Posts Tagged ‘bureaucrats’

ExFedBob left Uruguay months ago, after becoming disenfranchised with the lack of progress on his residency application. He left and never looked back.

He just got a note from his immigration fixer, stating the need for an interview with Migraciones:

“you are currently out of the country and have not been in Uruguay for a while and they want to confirm that in an interview”

“They want to interview you in person to ask you about your migration movements.”

So, to make sure that you aren’t really here, and have left for good, you need to show up in person to verify your absence.

Riiiiiiight…

Some fun responses might be:

“My decision is en tramite, and the decision delivery functionaries have been on strike for months. 50 tons of decisions have piled up and we are considering throwing them in the Rio de la Plata. But we’ll let one truck of decisions out, as a token gesture. Maybe your decision will be on that truck.”

“In order to verify the authenticity of this request, you must verify its authenticity with your verification of authenticity verification. It is located al lado of the Department of Redundancy Department. Then, it must be notarized and legalized, and submitted to the Department of Documents and Unnecessary Paperwork for final authentication before if may be considered usable in Uruguay. At which point it will likely be considered ‘vencido’ whereby you must start the process over again from the beginning.”

“Am I …here? Or… am I …there?”

“They sold my brain?!”

“Please accept these droids as a gift. They will serve you well.”

This morning, an UTE technician shows up to install the new meter for our Opcion Inteligente service, which they refused to give us yesterday. I tried explaining to the guy that the lady at the office refused to let us change our service, but there he was to change it so “OK, go ahead.”

Do not look a gift horse in the mouth.

I wonder if someone at UTE reads this blog, or perhaps GhoulBob started the process and it was more trouble to cancel the request after she refused to accept our power-of-attorney, did the standard cultural “eeh” with shrug and eye roll and let fate decide. Truly weird. What makes it doubly ironic is that it is not even a consistent stream of weirdness and stupidity but a manic unpredictable chaotic stupidity.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to have the service installed.

…but is it, really?

We shall see in the coming months when (if) I receive my bill.

This is the time of year when I trim the fat from the budget and see where I can save some cash. My target at the moment is the electrical bill. UTE, the Uruguayan electrical monopoly, has a program called “Opcion Inteligente” which has different rates during different times of day, and allowed us to save quite a bit on our power bill (cut it in half, actually) in Montevideo.

Why don’t we have it in the new house? Because we asked for it to be installed with the new service, that’s why.

So today I went to the UTE office, with Power of Attorney in hand (the service is in my wife’s name and Uruguay does not respect spousal authority). After waiting from number 50 to number 75, playing Solitaire on my phone amid the numerous warnings that cel phone use is prohibited (boredom mandatory!) and just itching for someone to say something about it, I got my call to the desk of my assigned nondescript sunken-eyed ghoul.

I explained what I wanted, and she began to get the pile of paperwork ready to sign up for the service. She first tried to dissuade me by explaining that it is more expensive during peak times (5pm to 11pm) and I told her I understood. Then she asks, “Where is your wife?”

“At home,” she has better things to do than sit in an office waiting for zombies to do something that should have been done a year ago. And I do too, for that matter. Everyone does, actually.

“She needs to be here to sign,” she attempts to divert from actually doing something.

“No, she doesn’t. I have here a general power of attorney which gives me the ability to sign in her name for anything. It was drafted, notarized, and legalized here in Uruguay, and it’s even in Spanish.”

She looks at the document (not reading it) in its neat folder with all its seals and stamps, and then tells me, “It is old. I cannot take this.” because it was drafted in 2010.

“If you bother to read it, you will see that it has no expiration date and must be revoked to be null and void. Also, you will notice that it gives me the power to do things like decide medical procedures, conduct business, conduct unlimited transactions of unlimited amounts, and pull the plug to kill her if need be. So changing our electrical service plan should not be difficult.”

“That doesn’t matter. You need a certificado de blah blah blahh…” the noises she was making began to blur together and I couldn’t hear her anyways because of the adrenaline-fueled blood pounding through my ears, readying me to crush her larynx with my bare hands and drink the spurting blood as it shot geyserlike from her eye sockets.

I am Jack’s raging bile duct.

