Good or Bad for the Jews

"Good or Bad for the Jews"

Many years ago, and for many years, I would travel to Morocco to visit uncles, cousins, and my paternal grandmother. Some lived in Tangiers;...

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Reminisce: Grand Theft Auto Murder

Still not feeling great. I have no appetite for reading or commenting too much on all the appalling news, including "our" Commander-in-Chief's appalling half-baked announcement of "his" going to half-baked sort-of "war" in Iraq. My stomach churns when I hear him talk about sending our folks into harm's way. He so obviously does not believe his own words that it makes me want to scream. The new Islamist horror in Iraq is on him; he built that.

So, instead of dealing with all that mess, I will tell a little tale of which my wife (the Camaro driver) reminded me. It has to do with our time in the wonderful, strikingly beautiful, and often violent country of Guatemala.

When we lived in Guatemala in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was a country still grappling with a thirty-year communist insurgency that had been backed by the Soviet Union, Cuba, Mexico, and later Sandinista Nicaragua. By the time we got to Guatemala, the insurgency--the URNG--was in its death-throes but it was hard to tell. It was like a mortally wounded gator thrashing its powerful tail and snapping its jaws: it was dying but still looked pretty dangerous. The Soviets were preoccupied with the impending collapse of their empire in the "Near Abroad"; Cuba was running out of money for foreign adventures; and Mexico was tiring of the rebellion--which eventually turned around and bit Mexico--and sought a NAFTA deal with the US. The Sandinistas did not have much to give, either, as they had their own serious internal problems. The guerrillas, however, continued to draw support from North American and European "human rights" activists and church groups. The Guatemalan military had proven successful at defeating the insurgency; cut off from significant assistance from the outside, they had developed their own doctrine and tactics--often brutal, but effective. The Guatemalan Army was one tough outfit; along with the Colombian and Sri Lankan militaries it had to be one of the most combat experienced militaries in the world. Every officer from lieutenant to general was a combat vet.

The poor campesinos were caught in the middle of this war. They hated and feared their "liberators" in the URNG. They hated and feared their "protectors" in the military. They wanted to be left alone. No such luck: libertarianism was not the ruling philosophy on either side.

Aside from the war and the politically motivated violence, Guatemala had an extremely high ordinary crime rate. Murders, kidnappings, robberies, the vast majority non-political in nature, were very common. I don't know what the situation is now in Guatemala City, but when we were there easily two-thirds of all the cars and trucks on the road had been stolen, principally in Texas, and were carrying around false papers, switched plates, and even homemade tags. There was, for example, a Ferrari for sale on a car lot that we suspected had been stolen in the US. It still had Texas plates. When we ran those plates, they came back belonging to some sort of farm machinery.

Numerous car import brokers had offices in Guatemala City. One could go to one of these and order a car, "I want a late model blue 4x4 Toyota with under 20,000 miles and a good roof rack." They would take a deposit, and transmit the "order" to Central American and Mexican gangs mostly in Texas but also in California who would go "shopping" for the car. Most of the time they would boost it off the street or a parking lot, and make for the Mexican border as fast as possible before the car was reported missing. The more sophisticated gangsters, however, would approach the owner, especially on high-end cars, and offer a sum of money to delay reporting the car's theft. The crooked owner would take the money and then, of course, eventually would get reimbursed by his insurance after the theft got reported several days later. There was, of course, violence implied throughout the deal. In Mexico, paid off officials and well-organized smugglers would get the cars down to Central America.

OK, the scene is set. I don't want to make this too long.

At that time, US Embassy employees had to find their own residences in Guatemala. The Embassy provided a monthly stipend for rent, some guidelines on what houses we could and could not rent, and off we went into the local market. Since my wife and I spoke fluent Spanish, we did not rely on the usual crowd of realtors that hung around the diplomatic corps. We found a spectacular house in, admittedly, one of the rougher neighborhoods. The house had huge walls topped with concertina wire, a beautiful courtyard, a wood-panelled "pub" with a large hart's head on one wall and a magnificent bar. It even had a "discotheque" with a mirror ball and a modern sound system built in.  We convinced the Embassy security officer to OK the rental, and there we were.

The house belonged to a wealthy Lebanese family who lived in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Lebanon. They owned properties in all three countries and ran an ill-defined "export-import" business that would probably not have withstood too much scrutiny. We dealt mostly with the elderly grandmother but upon her death, we were told to deal with one of her grandchildren, Francis. From the beginning, I found Francis, in his late twenties, a bit odd. Even after we were living in the house, he, often drunk or high, would show up unannounced "to check on things." Showing up unannounced in a yard in Guatemala at night--he had the gate key--is a good way to get yourself shot. I came very close on one occasion to putting a .45 slug into his drunken body. I complained to his father about these visits, but he did nothing. I had the locks changed and told the guards that Francis was not to have access.

