Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Extortion Contortion

We've mentioned before that Querétaro has no law against the trafficking of people for sexual or labor exploitation. And we're cool with that - presumably the pro-child labor/sexual slavery lobby has a really good argument that we can't understand because we're not from here. (Also, given what we underpay the interns, there's no need to go hurling stones around our glass offices, right?) But sometimes shit here makes our heads explode.

One of the local rags has a story about the rise in pet kidnappings here - noting the increasing number of "missing dog" flyers around town. Long story short, people steal dogs, wait for the "missing dog" flyer to go up, then call the number and say, "I've found your dog! But about that 500 peso reward...let's make it 50,000." It's a nice little scam (sometimes they don't even have the dog). It's also - this is the crazy-making part - not especially illegal.

The 'kidnapping' of dogs is not covered by law, so it's treated as simple theft, which is hard to prove before a judge if the robber is not caught in the act.

Furthermore, to prove a robbery, the owner has to prove ownership of the object, which is extremely difficult, since the pets generally do not come with invoices, and most are gifts.

According to Rep. Luis Antonio Macías Trejo, who chairs the Committee on Administration and Law Enforcement, "the crime of kidnapping is only applied to people and deals with deprivation of liberty. Remember that pets are obviously not considered persons but things."

These two things have a combined value of $612.  Stealing either is not a serious crime.

Okay, we'll reserve taking umbrage on the perrito's behalf and concede that this is true in the US as well, where pet-nappers are treated as thieves. Laws vary from state to state there, but generally if the dog is worth over $500, it's considered grand larceny, punishable by up to a decade in the slammer.

But in Querétaro, according to Rep. Macías, if the value of the dog doesn't exceed about 32,000 pesos ("600 times the minimum wage," is the weird way the courts phrase these things) - or roughly $2,675! -  the thief can post bail and walk. Given that the perrito - who came with AKC pedigree papers and was purchased in tony Kennebunkport, Maine - cost a mere 600 bucks, we can't imagine there are too many $2,676 house pets here in Querétaro.

So, fine, dogs can't be "kidnapped" and theft is hard to prove, but surely someone who has an object belonging to you and who will only return it to you upon payment of an exorbitant amount of cash is guilty of extortion, no?

Macías stated that it is also not a crime of extortion, because this, too, has to do with acts between people and relating to people.

"It's not extortion. It is theft.... Extortion means forcing someone to do, tolerate, or fail to do something to his detriment or to that of a third party, but we're talking about people."

Umm...seriously? Can we respectfully suggest to the learned gentleman that there are in fact, two people involved: the extortionist and the dog-owner? That forcing a guy to cough up 50,000 pesos to get back a piece of his property worth (in non-sentimental terms) considerably less constitutes "forcing someone to do something to his detriment"?

Anyway, later today we're taking the perrito's bill of sale down to the same guy who made our fake FM3s and having him change the price to 100,000 US dollars. Also, we'd like to remind any potential dognappers out there that there are significant loopholes in the laws regarding sexual slavery here, and we will not hesitate to stage a retaliatory abduction and sell you to the local pimps for considerably less than 600 salario minimos.


Anonymous said...

Priceless!!!I am at this very moment undecided whether to laugh or cry.

Anonymous said...

Concur with Anonymous, feel like I should cry but instead laughed my ass off and shared it.

Burro Hall said...

So that's one vote in favor of laughter.

e.l. hicks said...

Wow, great read. Maybe the extortionist doing nothing illegal should spend some time locked up with some previously ransomed "things"

bob cox said...

It was noticed around the town of Atlixco, Puebla that dogs started "disappearing" shortly after the arrival of Kuk Dong International a Korean T shirt Company. Not only putting the dog catcher out of business but causing great distress to little children who missed their pets... we think...the children never fed their pets or picked up dog poop so there is some doubts as to whether there was any love lost. At any rate the dogs disappeared permanently, no ransom notes...nothing just a bunch of satisfied looking Koreans lazing around the golf course.
One of the Koreans was heard to say that yellow dogs were the tastiest, black dogs less so... discrimination !!!

Burro Hall said...

[stares uncomfortably at the ground...]