On May 31, Tuesday afternoon a little after 12 o’clock high noon (the meeting was scheduled to start at 11 when – will we gringos ever learn) my self and members of, Independencia de San Carlos, the Comittee Pro Municipio 73 and Guaymas Tu Puerto, met with Jesus Susarrey Osuna, the new Comisario. We spoke for over an hour. It went well at the beginning. Señor Susarrey listened to our comments. He was informed from the beginning of the meeting that we were not interested in simply complaining about how San Carlos is but were really interested in helping San Carlos move forward on issues that everyone in the community agrees are important.
As a resident of San Carlos and business owner, Señor Susarrey owns serveral OXXO’s in San Carlos as well as the small shopping plaza next to Jax Snax where you can find the CEA/water company. He was also on the committee to over see Manlio Fabio Beltrones Boulevard and for several years worked in PROFECO, which could be considered similar to the better business bureau in the United States. Señor Susarrey informed us that he is well aware of the many problems that confront San Carlos. In the meeting he informed us that he was hand picked by Lorenzo Decima who is the new mayor of Guaymas, an important point that we will come back to later. Señor Susarrey told us that the moment that he is disillusioned with Lorenzo he will resign his post. Now just moments after telling us that he also informed us of how disillusioned he was to find out at the last minute that Guaymas gave a permit to the organizers of the recent, just last weekend, San Carlazo off road race/family event/concert on the beach next to the El Conquistador condos on playa San Francisco. He was not informed until the last minute about this event, which he stated clearly was a,
“Fracasado, or in english a failure!”
He as well as many here in San Carlos and everyone in the office at that moment agree that Guaymas uses San Carlos to generate tons of cash in the permitting of these types of events, sees no money from them and then the police and residents of San Carlos are left with tones of trash on the beach and drunk drivers all over town. Right now San Carlos only has three designated Patrol cars. Señor Susarrey lamented that back when Antonio Astiazarán Gutiérrez, was mayor of Guaymas, two and half administrations ago, that San Carlos had 7 patrol cars. Basically last weekend we were told by the Comisario that the police and their 3 measly patrol cars had their hands full trying to handle the 5,000 visitors that came for the weekend. I don’t doubt that at all of course. The Comisario wants to increase the number of Police Patrols back to 7.
We all agreed in the office that more security in San Carlos is a good thing but I am personally conflicted on the simple answer to the security question is that more police will give San Carlos more security. I would prefer to focus on at least two issues in the security question.
- I would like to see security cameras set up in strategic places around town and have some of the cameras be mobile. In other words they can be moved around. Cameras are not that expensive now a days and a picture truly is with a 1000 words.
- Increase the quality of all the Police Patrols in question. Quantity does not necessarily trump quality. And below I will describe a recent, perfect and never ending example of why more police in San Carlos is not necessarily a good thing for San Carlos, especially if the police are not going to be properly administrated and continue to extort tourists.
On Saturday afternoon one of my sailing students from Canada took his English bull dog to the beach for a walk. He was just east of the San Carlazo event site. As he pulled off the beach he was stopped by Guaymas’s finest and informed that he was violating some law by riding his ATV on the beach. His license was taken from him and he was told he would have to go to the comisario and pay the 200 pesos fine to get it back. Yesterday , June 1st I was informed of this and I pleaded with my student to not pay any fine at all and ask them for his license back. I even offered to go over there and talk to the comandante for him. Being a typically nice Canadian he thanked me for the offer and went off to deal with the comandante on his own. This morning I went to see my amiable Canadian buddy and he gave me the skinny on his meeting with the comandante.
Upon arrival at the office he was informed that his infraction would cost a little over 1,000 pesos. Far more than what he was told on the beach, wow there is a big surprise no? When he mentioned that to the comandante or who ever he negotiated with they said ok why don’t you just pay us 600 pesos. My amiable Canadian friend negotiated them down to 400 pesos and he was out the door. I found out about his ticket just yesterday. Less than 24 hours after I spoke with the comisario. Of course the extorted Canadian tourista was not given a written receipt for the so called crime of taking his dog to the beach on his ATV so the commandante’s office just scored another $400 pesos. I have always wondered how they divvied up the bribe money but that is another story for another time.
I explained to our comisario that as far as myself personally was concerned I was only in favor or more police in San Carlos under one condition. The police would stop extorting money from tourists with these bullshit stops that happen all over town. It is common knowledge that when some one commits some kind of moving violation in a vehicle they are often escorted right down the CI Banco automatic teller to pay their fine. I have seen it with my own eyes and I have even taken pictures of it. I have simply never posted those pictures online.