Francis liked money. He wanted to make his own. He got himself involved with a car theft ring run by some crooked military officers operating out of the Presidency. As we later found out, ol' Fran, who spoke French, Arabic, and English, in addition to Spanish, and passed himself off as a sophisticated man of the world, convinced these somewhat unsophisticated and unworldly military that he would be the perfect guy to go to Texas and deal directly with the car theft gangs there, and cut out the brokers. He proposed bringing cars down to Guatemala and selling them directly to interested customers. Well, Fran went off to Houston one fine day with around $250,000 of his military backers money, and, as luck would have it, immediately fell afoul of a well-planned Houston PD sting operation. He got arrested along with several members of a car theft gang. He appeared before a judge, and despite the prosecutor's sensible argument that Fran posed a "flight risk," was freed on bail in the amount of, you guessed it, $250,000. He deposited his Guatemalan passport and the money with the court; using one of his other passports, he took off for Mexico and back to Guatemala.

Returning to Guatemala proved a major mistake; I never understood what he thought would happen. He, certainly, did not get a hero's reception. His military business partners put the various family properties under surveillance. My wife, who worked in our security office, noted that a certain Jeep Cherokee kept driving past our gate, and that many nights it was parked half a block from our driveway. I took down the plate numbers and gave them to our security officer. The plates on the Cherokee came back belonging to a VW minivan in the Presidency's motor pool. Our security officer raised this with his contacts who assured him that the Jeep was there for our "protection." A day or so later, we never saw it again.

For months, almost nobody knew what had happened to Francis: He was reported in El Salvador, in Lebanon, still in the US, and on and on. Meanwhile, my rent allotments from the embassy were piling up in my bank account, and I could not find anybody from the family willing to take my checks. My wife concluded that we now owned the house. No, not quite. Fran's sister eventually came into town from her usual abode in Lebanon and swung by to collect several months of rent. She was very evasive about the fate of Francis, but did buy all of our personal furniture.

It wasn't until an intrepid local reporter found Francis's very decomposed body that we learned his fate. This reporter had a source inside the smuggling ring who described Fran's final moments as a would-be car smuggling kingpin.

His uniformed friends had found him near the Salvadoran border which he apparently sought to cross. The officers "interrogated" Francis with considerable energy. They then drove him out to a field, stood him up and asked one last time, "Where is the money? Where are the cars?" Francis tried, again, to explain the intricacies of the American bail system; one of the officers reportedly said, "Oh, Francis, that is such a bad answer," and put two 9mm rounds into Fran's head.

Isn't this a nice story? Hope it cheers you up. It has done wonders for me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Still out of Commission

Waiting on the lab results as I continue to do battle with a range of issues that befall FOGs (Fat Old Guys).

Did read an interesting article about a statement by Congressman Brooks accusing the DNC of launching a war on white people. He must be reading the Diplomad who discussed this very issue some three weeks ago.

Hope to get writing soon, sorry for the delay.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Fluff

I am back. Feeling mightily awful. Too much sun, airplane, and general stress produced by having the kids back in our house for their summer vacations. Hope the antibiotics work for all that.

Spent a few days in Miami--one of my favorite cities. As luck would have it, our motel in Coral Gables had its wifi go down just before we got there, and had it come back just as we were leaving.  That meant that I was almost entirely off the grid, and disconnected from the world--I am not much of a TV watcher. At first this lack of access to Drudge and all my other webby friends was intolerable, but after a bit, it became kind of nice. I forgot about Obama, Holder, Reid, Pelosi, Putin, and the other whackos who are running and ruining our country. I had wonderful coffee, great breakfasts, and totally pigged out on massive quantities of meat at my favorite Argentine restaurant in Miami, The Knife. I tormented the very nice Argentine manager by telling him I was adopting the Argentine government position on debt. I freely without coercion would have his very nice dinner, and refuse to pay. Didn't work. He made me pay. You cannot default at The Knife.

Got back to California and gave my wife her birthday present. A very nice Aussie-designed, Canadian-built "American" car, a convertible Chevy Camaro. The Aussie designers did a great job of capturing the spirit and sheer fun of an old-time American muscle car--kind of makes you wonder if the "American" spirit hasn't moved on to places such as Australia.

It's a nice machine even if I had to buy it with an automatic transmission as my wife has gotten it into her head that she can't drive stick--she most certainly can. Anyhow, the Diplowife seemed happy as a clam (are clams happy?) driving her big black Camaro around town. I, of course, would run the thing at 80 mph and above. Under the Diplowife's reign, however, I don't think the beast will ever see life above 35 mph. All of this makes the point that cars are about personal choice and, yes, having fun. The hideous progressives would deny us both of those facets of life, and force us all into absurd "Smart" cars, or, even better for them, public transportation all in the name of polar bears, children, transgender rights, or something else. Buying big fast cars is one of the few legal acts of rebellion still open.

Enjoyed being back with my dogs, and watching them behave without a care in the world. The younger one had finished destroying the screen door and done a good job of modifying one of the window frames outside. He also has eaten the cable connecting the thermostat to the a/c unit, thereby leaving me without a/c in the blistering SoCal heat. I can't punish him. He is so genuinely happy to see me. The only time I have seen anybody else that happy was my personnel guru at State when I told him I was fed up and leaving State.

Anyhow, I am back. I hope to have my head clear up and be able to start posting something useful.