A retired dentist from Fort Worth, Texas, Kenneth Karger fell in love with Mexico two decades ago, as did his family. Here, in a first-person article addressed in part to Mexico herself, and republished with permission from the MexicoNewsDaily.com website, where it first appeared, Dr. Karger explains how he finally realized it was time to go.
As he explains, at a certain point, you realize you've had enough with invasions of your property by thugs, cartel impunity, untrustworthy banks and incompetence at the top – no matter how gorgeous the countryside, or amazing the people who live there are...
I am ending a 20-year relationship with Mexico and that is very sad for me. It’s kind of like the end of a marriage. At some point, the relationship turns so sour that one of the parties has to leave. In this case, it is me.
What makes this even more sad is the fact that I love Mexico. I love its natural beauty, from the desert, to the mountains to the pristine beaches. My family has loved it all.
But most importantly, we have loved the Mexican people. Our relationships are more like family than even friends. I have personally invested millions of dollars in your country.
But I give up. Your government clearly does not want me any longer.
I want to make it clear that I am not here to lecture Mexico. I am not here to tell it what to do, or how to do it. It is simply not my place to do so.
I am only letting Mexico know why our relationship failed and maybe, if it so desires, not to have so many future failures.
Let me share with you my story.
In the beginning...
Two decades ago, my brother and his wife bought a beautiful property in San Miguel de Allende – a beautiful, colonial-era city much-loved in recent years by American and Canadian retirees – and established roots. Deep roots. He built a beautiful home, two casitas, hired full-time staff whom he considers family, and started giving back to his community.
He, and particularly his wife Kelly, started a dog rescue program for all the starving street dogs around town. They have rescued hundreds of animals from starvation and abuse, and set up a spay neuter program second to none. Why? It’s part of what our mother taught us: give back to your community. This is part of our DNA.
While all of this was happening in San Miguel, I went to work in Quintana Roo, a Mexican state on the Yucatán Peninsula, overlooking the Caribbean. I bought a derelict house on the ocean in Puerto Aventuras, and put 10 million pesos into it to restore it to glory.
I also bought beach property around Mahahual, 20 hectares on Lake Bacalar, and a 2,000-hectare ranch that had been abandoned near Chetumal.
We then went to work.
We hired seven full-time employees to work the ranch in addition to protecting it from poachers. (Among the species we protect are deer, tapirs, jaguar and puma.)
There is a 500-hectare lake on the ranch as well, where, when we arrived, poachers were gill-netting with 100-meter nets, and destroying the fishery for generations to come.
We stopped all of that from happening. Birds have now returned, and fish now abound. We gave back to nature and the community.
Our workers, who come and go each day, are well paid, and fed breakfast and lunch. Our foreman lives full-time in a house we built for him and his lovely family.
They all get health insurance; and he gets a truck to drive, free gas, free food, a free cell phone, and free access to the Internet.
Basically, everything is paid for, and he gets to use his salary as discretionary income.
It’s a great deal for him, but it also works great for us. It is a true win-win for all of us.
How we were treated
And how have I been treated, in exchange for all that we have done? Not well.
My ranch has been invaded twice. Once with 10 men and guns, who threatened to kill all the workers if they did not leave immediately. (We called the police. What did they do? Nothing. Nothing at all.)
It took one year and more than 2 million pesos (US$90,000) to correct the wrong, and get my ranch back from the thugs.
(Why would your system treat honest people like this? It is truly beyond me...)
I have another property that I am currently fighting to preserve from an invasion, and have been doing so for more than three years. Sure, I've won the battles in court so far, but the would-be invaders are still on my property, and I've spent over 200,000 pesos (US$9,000) on lawyers.
Will I win? Yes. But I have no desire to keep fighting this battle.
Mexico requires me to keep spending money simply to hold on to those things that I have already bought and legally paid for.
Does this seem insane only to me?
And it's not just me who has had these issues. My brother, in San Miguel, was attempting to return home from a drive to Puerto Vallarta, where he has a beachfront lot. On his way home, he was stopped at a cartel roadblock, and robbed.
When they attempted to steal his vehicle also, he did a high speed escape – past a burning bus – back to Puerto. He and his wife then had to fly home, and have a driver get his vehicle back home for him.
In what universe does this make sense?
And it gets worse. My neighbor Jacob, who owns a nearby ranch, was in Tamaulipas two years ago, buying some cattle from local ranchers who were fleeing from the cartel.
These poor ranchers had lost everything, and were simply trying to sell what they could and escape – leaving their homes, ranches and other possessions behind.
While my friend Jacob was there, word came that another cattle buyer on the adjoining ranch had been kidnapped, and they were possibly coming for Jacob. He immediately fled, and went back to Quintana Roo.
The cartel problem
One of the problems, as I'm not the first to point out, is that Mexico has turned over entire states to the cartel – or cartels, as there are a few of them. Like an enemy army within the country's own borders, these cartels control vast areas of the country, and are also responsible, media reports say, for political corruption, assassinations and kidnappings, as they battle one another for territory, influence and control of the illegal drug trade.