So while she stalls, I violate the no-cell-phone rule yet again just DARING someone to say something because now I WANT to hurt people, and I call the lawyer who drafted the document and explain the situation. “Put me on the phone with her,” so I do. They talk, and the lady refuses to budge.

“You do realize that you are a government functionary and you are officially refusing to accept a valid and binding legal document, drafted and legalized here in Uruguay. Correct?”

“Yes. You need the certificado de blah blah blah…” more sunken-eyed yammering from the bottom-feeding food tube.

With that, she got up and left her desk, never to return. Nice. I shall think of her while I rape the charred corpses of her coworkers.

A couple hours later, ArchitectBob, whom I had dropped in on during my wanderings and told him the story when he noted the veins bulging from my neck and forehead, called UTE of his own volition and tried to change our service for us, using his old POA from the construction of our house. They informed him that he had the power to cut our service completely or add new service to that property in our name, but he could not alter the plan (?!). So nice to know we’re so protected. Thanks UTE!

So I must return tomorrow with WifeBob in tow, and not get laid for a month due to the fallout from making her enter the den of bureaucrats and wait an hour to sign a piece of fucking paper. Thanks UTE!

Since our not-wonderful experience with the judge, I have been having horrid dreams and angry fixations when I am awake.

The dream is a recurring one, and happens several times per night. We are on a boat, sailing somewhere mid-ocean, and things slowly start going wrong. Mechanical failures happen and the boat begins taking on water. Conditions are not bad on the sea, but the dire situation with a sinking boat is not good, and there is no help to be found. Despite all the technical and mechanical knowhow and raw brute force salty pirate stuff, the boat continues to fall apart and sink, literally dissolving in the water. Why didn’t we know the boat was water-soluble? Why were we not informed?

Somehow I run to shore and now I am in the neighborhood where I grew up. It is night and nobody is around, yet for some reason I am compelled to hide beneath the evergreen tree next to the Bradford’s house in the cul-de-sac near Mom’s place. As I am waiting under the tree for whatever-it-is to pass so I don’t need to hide, I notice spiderwebs. The silky funnel kind. Everywhere. Now I am not an arachnophobe when I am awake but for some reason these spider webs scare me. The more I look around, the more I see them, and it seems the more the tree is absolutely infested with these funnel web spider nests. Now spiders start to come out of them, and I have to cower beneath the tree to avoid getting spiders and webs on me. I start to crawl out from under the tree but more spiders and webs block the way. And as I turn, what was once a clear pathway out from under the tree is now blocked by more and more spiders. I am trapped. They are not attacking me but I need to get away from them. As I squirm through ever-tightening spider web gunk and bat spiders out of my way, I make my way more out from under the tree. Once I get out, I see that the entire lawn is covered with more of these spider nests, and they are spreading all over the neighborhood.

The past few days I have had this grinding obsession in my head to take revenge, but against who? Against what? You cannot fight an ideology. Discussing the situation with a few people, it has come to my opinion that the lack of initiative by bureaucrats, workers, and everyone in Uruguay in general, is spreading…

A friend of mine was in O’Hare airport when President Obama’s election victory was announced. Suddenly all the cops, security guards, gate agents, any worker of any kind who was black, stopped working. Sure, let them celebrate for a few minutes if they are happy, but the work stoppage wasn’t just a short celebratory hurrah. It lasted for a long time. The airport came to a grinding halt. What, now that you have a black president, you don’t have to work anymore? Off came the uniforms, on went the Obama shirts. Workplace etiquette was thrown out the window.

You’re going to get your cut from Obama’s Stash? Obama Money?

The same thing is happening here. Since Mujica, the Tupamaros, and the other Frentistas have been in power for 8 years, the people just don’t feel like they need to work. And, indeed, they don’t. ChefBob, who works at a local restaurant, earns a local salary. Because of his children, he is “entitled” to a certain amount of government benefits. If he doesn’t work, that is. ChefBob did the math, and figured out that he would make more money sucking the tit of the state than keeping his job. Fortunately he earns off-the-books tips, and the restaurant pays him more than his on-the-books salary in order for both to save on taxes. Most employees have similar arrangements. Uruguay runs on Mujica’s Stash. Mujica Money.

