Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Excuse me, but, uh, we don't do that here.

Mexican immigrants in Chicago felt right at home when a bank employee was charged by the FBI with embezzeling $360,000 from their accounts. Estela Ramos would befriend the immigrants, many of whom spoke little or no English, and induce them to buy Certificates of Deposits from the bank. She would then skim off what will turn out to be millions of dollars. Hey, that's just like they do it everyday in old Mexico.

The big difference here is that she is going to prison and the bank is reimbursing all losses. This would never, and I mean NEVER happen in Mexico. In fact, U.S. Bank of Highwood, headquartered in Cincinnati, OH, fired her on November 11 and has already reimbursed some $1.4 million. This is in spite of the fact that the FBI has charged her with stealing much less. And the losses are continuing to mount as more people come forward looking for their money.

Ramos issued a written statement admitting her perfidy:
" ... I misappropriated funds from customers' accounts to help out in my community," she said in a written statement quoted in the lawsuit. "I know that everything I did was wrong but I did not know any other way of helping people."
She . . . opened a women's clothing store named for herself across the street from the bank and co-founded a Lake County Latino advocacy group. She was known for throwing parties often open to the community to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, the Day of the Dead or her birthday.
This type of corruption is an everyday occurrence in Mexico. Often, when a small timer like Ramos is involved, the perp will be caught and sent to jail but the money is gone forever. If, or rather when the corruption goes high up among the political elite, no one goes to jail and the money is never reimbursed, also too.

Now, there is this story about the Mexican Braceros who are beginning to get some money back that has been owed them by the Mexican government for 50 years or so. That is, the Braceros who are still alive. The Braceros were temporary migrant workers brought into the US during WWII to help handle the labor shortages brought on by all our able bodied men in uniform. The feds (ours) insisted that a portion of the Braceros' wages be withheld for social security. The feds (their's) thought that was a wonderful idea and started licking their chops. Since the Braceros were to be repatriated after the war, that money (10% of their total earnings) was entrusted to the Mexican government to be administered. Har, har, har. It disappeared, like, POOF! In fact, the Mexican government failed to even inform the Braceros that any such money had been withheld.

When this came out just a few years ago, the remaining Braceros, some born before 1930, went to the government (their's) demanding their money. The government said, "Money? We don't has to gib you no stinkink money." The Mexican government at first claimed ignorance of any such arrangement, then, after some rude reminders from the government (ours), said that a careful search had found no record of any money ever transferred from the US to Mexico. "Go see the Gringos and get your stinkink money," said the Fox government. Someone in the government (ours) must have sighed deeply and than sent on to Mexico City a record of every transfer of every dollar for every Bracero with dates, times, amounts and who signed for the money on the Mexican side. We tend not to misplace documents regarding international treaties involving millions of 1945 dollars.

Additionally, the government (their's) now estimates 5,000 Braceros went to the United States to work under the agreement, which formally ended only in 1964. The government (ours) says it was 5,000,000. A slight difference of only 100,000 percent (%). However, if the government (their's) can't seem to find any records, they have little argument with the 5 million number.

Ordinarily, that would have been the end of it for the Braceros. Tough luck, muchachos. But, because the United States had negotiated this agreement on behalf of the Braceros, gone to the trouble to collect the money and then the time and expense to carefully transfer every stinkink penny to the Mexican government, and this was an international agreement signed by the Mexican Commisioners E. Hidalgo, acting as representative of the Foreign Office and Abraham J. Navas, acting as representative of the Department of Labor and Social Provision and American Commissioners John O. Walker, Assistant Administrator Farm Security Administration (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and David Meeker, Assistant Director Office of Agricultural War Relations (U. S. Department of Agriculture), the government (ours) insisted that action be taken. To avoid any more embarrassment, the Fox government agreed to pay.

And so they are - more or less.


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