Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Frijole Keeps Turning

Two days ago I met with the directors of the pre-school from which little Michelle and Christopher have been suspended due to the alleged antics of their father, or perhaps more to the point, concerns about the company he keeps. The school plans to discuss the matter with the parents at a meeting next week and tell the parents that they like the children and their mother and would like to bring them back.  Anyone with concerns will be asked to speak to the director privately.  They anticipate problems with one or two Guatemalan families but are willing to call in one of the most prominent and influential Guatemalans around (who has just accepted Denis and Astrid into a new school that she is starting in November) to talk some sense into them.  So, hopefully the two will be able to return to school next week.  The school has hired an armed security guard which they said was something they needed to do anyway.  

After the meeting I met with Marielos, the mother of the younger two.  She told me that the kidnapped woman who was in the other car at the time of the arrest has indicated that Alex was NOT involved in either her kidnap nor the rape which was done by one of the bad brothers.  After much thought I decided to throw away Q1500 ($200) to stop the daily beatings that he has been receiving.  Marielos and her mother had put Q2000 into the account of the jail bosses (the inmates run the asylums here) which was only enough to keep the other inmates from stealing his food.  

Quite unbelievable that he can be in jail for phoning someone and demanding ransom and then people on the outside have to pay ransom to keep him from being beaten and starved to death in jail.  Clearly the government has to know that this is going on, even condoning and probably participating in it.  I actually think that Marielos and her mother are refreshingly honest.  When I offered to pay the balance they easily could have just taken it and told me that were going to use it for Alex.  Instead they walked me to the bank and gave me the account number and then went and had a copy of the receipt made for me as they needed the information to send a text message that the money had been paid.  Marielos's mother will go again on Saturday and I will send a bag of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with her.  The school director told me today that it is very important that no one anywhere near the jail know that he even knows a gringa otherwise the price of his release skyrockets to the point where he will never get out.  Marielos and her mother knew that as well so "mum" is the word.  I like these two women.  They are straight shooters - very refreshing.  The three bad brothers had Q11000 on their "comfort" account the day after their arrest (and who are they working for?) and they are being kept away from Alex.  His father thinks that, if he gets out, he should be sent off to cut sugar cane for a few years and learn to work.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

As the Frijole Turns .....

Lots of queries are coming in thus I thought it best to update the blog.  Most who know Alexander don't believe that he could be guilty as charged (by the media anyway).  I am troubled by my "gut instincts" having failed me, or is it not as it seems?  The stories abound.  I look at the mug shot of Alex on the internet and just cannot get my head around the fact that this fellow who has done many kind things for me in the past, often keeping me out of danger is where is he. Perfect, no. Devious, yes but I don't believe he is a hardened criminal.  It all makes one try to get inside the mind of someone who has had to struggle to survive every single day of their lives.  Might we be any different in the same circumstances?

Today I went to "Family Day" with Estela and kids at the new Antigua International School.  They have agreed to take Astrid and Denis which will be a game changer for them.  I have spoken to the director and he knows the whole ugly story and doesn't care.  This is the fourth such school that he has been involved in in four different countries.  He and Denis have already made a connection.  The teachers are an interesting group of dedicated American teachers who travel the world and work in such schools.  Many like Jim, the director, have lived and worked in a number of countries and speak multiple languages.

While the kids were playing soccer with their new school mates Estela told me that Alexander's sister had come to the house yesterday.  She had been to the jail to see Alex and reports that he is very, very upset and asking to see his children.  It was news to me that he had family as he had always told me that he was "solito."  Marielos, the mother of his two youngest children, told me last week that his father has driven a chicken bus for 25 years, that he has two brothers and two sisters and some half siblings.  Despite his tales of being "solito" his family has come forward and are doing what they can to help.  His sister reports that his attorney (government appointed) says that he is being named as an "accomplice" in the most recent caper which resulted in his arrest.   He has no previous criminal record and he is apparently not being named as being involved in any previous "delitos" of the three brothers also arrested. He is also being held in a different part of the jail from the three bad brothers which may or may not be significant.

Marielos told me that Alex had called her the day of the arrest saying that he was leaving San Antonio Aguas Calientes (where Estela and her children live) and that he would be at Marielos's place in about 15 minutes.  He never arrived and later that evening she saw him being arrested on television. When arrested the three brothers were in Alex's car which he reported as having been stolen last month.  I recognize that car as Alex's from the photos on the internet.  In the car with the bad brothers was the woman they had kidnapped the day before and a pistol (no ammunition).  Alex was alone in another car with two cell phones, one of them an old Blackberry that I had given him in May thinking he would sell it.  One or the other of Alex's phones holds the evidence that he had made calls negotiating the ransom for the woman in the other car.  Those of us who have known Alex for a number of years feel certain that he would be far more likely to be involved in negotiating for money than in rape.  That simply does not compute for a guy who has been so protective of his children.  Or does it?

