community. He, and particularly his wife Kelly, started a dog rescue program for all the starving street dogs around town. They have rescued hundreds of animals from starvation and abuse and set up a spay neuter program second to none. Why? It’s part of what our mother taught us: give back to your community. This is part of our DNA.
While all of this was happening in San Miguel, I went to work in Quintana Roo. I bought a derelict house on the ocean in Puerto Aventuras and put 10 million pesos into it to restore it to glory. I also bought beach property around Mahahual, 20 hectares on Lake Bacalar and a 2,000-hectare ranch that had been abandoned near Chetumal. We then went to work.
We hired seven full-time employees to work the ranch, protect the property from poachers (we have deer, tapirs, jaguar and puma just to name a few of the animals we protect). There is a 500-hectare lake on the ranch as well and poachers were gillnetting with 100-meter nets and destroying the fishery for generations to come. We stopped that from happening. Birds have returned and fish now abound. We gave back to nature and the community.
Our workers who come and go each day are well paid and fed breakfast and lunch. Our foreman lives full-time in a house we built for him and his lovely family. They all get health insurance, he gets a truck to drive, free gas, free food, free cell phone, and internet. Basically everything is paid for and he gets to use his salary as discretionary income. It’s a great deal for him but it also works great for us. It is a true win-win for all of us.
And how have I been treated? Not well. My ranch has been invaded twice. Once with 10 men and guns threatening to kill all the workers if they did not leave immediately. We called the police. What did they do? Nothing. Nothing at all. It took one year and over 2 million pesos to correct the wrong and get my ranch back from the thugs. Why would your system treat honest people like this? It is truly beyond me.
I have another property that I am fighting an invasion on and have been doing so for over three years. Sure I have won the battles in court so far but they are still on my property and I have spent over 200,000 pesos on lawyers. Will I win? Yes but I have no desire to keep fighting this battle. Mexico requires me to keep spending money simply to hold on to those things that I have already bought and legally paid for. Does this seem insane only to me?
My brother in San Miguel was attempting to return home from a drive to Puerto Vallarta where he has a beachfront lot. On his way home, he was stopped at a cartel roadblock and robbed. When they attempted to steal his vehicle also, he did a high speed escape past a burning bus back to Puerto. He and his wife then had to fly home and have a driver get his vehicle back home for him. In what universe does this make sense? An honest citizen or visitor cannot travel down a major highway safely?
It gets far worse in my opinion. My neighbor who owns a nearby ranch was in Tamaulipas two years ago buying some cattle from local ranchers who were fleeing from the cartel. These poor ranchers had lost everything and were simply trying to sell what they could and escape, leaving their homes, ranches and other possessions behind. While my friend Jacob was there, word came that another cattle buyer on the adjoining ranch had been kidnapped and they were possibly coming for Jacob. He immediately left the ranch and went back to Quintana Roo.
Mexico has turned over entire states to the cartel. If I told someone that I could not drive from Texas to Mississippi because Louisiana had been taken over by criminals, they would look at me as if I had two heads. Never would the U.S. allow criminals to take over a highway much less an entire state. If a cartel attempted to set up a roadblock on a highway in the U.S., a SWAT team of snipers would kill them all within an hour.
Jacob’s sister and her son were killed along with many more recently in northern Mexico by the cartel. Murdered — no, not murdered, more like slaughtered — without cause and so far Mexico has done very little to right this horrible wrong. I guess President López Obrador’s philosophy of hugs not guns seems to be prevailing. You have to understand how strange this all sounds to Americans. We are to hug murdering thugs instead of shooting them? Sorry, but I had rather send them to hell that very day.
I think the final straw that broke the camel’s back came last year when Monex stole over 20 million pesos from our accounts. We had money in the account one month and the next month, bank employees had stolen every peso. Many newspapers and TV networks reported that 158 accounts and nearly 800 million pesos had been robbed from the accounts of Americans and other foreigners. For many of these people, it was their life savings.
