viernes, enero 25, 2008

Zihuatanejo's Squatter Problem

Zihuatanejo has a serious squatter problem wherein during the past 10 years, and particularly during the past five, Zihuatanejo's hillsides above the 70 meter mark (known as la cota 70, above which the cost to the city of providing services such as water and sewage multiplies beyond the city's ability to provide them).

A squatter is a land thief, not necessarily or even commonly a homeless person. Many of our squatters make it their family profession, and you would be surprised at the late-model cars and/or the multiple properties some have. Many know it is a cat-and-mouse game where if they win they will get public land that is not for sale sold to them for a fraction of its value. The political tactic of fomenting illegal land settlements in exchange for votes is not democratic, especially when public lands are stolen. It is corruption at its worst.

In our case there is allegedly evidence that the zoning change that changed the "cota 70" and permitted the regularization of stolen hillsides was illegal. Allegedly it was signed by the mayor-elect before he assumed office, thus he possibly lacked legal and constitutional authority, even if it was "sanctioned" (or covered up) at the state level. It could be challenged in a competent court, and I believe one local ecological group has done so.

Our political parties are under heavy criticism for not only being unresponsive and unrepresentative, but also for forming a "partidocracy" to perpetuate power among the 3 main parties at the expense of small and new parties, and the Mexican Corte Suprema ruled not too long ago that a candidate must belong to and be endorsed by a party, thus no independents can run (an apparent violation of our constitution). So we cannot throw the rascals out, and it has become more difficult to hold them accountable or challenge them.

You need to see the Mexican political machine up close in action to appreciate it and begin to make sense of it since it bears little resemblance to anything US folks have been familiar with since the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Most people are already registered to vote. Abstentionism due to apathy, fear and well-founded mistrust has been the winner of most state and municipal elections in recent memory.

I've certainly got no problem with educating kids, only with condemning the future of my community to become another Acapulco. The squatters' kids should be treated no differently than the rest. They shouldn't be singled out for special attention. Doing so is an insult to the rest of the children in our community. How do you expect children of poor but law-abiding citizens to feel when they see foreigners building the best public school in the city for what began as a squatters' illegal settlement that achieved their goal not only of stealing land but getting special attention from foreigners as a bonus? It sure looks like crime pays.

lunes, enero 07, 2008

Zihuatanejo Beaches In Trouble

According to Semarnat's Reporte de Calidad Bacteriológico del Agua del Mar it sure looks like we have problems at Playa Del Puerto (Playa Principal), Playa La Madera and Playa La Ropa and they would appear to only be getting worse even though the rains stopped well over 2 months ago.

The saddest part of all this is not only that it was preventable, or that it is the result of unscrupulous politicians and incompetent public servants allowing squatters to inhabit our hillsides as well as not administering resources properly to repair and maintain the sewage treatment plants, but that the "responsible authorities" KNOW that these beaches pose a public health risk yet refuse to inform the public. How can they dare show their faces in public knowing their omission of duty is risking the health and even the lives of our visitors? Criminals!

One of the readers of my Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa and Troncones Mexico Message Board asked that "there must be something each of us can do?", to which another reader astutely replied "Well, garbage cans on the beach would at least be symbolic!" I agree. It is simply unforgiveable in this day and age with all the resources our municipal government has at its disposal that there are no garbage cans to be found on any of our beaches. I urge visitors to comment on this to their lodging providers who should be lighting bonfires under the butts of our "responsible authorities" to deal with the problems of trash on our beaches and pollution in the bay.

The "responsible authorities" can imagine good and well what hellish future they are condemning Zihuatanejo to by promoting and tolerating land invasions and not spending public funds honestly and efficiently. But in our modern world of political "partidocrocy" where representative democracy has been twisted into a distorted and sinister parody of what it was intended to be by parties who only exist to perpetuate their own power, an honest, professional and altruistically motivated public servant has become an anachronism, if not a liability. Since no popularly elected public official in Mexico can be re-elected successively to the same office, there is no incentive to be anything other than a party hack, and this condemns our social contract with government to failure since they cease being representative and effective. Here in Mexico we would gladly trade some of our so-called democracy for a stronger, more efficient government, especially one that would actually enforce its laws equally. Currently living in Zihuatanejo is like living in a completely lawless land.

Even La Ropa Beach is suffering. There have been repeated "accidents" this year allowing untreated or inadequately treated wastewater to flow across the beach and into the bay between La Perla Restaurant and Las Urracas Inn as well as the estuary next to Cocodrilos Restaurant, including during the peak of our recent Christmas season. Many of our visitors took the time to file complaints, and according to the local newspaper "Despertar de la Costa" they have over 60 complaints in their possession written by both national and foreign tourists. Below is a recent article of theirs on the subject.

