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Bloody Property Challenges a Dark Side of Real Estate in Mexico

MEXICO — A gruesome pre-Christmas murder of two young men and their uncle in an early 1900s Mexico City home has drawn attention to the dark side of the capital’s booming property market, fueled by a lack of legal documentation and gangs illegally seizing property.

Actor Andrés Tirado, his musician brother Jorge Tirado and an unnamed uncle were found dead on Sunday, all with their throats slit. Prosecutors said the apparent motive was an ownership dispute over the property.

In another case, a young woman posted a desperate video on social media on Tuesday from a rooftop on the south side of town in which she can be heard shouting, “Police! To help! They kidnapped me!”

Police said the woman told them relatives erected a metal door to prevent her from leaving her home, trapping her and four children inside. Police said a dispute over ownership was behind the alleged kidnapping and an investigation is ongoing into the illegal takeover of the property.

Authorities have known for years that there are armed and violent gangs that specialize in taking over homes. The trend is made possible by the fact that many properties – perhaps as many as a fifth of homes – have no legal papers or have titles listed in the names of deceased people who left no wills.

According to a 2021 report by the city government’s Public Policy Assessment Agency, the percentage of housing in the capital occupied by squatters, whose ownership is in dispute or whose owners have died without a will fell from 10.9% in 2010 to 19.9. % in 2020.

Mexico has an expensive, inefficient, outdated and corrupt legal system.

In 2019, prosecutors in Mexico City said that in some of the 311 property seizure cases active that year, notaries, lawyers or real estate companies falsified paperwork to evict the rightful owners.

Because it is so expensive to have a will drawn up in Mexico, many people don’t do it, often leaving those who inherit homes with problems protecting their rights.

This appears to have been the case in the murders of the Tirado brothers and their uncle. The older brother of the uncle’s wife died recently after a long illness, but his nurse who had taken care of him continued to live on the ground floor of the house in the flourishing district of Roma, made famous by the 2018 Oscar-winning film “Roma.” ”

Prosecutors gave the following account:

The nurse tried to pretend the house was hers based on her supposed romantic relationship with the deceased man. The man’s sister moved upstairs to prevent the nurse from taking over the house.

The Tirado brothers came to live with their aunt and uncle in August, partly to protect them. The nurse had brought her daughter and son-in-law to live downstairs, and the Tirados apparently feared they would become violent.

What followed was a tense five-month coexistence, with one family downstairs and one upstairs.

The lower family “started to act in such a way that it evolved into this type of violence,” said prosecutors’ spokesman Ulises Lara.

The nurse, her daughter and son-in-law were sentenced to prison pending trial for kidnapping. One of the men believed to have carried out the murders – who is also thought to be linked to the nurse – has been arrested on drug charges but is being investigated in the case.

In other cases, the gangs simply forced their way into a property and evicted the occupants. The city estimates that there are 23 door-to-door gangs operating in Mexico City, some of them linked to drug gangs and others to quasi-political groups.

“One problem that we have in practically the whole city is the problem of property takeovers,” Mexico City prosecutor Ernestina Godoy said in 2019.

In 2016, for example, a police operation evicted a violent group of squatters from a home in the upscale Condesa neighborhood that the group had seized years earlier. After the building was recovered, police discovered underground bunkers and tunnels dug under the structure. Weapons and stolen property were also recovered.

The building was so badly damaged that it had to be demolished, amid rising prices and rents and a housing shortage in the city.

ABC News

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