Sunday, August 29, 2010

Slice of paradise becomes nightmare for Canadian

Slice of paradise becomes eviction nightmare for Canadian in Mexico

Surrey resident Siegfried Schiffmacher purchased land near the beach in Tenacatita, Mexico, for $30,000 in 2006, but is unable now to access the property because of a titling dispute. He thought the title was good because it was endorsed by the Mexican president's office.
Photograph by: David Agren, Postmedia News

LA MANZANILLA, Mexico — Siegfried Schiffmacher thought he had found an idyllic slice of paradise in 2006 when he purchased a large lot at Tenacatita, a spit of land in Mexico with spectacular oceans views to the front and a calm bay with clear water and a golden-sand beach to the back.

He thought he had found a sound investment, too: The 1,007-square-metre property — once part of a communal farm known as an "ejido" — came with a title validated by then-president Vicente Fox.

Those illusions were shattered Aug. 4, when more than 150 state police officers raided Tenacatita, acting on an eviction order won by a Guadalajara-area businessman, Andres Villalobos, who claimed title to 42 hectares of land — including Schiffmacher's lot — that he purchased in 1991 from the widow of a former Jalisco state governor.

"When you buy with a title signed by the president, it feels secure," said Schiffmacher, a retired telecom entrepreneur from Surrey, B.C., whose wife, Margarita, is a Mexican national. "We never thought this would happen."

Schiffmacher's plight highlights the perils of investing in paradise and, he estimates, affects at least 15 Canadians.

It also highlights the problem of purchasing in a country with lingering conflicts over land and titles — two key grievances that fuelled the Mexican Revolution, the centennial of which is being observed this year — and how these unresolved squabbles are affecting foreigners a century later as they move south in increasing numbers and unwittingly into areas with histories of property disputes.

Complete Vancover Sun Article


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