Something I failed to mention in our meeting but is a proven fact of life in Mexican and in San Carlos. The police are often the perpetrators of crime. Especially in San Carlos and especially in summer when many residents leave town. The police are patrolling the hood and they know who is out of town and who is in town. It is a piece of cake for the cops to rob houses themselves or set the house up with someone else. It is a documented fact in San Carlos. Our new comisario remained silent on this issue. The meeting spiraled down hill from there. After our discussion on the police we tacked to the subject of La Maldita CEA or the damn water company. As everyone knows who reads my ranting the water company is about as near and dear to my heart as a bloated tick might be on one of our family’s two rescue dogs.
I think one of the greatest crimes against nature here in San Carlos is not so much all the trash that is left on our beaches and in our desert canyons, but the fact that the water company looses 65% of the fresh water it pumps through the antiquated infrastructure in an area that receives only around 14 inches of rainfall a year.
We informed the comisario, as he well knows, that most foreign residents have no problem paying 5 times more for water in San Carlos than what Guaymas pays. But lets face it, drive around Los Ranchitos and you will see that for many of our less affluent residents 350 pesos a month for water can be a huge burden upon families who are minimum wage earners. Especially when the economically down trodden in Guaymas only pay 80 pesos a month for the same water. The other issue in Los Ranchitos is how the water company has hired a private business to cut the water supply to low income families who have been delinquent on their payments.
We asked Señor Susarrey if he would help us out on these water issues which would cost the comisario’s office absolutely no money, only some political will and a bit of empathy . We all know money is always tight in San Carlos because San Carlos only receives around 8 million pesos a year as it’s annual budget back from the 100 million pesos a year it pays in taxes. Señor Susarrey was happy to inform us at multiple times during the meeting that since San Carlos has no money there is very little he can do for San Carols. Well this an attitude that is completely disingenuous as far at the water issue goes. It takes no money what so ever to write a few letters to the governor and support a grass roots movement of people in a town that he is supposed to be representing. He refused to do anything regarding the water and didn’t seem to care at all that the 40 year old water pipes that constantly fail and leak 65% of our fresh water into the desert was even an issue that deserved attention. I have to say that we were all a bit dumbfounded by that attitude. Bottom line is Señor Susarrey doesn’t give a shit about poor people in San Carlos who are having a hard time paying their over inflated water bills or how much water leaks out of our crappy infrastructure. And of course why should he. He is not an elected official, remember he was appointed. We will get back to that soon because it is a very important part of this story.
When I walked in to the comisarios office for this meeting the first thing that struck me was the fact that there were two secretaries desks and two secretaries. The normal secretaries desk was in its normal spot but in front of that desk there was another. This was the personal secretary of Señor Susarrey. Which would seem to state that he is handling his personal business out of the comisario’s office. The one thing that Señor Susarrey was adamant about was that he was going to increase the number of patrols in San Carlos. What is interesting is the question of how was he going to do this if there was no money left in the 8 million peso’s San Carlos has already been budgeted for. The way the comisiaro wants to funds new patrols is really interesting actually and I have been having conversations with some of my friends up on the Caracol on just this subject recently (you know who you are) and it all comes down to unpaid property taxes.
Listen up gringos because this is how Mexican business men do things in regards to property taxes.
We all know that the municipality of Guaymas gets all the property tax dinero San Carlos pays. It is a rather large percentage of the total Guaymas budget. What is not so well known is that Mexican land owners will often purposely not pay their property taxes. They do this because they understand Mexican law. I was recently told by local political activist Victor Parra Maldonado, who was at the meeting, that legally the municipality cannot charge more than 5 years for back taxes owed on property at any one time. Think about that. You can purchase a property and if you hold it for more than 5 years you can only be legally obliged to pay the first 5 years you owe. On your next payment you can then catch up if you want or start to let it lapse again or if you understand the system and have some friends in the city here is what you do! Everything is negotiable in Mexico and here is what business men do when the time has come to write a check to government. Wealthy land owners are purposely not paying land taxes because the real estate market is down. As the market improves and it gets closer for the land owner to either sell the property or develop it he will need to pay his property taxes to get the permitting. The time for negotiation has arrived. Land owners then approach the municipality and negotiate a deal on owed back taxes. In other words now they are willing to negotiate to pay their back property taxes in cash if the city is willing to give them a discount. For a city like Guaymas that is seriously strapped for dinero because the last mayor left it not only broke but 700 million pesos in debt, you bet the city is willing to negotiate. Something is way better than nothing! Now if the business man is smart he will make sure that in this agreement that once he pays, then all of his property taxes are up to date. He could owe 10 years of property taxes and end up paying for just 5 years or less or who knows since nothing is done in a transparent manner here. It is all up for negotiation! This is were Señor Susarrey told us he is going to get the money for new patrols. He essentially told us that he will negotiate a “convenio” or an agreement with Lorenzo Decima the Guaymas Mayor for someone who owes back property taxes. He of course would not tell us who he was going to get to pay their back property taxes but he did say that he thought he could find 1.5 million pesos in back property taxes owed to the city and if the city agreed to put that money into more patrols for San Carlos he would try to make it happen.