Did bank officials from Monex get arrested and prosecuted? No, they did not. Has Monex replaced the stolen money in full to those depositors? No, for the most part they have not. In fact, my brother and I have yet to receive one peso of the money stolen from us by the bank. Sure we have filed criminal charges and civil actions but it might be many years before the Mexican government forces this criminal bank, Monex, to reimburse our funds.
We even hand delivered a letter to López Obrador himself begging for help. Nothing happened. A low level bureaucrat called us and explained he had been handed the complaint from a superior but it really wasn’t in his jurisdiction and he had no idea why it was handed down to him. He promptly did nothing.
This is why I fear López Obrador is worse than corrupt; he is incompetent. Maybe he can just give Monex a hug and then they will give us back the money they stole. If you want to see further details on this massive crime and cover up, check out bancomonexfraud.com.
I have another friend who is a pilot of private jets in Mexico. He and his family were on vacation in San Antonio, Texas, when his 12-year-old daughter opened the door on their rental car and accidentally scratched the adjoining car. The owner of that car jumped out and started verbally abusing my friend, Esteban, and his daughter. Esteban assured him that he had insurance and would pay for any damages. This did not appease the guy.
He threatened physical violence against Esteban’s daughter. Esteban called 911 and was shocked when the police showed up in less than three minutes, listened to what Esteban had to say and then handcuffed the man and took him off to jail for making threats. Esteban told me this would never happen in Mexico. But it should. Mexico deserves better than it is getting.
I had great hopes for López Obrador after Peña Nieto proved to be pretty much a failure. As I expressed those hopes to my Mexican friends about AMLO taking office, they almost all universally would shrug their shoulders and say, “We shall see. We have been promised all of this before.” Their attitude reminded me of a Robert Earl Keene song that goes like this: “The road goes on forever and the party never ends.” Except here we have to change the lyrics to “The road goes on forever and the corruption never ends.” As I wrote earlier, I really don’t believe López Obrador is corrupt. I think his office is worse: incompetent.
My brother is a lawyer by trade. He talks about the difference between a first world country versus a third world country. He always says it is mis-defined. People think that a country is third world if it is poor. This is not true. It is third world if rule of law and more specifically, honoring contracts and enforcing them is the true measure of a country’s status. Does Mexico honor contracts? Not in the least.
Property rights are destroyed by invasions that take years to resolve and the sanctity of bank accounts and the security of those deposits mean nothing in Mexico. Even notaries and public registries falsify property sales and say no leans exist when in fact they do. You only find out after the purchase. These are not isolated incidents in Mexico.
The municipality of Tulum, by rule of guns not law, seized boutique hotels and beach properties and threw their true owners out on the whim of a corrupt politician for personal gain. Property rights meant nothing and in the three or so years after these Tulum thefts, properties have still not been returned to the rightful owners. What a travesty of justice. Even when these sorts of travesties are recognized, the Mexican legal system does nothing to correct the errors.
We really believed Mexico was changing 20 years ago. New auto plants, more hotels, more jobs and a true middle class starting to arise. We had hope and I think the Mexican people had hope too. But in the last five years we have witnessed the rise of the cartels stealing oil, cattle, avocados and anything else available, the rise of violence in unprecedented levels and the failure of the Mexican government to actually change anything. The only thing that changed was the slogan: hugs not guns. This is true insanity on a national level.
I wish I could say that I left Mexico in better shape than I found it. For my properties, this is true. But for Mexico in general it is not. I wish I could effect change but I can’t. I don’t get to vote, I don’t get to express an opinion to politicians or government workers and no one really cares what I have to say. The only protest afforded me is with my feet and I choose to leave.
I hope and pray that Mexico finds its way out of the pit it has dug. The Mexican people deserve better than what they are getting. They deserve hope, justice, fairness, and honesty. Right now, they are getting none of these.
The writer is a retired dentist from Fort Worth, Texas.