Saturday, October 19, 2013

Horns of An Old Dilemma

Once again for us, the fall season in our putative Mexican paradise has opened with a gaudy episode of criminal violence that again has us recalibrating our risk tolerance.

Shortly after midnight Thursday, a couple of lawyers from suburban Guadalajara who came to town in that harmless looking white VW beetle above were cornered and slain in a manner that had all the hallmarks of a cartel assassination.

A third guy was with them, a neighbor and colleague who sounded as if he might have been a paralegal of some sort. He was still alive but badly wounded. They all worked for a notario in Guadalajara, according to Spanish language news accounts.

A notario in Mexico is much more than a notary public in the U.S., a person or firm with authority to provide essential help in completing real estate transactions, preparing, certifying and recording formal documents, and providing other quasi-legal services.

When police arrived at the grisly scene, they found briefcases containing documents indicating that the lawyers planned to serve an eviction notice and take possession of a hotel. They reportedly had tried to do it earlier Thursday but nobody answered their knock. If I understand correctly, they planned to return with a state police escort on Friday.

Along with the blood-spattered eviction papers there was Mexican currency totaling about $80,000, and more documents related to ownership changes on several other smaller properties. The money was said to be intended for making deposits on those transfers.

Either reporters or police, I couldn't decipher which, interviewed witnesses who said the VW was boxed in by two pickup trucks. Men in the truck beds armed with automatic rifles then pumped more than 40 rounds into the lawyers' car before fleeing.

Our property manager has an office and apartment not far from the carnage and heard the shooting. No dummy, he knew immediately what it was and stayed inside away from his windows.

We heard nothing, no surprise since we're a half mile from where it happened. And anyway, the nights down here still swelter so we sleep under noisy air conditioning. Earlier in the week there was a small earthquake in the area, and we missed that too.

But of course, as I've said before, lack of situational awareness is a crucial part of the expat lifestyle down here, aided where necessary by willful ignorance. The only English language news published locally concerns charity galas, restaurant openings and the doings of the widely admired gay mens chorus. Nobody complains.

When something as disturbing as a mob hose-down penetrates the collective gringo consciousness, denial antibodies are quickly deployed. In the current case, we soon saw Canadian bloggers dilating about a similar incident near Calgary. Coulda happened anywhere, eh?

The all-purpose incantation: (1) Bad people do bad things everywhere, and even if they didn't (2) the narcos only go after their business rivals or the cops, so (3) if you mind your own business, you are as safe in Mexico as you'd be back home, wherever that may be.

There. Just writing it makes me feel better.

What stake, if any, the local cartel might have had in a seedy hotel and some rundown housing remains a mystery. I plan to continue scrutinizing and decoding the follow-up coverage.

In the meantime, I've acquired some new Spanish slang, "Cuernos de Chivo." The phrase translates literally as "goat horns," but in this context it's the street name for the weapons that did this dirty work, the ever-popular and ever-available AK-47.

As I like to respond in my light-hearted way whenever a helpful national corrects my grammar, "Cada dia, una leccion de espaƱol."

Every day a Spanish lesson.

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