Now what comes to my mind is who is gonna pay this back property tax and how much back property tax do they owe? Is it the Comisario himself? Is he using his post as comisario to benefit his own personal finances or is it a good friend of his who he is going to do business with. Could there be a huge conflict of interest going on here? As usual I generate more questions than the city of Guaymas would be willing to answer from this.
Would it be more important to have more police patrols or should San Carlos spend more money on our failing water infrastructure? Any body else got any ideas on what San Carlos needs? Well guess what? The new mayor of Guaymas and the new comisario of San Carlos don’t give a shit about any of your ideas on how to improve this town. What is clear is that the residents of San Carlos are left out of the loop of any meaningful debate on any subject of how their tax money should be used to improve the community.
Remember earlier in this article I mentioned that Señor Susarrey told us he was personally chosen by Lorenzo Decima to be the comisario. Well guess what? The Mayor of Guaymas does not have that kind of authority. He can not simply name who the comisario of San Carlos is going to be. The comisario by law is to be chosen from a list of candidates who meet an established criteria. And one of the most important requirements on this list is what is called a “Proyecto de Trabajo”. A Proyecto de Trabajo is basically a proposal on what kind of new projects and new ideas a comisario would work on to implement in the community. Not only is there a “Proyecto de Trabajo” but there is a budget that the candidate submits along with the project or plan. This is actually the major part of the requirements that any prospective candidate for comisario must have to even be considered for the position. Not only must the candidate for comisario put forth this “Proyecto de Trabjo”, he must also be voted into office by the cabildo, or city council and the city council is supposed to vote on at least three candidates. We did ask the comisario if he put forth a “Proyecto de Trabajo” and it took a few moments to get him to answer. This was actually probably one of the contentious moments of the whole meeting. After trying to dodge the question Andres Gonzales from Independencia de San Carlos just kept hounding Sussarey for an answer. In a high clearly agitated voice these were pretty close to his exact words,
No lo tengo por qué no lo ocupo!
The meeting at this point got a bit more confrontational and so someone, I think it was Victor Parra Maldonado from Guaymas Tu Puerto, asked Sussarey how much money he made as comisario. Believe it or not Sussarey answered that he didn’t know how much he, the comisiario made. He told us he thought it was between 18,000 and 20,000 pesos a month.
But here is the zinger. He said he is doing this for free, he is not charging the city for his services as comisario. Now officially on the books the comisario is paid according to the budget of San Carlos 13,478 pesos a month. Honestly I can’t believe based on our conversation that the comsisario is so altruistic in nature. He already told us he didn’t care about loosing 65% of our water leaking from antiquated infrastructure or helping poor people pay their excessively high water bills yet he is willing to be the comisiario for free? I am sorry, I don’t believe it and when something smells like bull shit it usually is. I believe the comisario is there for a reason that can not be explained by altruism. Sussarey is there not for selflessness. He is their for the influence and leverage his position carries as a business man in San Carlos. That in itself is worth way more than the measly 13,478 pesos a month salary. This whole situation has the stench of quid pro quo written all over it!
To the best of my knowledge San Carlos, since its inception, has never had a comisario who was not hand picked by the mayor. In Spanish that is called a “dedazo”. Dedo in Spanish means finger. And when someone is a “dedazo-ed” what this means is that he has been selected, fingered if you will, by who ever is in power to fill a political position. Think back on how for 70 years one political party, PRI to be exact, was allowed to choose who would be the next president of Mexico. Of course they always choose their own PRI candidate and it was not until Vicente Fox in the Mexican presidential election of 2000 finally broke the back of the “dedazo” and won the presidency of Mexico for the PAN party and ushered in a new Mexico that was more “democratic”.
Señor Susarrey is nothing more than just another “dedazo” in a long list of “dedazo’s” and he might just be the last one ever to be the comisario of San Carlos, and here is why. In Title Two of Chapter One and then Article 39 the Mexican constitution states , that the power of any town lies within the people and the people can change their form of government when ever they choose. All three of the Mexican citizens who were in that meeting with Señor Susarrey are all of the opinion that it is time to change the man that is supposed to be representing all of the people of San Carlos, not just the 1%. Considering that this comisario is nothing more than another “dedazo” and was illegitimately chosen in a manor that is not consistent with the legal process it seems there will be an experiment in Mexican civics coming to San Carlos very soon. If local activists mobilize a sufficient number of people here in San Carlos there might just be a Chubasco brewing on the horizon, after all it is summer time, global temperatures are rising and hurricane season is officially upon us.