From "Despertar de la Costa", January 4, 2008:

Exigen turistas a autoridades que frenen contaminación de la bahía

Wastewater on La Ropa Beach between La Perla Restaurant and Las Urracas Bungalows*Entre el restaurante La Perla y bungalows Las Urracas se ha estado vertiendo aguas negras

*CAPAZ no ha hecho nada por solucionar el problema *Turistas que han venido a nuestro binomio de playa por más de 20 años señalan que si se sigue descuidando la bahía, dejará de venir el turismo

Turistas nacionales e internacionales coincidieron en sus denuncias por escrito que nunca antes se habían encontrado con un foco de infección como el que ahora hay en playa La Ropa, por lo que urgieron a las autoridades de los tres órdenes de gobierno a "tomar cartas en el asunto, antes de que el turismo deje de venir a nuestro binomio de playa".

En poder de Despertar de la Costa obran más de 60 quejas por escrito de turistas procedentes del interior del país o del extranjero, quienes denuncian que no es posible que nuestro municipio dependa económicamente del turismo y no se cuide a la bahía a la que se le están vertiendo aguas negras, como consecuencia de un deficiente sistema de drenaje.

Varios de estos turistas señalan que tienen más de 20 años visitando nuestro binomio de playa, prefiriéndolo por su tranquilidad, buen trato de la población, excelente cocina y limpieza "pero en esta ocasión vemos con tristeza que lo de la limpieza está por los suelos, porque en playa La Ropa, la más bonita de la bahía, se están vertiendo aguas negras".

"Estoy muy indignado ya que venimos a Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo desde más de 15 años, pero cada año la limpieza de la playa La Ropa va siendo peor, pero en este año está pésimo porque hay un charco de aguas negras, lo que hace que huela mal toda la playa", señala el turista León Sevilla Cactum, procedente del Distrito Federal.

"Deseando disfrutar de unas vacaciones con nuestros hijos, decidimos venir a este destino de playa, eligiendo La Ropa y el restaurante La Perla, pero nos tocó una de las mesas a un lado del desagüe al aire libre, ocasionando un mal olor y una posible infección a nuestros hijos y a nosotros mismos, por lo que rogamos a las autoridades tomen acción", indica el turista Enrique Robledo, procedente de Querétaro.

La denuncia más emotiva es la de María de Lourdes Ochoa de la Torre, del Distrito Federal, quien manifiesta: "Como visitante de estas playas desde los años 70s he presenciado los cambios normales de un desarrollo turístico. La cantidad de cuartos cerca de la playa, el tipo de servicio en la playa e incluso, la calidad de la carpeta de asfalto, entre otros. Conocí y comí pizza en El Kontiki, bailé en El Chololo que era la discoteca de La Posada Caracol, me divertí en La Tortuga que era un bar de moda sobre la playa La Ropa, esto por hablar de negocios que hace tiempo dejaron de existir físicamente, pero que permanecen en la memoria de muchos.

"De todos los cambios el más sorprendente por escandalizante tiene que ver con la contaminación. Se que entre mi restaurante favorito La Perla y el Hotel Las Urracas pasa un canal de aguas residuales, las cuales corren a cielo abierto y van directamente al mar. Esto afecta en varios niveles y pone en riesgo la salud y bienestar de los visitantes que a cada compra pagamos nuestros impuestos. Además, dudo muchísimo que las personas con restaurantes y hoteles establecidos sean evasores de impuestos; dineros con los que se hace obra pública. Por otro lado, los trabajos y omisiones de las autoridades quedan a la vista y reflejan su ineficiencia e ineficacia, lo cual comprueba que son incompetentes, aunque hay gente que piensa que es corrupción. Claro, una bonita fuente con delfines podría haber esperado a que la planta de tratamiento de aguas residuales quedara lista para cuando aumentara la cantidad de agua a tratar. Cierto que la fuente, el pavimento, la regularización de terrenos corresponde a otras administraciones, por lo que no podemos responsabilizar de esas obras a los actuales funcionarios, pero sí atender los problemas evidentes que hoy saltan a la vista como es el arriba mencionado, porque los visitantes tenemos memoria y nos extraña que con la competencia política entre partidos tan cerrada, los burócratas encargados de dar solución a estas situaciones, ejerzan estrategias dilatorias para atender y arreglar lo que en derecho y por justicia no debiera existir", concluye la turista.