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October 18, 2003
Three Americans Jailed in Bizarre Mexican Land Dispute

This story underscores the difficulty in doing business with Mexico, a country that has never fully respected private property rights and whose law enforcement efforts have always been a bit questionable:

Three U.S. citizens, including a man dying of cancer, have been jailed here and face up to 14 years in prison in a land dispute involving a member of President Vicente Fox's cabinet. ... Ames and his wife lived together on the land until Jean Ames died in 2000 at age 92. Then, in May of this year, Ames was served with an eviction notice by the university, giving him nine days to vacate the property and ordering him to pay nearly $40,000 in back rent -- $1,000 a month since the death of his wife. Ames said he was stunned and angry.

In this case, a 92-year-old widower has been ordered off of his land by the Mexican government due to some sophistry by officials who claim that his wife was the only one entitled to a lifetime residence by the terms of the couple's grant to the school that now owns the land. The Ames' granted the land to the government-run school in order to guarantee themselves and their caretakers security for their lifetimes. The Mexican propensity for nationalizing private property creates an extortionate pressure for people like the Ames and their caretakers to enter into deals like that. Other Americans have not been so fortunate in their dealings with Mexico regarding private property:

The case is one of a number of land disputes involving Americans who live or own property in Mexico. Earlier this year an American couple was forced off land they owned in the southern state of Chiapas by local residents wielding machetes. Three years ago scores of U.S. citizens lost millions of dollars in investments when they were evicted from oceanfront homes they bought in Ensenada in the western state of Baja California. U.S. officials at the time blamed the losses on a lack of consistency and transparency in Mexican property laws. At least half a dozen more major disputes are pending over property owned by Americans along the Caribbean coast.

The Mexican economy, which has caused such hardship and poverty for its own citizens and a host of economic and social problems for states in the American Southwest, will never improve until the Mexicans stop confiscating private property and nationalizing industries. No one will invest money in Mexico while the government maintains the Castro-like ability to wipe out ownership at whim. Make no mistake: liberty starts with private property rights, and this is a good example of why. Three Americans are in jail on trumped-up charges simply because the government had the ability to confiscate the property at whim. That this isn't front-page news in the US speaks volumes about our traditional media; it focuses on John Ashcroft as the root of all oppression and misses real oppression on our doorstep almost completely.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 18, 2003 1:09 PM

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