Ugh. The past couple of weeks have been pretty tough. BF was away and I was still dealing with the long long process of splitting my 90 acres land in 100 smaller plots. We gave up trying to split in 260 for fear it would be too much at once to get approved easily, and because the more we learned about the process, the more additional fees we discovered.
The initial layout
First the architect asked for $2,000 to draw 260 maps for us. Then, by my findings (not those of an architect who is working on land and construction stuff for a living), I found out you have to submit your maps to the cadaster’s office, and that is new. Because the North of Guatemala is mostly rural, made of huge ranches and few little plots, they are enforcing that rule here first, in the capital city you don’t have to worry about it. It is more a curse than a blessing, because those public servants, 300 miles away from the main office, receive the new directives and have little idea what to do with them, they suddenly get overwhelmed by applications and take a long time to process them.
To split my land I had to request first a copy of the map the cadaster has of the main parcel. Should be pretty straightforward, you pay $20 and you wait “10 days… yeah, our leaflet says 10 days but we have too much work, it’s going to take longer”. How much longer? I got a promise from the director that it would be no longer than a month. But when the month was out, so was the secured paper on which the map has to be printed. It came from the capital a week later.
From that map we learned that our land is almost a rectangle with straight lines, when in real life, its limits are not really straight. Can we include the extra land within our fences, since our neighbors have been respecting them for years? Not really, it would be a lengthy process to split the neighbor’s land as well. We just ignore them, it is not much anyway.
Then with that precious paper, they gave me another piece of news. In order to process the split, I now need an agreement from the office of protected areas, since we are next to a zone of protected forest. Ok, off to another bureaucratic heaven then. They say the process is really straightforward and will take 2 days. 2 days later, it will now take 8 days. 8 days later, I call again and am told it should be another few days. So I decide to get there. The legal team has reviewed and approved the file! Cool, what’s next? The director has to sign but he is away. Ok, I come back the next week, and the same girl from the legal team says my file is missing a map of the land so she cannot process it. Did she call me? Of course not. The file was just going to lay there until I come back. Thankfully, I had the map in hand and gave it to her. Are we good now? “Yes, the lawyer need to review it before passing on to the director. Oh wait, there is an error on your file. Yeah, our fault, we wrote your land was #123 and it is #1234. We need to print that again and have it signed by the director. Yes, he is still away.”
I go with the girl to make sure she prints everything correctly and leave, after they tell me the director will be in tomorrow to sign.
In the meanwhile, the new architect since the first one quit, is putting together the maps. First time he did print them on thick paper, he had to put his $1 stamp on each 100 of them, and knowing that there would likely be mistakes I told him to wait until I see them. He was dismissive and arrogant “ok, come over to do whatever you want to do”. When I got there he wasn’t there and the 100 maps were shuffled, none of them saying for which plot they were, and all of them showing BF as the owner, when our company is the registered owner. The maps were ALL wrong. Not happy that I saved him $100 of stamps, the guy didn’t show up, and I had to go home spend 3 hours with the maps to reconcile which was which and send him a list of errors. He said he would fix them the next week. I sent as many details, edited jpegs to show him how a map is done (he got basic training from the cadaster but is not a real architect, the bad thing is only him is registered to submit maps to the cadaster, not the old architect and they wouldn’t split the fee to do a good job together), and then was surprised when I double checked the list of mistakes to see that they were exactly the same as the previous list of mistakes I had sent a week earlier.
I sent him an email pointing out that he had me correct HIS work twice for nothing, that now he was to print and sign the maps with the corrections, if anything was wrong that I hadn’t mentioned I would pay for a new map, otherwise he was to be responsible. He said ok, gave me another appointment and when I showed up he had printed nothing!
I was furious and almost insulted him for having me drive one hour for nothing and lie to me. He said “you need to give your ok before I print”. What ok? The one I gave you a week earlier by email? Yesterday? Right now? So are we printing them today? “oh no, I have worked too hard, I’ll do it for tomorrow”. I thought I would explode, but eventually there was nothing to do so I got his word the next day, 100 maps with 100 stamps and signed by him 100 times would be printed. I got there again the next day and he didn’t show up! The maps were printed by his colleague but only him could stamp and sign. He didn’t pick up his phone the whole day and when BF called him from another number he hung up on him! It was payday so BF thinks he may have been drunk, which is common here on payday. WTF?? You make me drive all the way, at least have the courtesy to warn that you aren’t going to be there!
So now I am still waiting for my 100 maps and my letter from protected areas, losing patience and knowing that you can’t do anything because they have the power. When the guy sobers up tomorrow or a month from now he is going to call and pretend he is a reliable professional and if I talk heavy to him, he won’t do a thing. I am completely unable to brownnose and pretend everything is fine. We already paid half his fee at $1,300 and starting again with another guy is not a possibility. Apart from being an insolent little gringa in a macho country, who called him incompetent and lazy for having ME check out his poor work, I also mentioned that instead of the 100 maps we would submit first 20 to the cadaster. His terms of payment are another 25% when the 100 maps go to cadaster, so if we put only 20 for now, at the pace things go, he would only see $150 and that’s probably the other reason he bailed.
Still, he is getting $3,000 for a job that took him 4 days of field study with an assistant who surely earns less than $20 a day, and what should have been a week of office work, turned three so far. A pretty nice payday indeed, to not even do his job properly.
The idea behind trying with 20 maps only is you have to pay $15 per map to the cadaster for review. Should they reject them, we would lose $300, not $1,500. And pay our guy $150 until he fixes it, not $750 and not see him again. He may not have been very keen on the idea.
That is also why we submitted 100 plots, the guy is already charging $30 per plot for the maps and field study, and the cadaster would have cost a cool $4,000 for 260 maps, so better have small plots that will be easy to divide if and when a buyer shows up asking for a smaller one.
While I am not too worried about protected areas office giving me my approval letter (which we were at first, thinking some jealous people from around here could block it but legal has approved it), I now have a MIA architect-who-is-not-an-architect who has all the power, and $1,300 of ours in his pocket. It is going to be interesting, not sure I have the patience to play games though.
What was your most frustrating moment with a public servant?
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