If I told someone that I could not drive from Texas to Mississippi because Louisiana had been taken over by criminals, they would look at me as if I had two heads. The U.S. would never allow criminals to take over a highway, let alone an entire state.
If a cartel were to attempt to set up a roadblock on a highway in the U.S., a SWAT team would be at the scene in an hour, maybe less.
But here in Mexico, Jacob’s sister and her son were killed, along with many more recently in northern Mexico, by cartel gunmen. Murdered — no, not murdered, more like slaughtered — without cause. And so far, at least, very little has been done to address this crime.
Because President López Obrador’s philosophy of hugs, rather than guns, it seems, is prevailing.
Which, to the average American, sounds pretty insane. "We are to hug murdering thugs instead of shooting them?!" your average American would say.
Me too. I'd far sooner send them to hell straightaway, never mind hugging them.
The last straw
For me, the straw that finally broke the camel’s back came last year, when a Mexican bank known as Monex Grupo Financiero stole more than 20 million pesos (US$900,000) from our accounts. We had money in the account one month, and the next month, bank employees had stolen every peso.
Many newspapers and TV networks reported that 158 accounts and nearly 800 million pesos had been robbed from the accounts of Americans and other foreigners. For many of these people, it was their life savings.
Did bank officials from Monex get arrested and prosecuted? No, they did not. Has Monex replaced the stolen money in full to those depositors?
No, for the most part they have not. In fact, my brother and I have yet to receive one peso of the money stolen from us by the bank.
Sure, we have filed criminal charges and civil actions, but it might be many years before the Mexican government forces Monex to reimburse our funds.
We even hand-delivered a letter to President Obrador himself, begging for help. Nothing happened.
A low level bureaucrat called us and explained that he'd been handed the complaint from a superior but that it really wasn’t in his jurisdiction, and he had no idea why it had been given to him. He promptly did nothing.
This is why I fear President Obrador is worse than corrupt; he is incompetent. (For more details on this matter, check out our website, BancoMonexFraud.com.)
'Incompentent rather than corrupt'
Mexico deserves better than it is getting. I had great hopes for López Obrador, after Peña Nieto, his predecessor, proved to be pretty much a failure.
I remember that after Obrador won the election, and I expressed my high hopes for him to my Mexican friends, they almost all universally shrugged their shoulders and said, “We shall see. We have been promised all of this before.” Their attitude reminded me of a Robert Earl Keene song that goes like this: “The road goes on forever and the party never ends.”
Except that here, we have to change the lyrics to “The road goes on forever and the corruption never ends.”
That said, my personal opinion is that Obrador isn't really corrupt: I think he, and his office, are simply incompetent.
My brother, meanwhile, who is a lawyer by trade, talks about the difference between a First World country versus a Third World country, and says people are wrong to see the distinction as being simply about whether a country is rich or poor.
As he sees it, the difference between a First World and a Third World country has to do with the rule of law – and more specifically, the honoring of contracts, and enforcement of them. (Once the rule of law is in place, the wealth normally follows.)
And are contracts honored in Mexico? Not in the least, sadly, in my experience.
Property rights are destroyed by invasions, like the one I described above, that can take years to resolve. Meanwhile, the sanctity of bank accounts and the security of those deposits, as the Monex fiasco shows, mean nothing in Mexico.
Even notaries and public registries falsify property sales, and say no liens exist, when in fact they do. Buyers typically only find out after their purchase has gone through.
'We really believed
Mexico was changing'
When we came here 20 years ago, we really believed Mexico was changing. New automobile manufacturing plants; more hotels, more jobs, and a true middle class starting to arise. We had hope, and I think the Mexican people had hope then, too.
But in the last five years we have witnessed the rise of the cartels, the stealing of oil, cattle, avocados, and anything else available; the rise of violence to unprecedented levels; and the failure of the Mexican government to actually change anything.
The only thing that changed was the slogan: "hugs not guns". This is true insanity on a national level.
I wish I could say that I left Mexico in better shape than I found it. For my properties, this is true. But for Mexico in general, it is not.
I wish I could effect change but I can’t. I don’t get to vote; I don’t get to express an opinion to politicians or government workers; no one, in short, really cares what I think, or have to say.
The only way to express what I feel, therefore, is with my feet, and with them I am now choosing to leave.
As I do so, I hope and pray that Mexico finds its way out of the pit it has dug itself into. The Mexican people deserve so much better than what they're getting. They deserve hope, justice, fairness, and honesty.
But right now, they are getting none of these.
Kenneth Karger has now returned to Fort Worth, Texas, with his family, although has noted above, he continues to have financial interests in Mexico. This story, which has been abridged and edited slightly, originally ran in MexicoNewsDaily.com, where it may be viewed by clicking here.