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.

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