Monday, January 29, 2007

Playas de Rosarito, Baja California: Corruption driving away investments

A lady from San Diego, along with her two daughters, was in Playas de Rosarito to finalize the purchase of a $350,000 condominium. They were stopped in their car by a "Preventive Police" officer for some traffic infraction. He demanded 63 dollars in cash and said he couldn't give them a receipt because he "didn't have the proper forms with him."

The lady had some guts. She forked over the money and then proceeded to the meeting with the real estate agents, property owner/seller, the lawyers and the Notary Public. According to a local Chamber of Commerce official who was present,
"She told me she would not live in a place where the police, whose duty it was to serve and protect, were instead doing the stealing."
Hugo Torres Chabert, president of the Consejo Coordinador Empresarial de Playas de Rosarito, lamented that "They demanded 63 dollars and that canceled a 350,000 dollar transaction."

Torres told Reforma that the corruption is not only slowing foreign investment, it's driving it away. He said that in the past year alone, 12 investers, principally real estate developers, told him they were leaving the city due to the lack of security. The city has 150 Municipal Police officers for 160,000 residents, the same number of cops it had when it was disjoined from Tijuana and given its own municipal government 9 years ago.

Jesús Alfredo Pérez, director of Seguridad Pública Municipal de Playas de Rosarito since November 22 of last year when two former officials were removed from their offices over corruption, said that he is aware that there are some bad elements in the police force. He admits that the city's lack of rules and procedures for police hiring, a police training facility and reliable controls have all contributed to an influx of undesireables into the police force.
"Yes, we recognize that there are probably some bad elements but we are in the process of evaluation (of individual officers, I presume) so that the person who has no business being here, it would be better that he leave."
Well that's certainly a strong statement. What that tells the bad guys is that they've got at least 5 years, probably more, to continue operating with impunity before the city will be in any position to do anything about it.

To give Pérez the benefit of the doubt, he may be the most honest cop to occupy the director's position in the whole 9 year history of Playas de Rosarito. And he has inherited a nightmare. And he probably has no money with which to work. This in spite of 220 million dollars in land and property sales in 2006. That kind of money should have generated a lot of income for the city, both from the transactions as well as the resultant construction, developement and arrival of inhabitants.

But in Playas de Rosarito as well as in the rest of Mexico, bribes to government officials, black market businesses and off the books transactions rob the municipalities (i.e., the people) of desperately needed funds for municipal and social services.

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