I am sure, that in time, justice such as it is in Guatemala, will be done.  Clearly Alex got mixed up with a very bad lot, probably (likely) he borrowed some money from these guys who had money from their previous bad deeds.  Alex was never very interested in re-paying debts which is why I cut him off.  "Borrow" does not have the same meaning to Guatemalans as it does to gringos.  But, in this country if you borrow from the wrong people and don't pay it back you can be in big trouble, even dead.  Perhaps he was told that he could have his car back if he made the ransom calls.  While he has a gentle, kind side to him Alex also has a serious credibility issue thus it is very hard to know what to think.

Alex's sister reports that he is a very changed person and that she feels that he has finally learned a very hard lesson.  His family has given him Q1000 ($130) which allows him to pay the "boss" to sleep on a cot with a blanket.  Previously he was sleeping on the concrete floor without a blanket.  Denis has decided that he wants to see his father so his aunt is going to take him next Saturday.  Apparently one is encouraged to send food or they often don't eat.  I haven't spent much time in jails anywhere but can imagine that the Guatemalan ones are pretty grim.  I thought I might send some photos of all the kids with Denis and perhaps some good old peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which offer a bit of nutrition and a long shelf life.   Funny where this life leads us.

So, Friday I bought a car totally in Spanish, Saturday I bought a toilet all in Spanish and today I rode the chicken bus to and from "Family Day" which was a couple of miles outside of Antigua. Tuesday I hope to talk some sense into the Montessori School that suspended Christopher and Michelle.  I saw them a couple of days ago and even at 3 and 4 they are very eager to go back to school and they recited the names of all their teachers for me.  I may have to offer to sit out front armed with a pepper spray until they come to realize that none of the bad guys even know where Alex's kids are or even that he has any.  I am certain he probably has a few more that even I do not know about and that is OK as I am up to my ears in tuition payments as it is.  If I can just get these five educated I will feel that I have done my part.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Truly a Scoundrel

This is going to be very hard to write for a number of reasons.  On August 27th 2011 Alexander was arrested along with three other members of (apparently) his gang.  He is, at this writing, in jail (where he probably belongs) in Chimaltenango.  The four are charged with kidnapping Guatemalan women and rape.  As you might imagine the fallout has been tremendous.  Alex has been labelled as the "boss."  Just two days prior to his arrest Alex's oldest son, Denis, achieved the best report card that he has ever had.  Now the fourteen year old is quite simply, devastated, as are his sisters.  Gladly the two little ones are too young to know or understand though, because of the news, they have been "suspended" from their pre-school out of safety concerns for the other children.

Whatever help that many gave to Alexander it was never enough and, quite obviously, it never would have been.  Those who know him are shocked that he could be what he apparently is. Perhaps it is just not possible for a street kid to grow up in good order.  It always surprised me that Alex was not (apparently) violent and not involved with either drugs or alcohol.  It seemed to me that he had a gentle nature but that was the only side that I saw quite obviously. A very sad ending for a probably unwanted and uncared for infant born 35 years ago.  Just three months ago he was strapping the youngest two into their seatbelts for a journey to the zoo and holding the hand of his youngest son.  I guess I should have seen more into his disconnectedness from his children. There was a glimmer of caring about Jackie and Denis but obviously not enough.  Astrid who will be 12 in November never seemed to care much for him and the youngest two call him "Alex." He called Denis the other night from his jail cell professing his innocence and saying that he needed money.  He always needed money and now he probably really does but I don't know anyone who is going to give him any.  It is a good thing that Denis had only very recently come to terms with the fact that his dad rarely spoke the truth.  Likely a sociopath.

The challenge now will be to get the little ones back into school and to help the three older kids come to terms with who their father is.  Gladly, in their world probably few have made the connection between them and the news reports which were many.  Estela has already made contact with the local psychologist that is available to them and my Spanish is likely to get a real workout when I return to Antigua.  New vocabulary words that I never expected to have to know.  If the kids want to see their dad I will take them as no one else will.  I would hope to see on his face all of the pain that he is causing his children.  However, at the same time I realize that he never really had a chance.  For so many this world is a really ugly place.