The rule of law has been eroded down and now judges rule by subjective means. The punishment for criminal acts has been reduced by Mujica and friends, and gee, who’da thunk it, crime is on a rampage. Uruguay has become a Banana Republic, as GermanBob is fond of saying.

And, if they are turning away creative, intelligent people with means, their fate is sealed. The next step is to hang the iron curtain. Uruguay already has that, in a way, with their xenophobic attitudes and self-imposed embargo on the rest of the world. No, they certainly do not like change or difference, but they are going to need it, and they are going to get it good and hard in a way they cannot control or forsee if they continue down the road they are going in.

Uruguay has made it abundantly clear to us that we cannot become citizens as productive, independent people.

We met with a judge today at the Electoral Court, which deals with citizenship requests. We were accompanied by a representative from our lawyer’s firm. He arrived late, with no papers from our file, did not brief us on what was going to happen, left us hanging high and dry at the interview, and then offered no suggestions or solutions after the unmitigated disaster which unfolded. I’ll get into all that in detail.

The meeting with the judge started off pleasant enough. She was smiling and friendly. She asked us a few questions about our income and what we do, which we answered honestly. It was never about amounts, only where it comes from and how it works. I receive mine from royalties on art and books, and residual website subscription revenues. WifeBob recently sold her business so she is an official bum until she figures out her next gig.

The fact that my income is globalized and not Uruguay-centric bothered the judge and pretty much disqualified us right there. She was further bothered that I sell to the whole world at large, that I am the boss, and that I don’t answer to anyone as an employee. “You don’t have a studio here in Uruguay? You don’t work for anyone here?” she asked. No, you see, I don’t need to. We have this thing called the Internet. And I’ve been pulling residual income from it since 1994. That was 18 years ago. This is 2012.

“You don’t have a job here in Uruguay?”

“No.” A Uruguayan job would net me $100 per week, which is less than the $500 per month amount you require of your foreign residents. Why would I take a HUGE pay cut and then break the requirements? People like me do not work for other people. Other people work for people like me. Where do you think jobs come from? Of course I am not saying this to her, or I’d have Vince and Vinny throwing me out on the sidewalk. But damn it would feel good.

“Well, some people are not as fortunate as you.” SHE actually says this. I swallow my fury and think: Then maybe they should try harder! I did. And here we are. The internet lets you do this sort of thing. Don’t you want wealth and intelligence in your country?

“Do you have a bank account here?” she asks. Yes. “Well, that won’t help.” Then why did you ask?

I say: “We have records of deposits, withdrawals, bank wires which had to originate here and be initiated personally.”

“No, that won’t help.” (which we would later find is total BS, because other offices who conduct these interviews have this specifically on their checklist of things to prove “habitual residency”)

I say: “We own property, which we have not rented because we have been living in it. We recently built a house. We have every receipt of our bills which I have paid for years.”

“Yes, but you can get anyone to do that for you. You don’t have to be here for that. People like you have the luxury of being able to get people to do things for you.” Yeah. Isn’t that what you are looking for? People to employ your entire culture as underlings? Make up your fucking mind.

Which reminds me that I have years of legal paperwork, all taken care of via power-of-attorney, for the mired disaster that was my attempt to import a motorcycle. It’s been locked up in an Aduanas warehouse for 2 years now. But that doesn’t count, because I was employing an attorney to deal with it in my stead because I had better things to do. Adding to the economy, while adding to the economy. That’s bad here, apparently. That paperwork won’t count either.

“I have a truck, and insurance, receipts for gas…”

“No.” As if I would buy a truck at twice the world market price in order to pay someone to burn fuel with it at $7 per gallon… in addition to tolls…

“We have BPS receipts for payment on rural land.” Nope, not good enough.

Then we go to the information that will trump anything: “We have immigration records and passport stamps that place us here.”

And then the kick to the nuts: Not good enough. WHAT?!?!?!

“You need to prove that you have been living here.” What? We have been. We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars here, renovated houses, built new houses, I built a boat in my garage last winter…

“You should have paid taxes on your boat, then you would have a record,” she says. I about blew my fucking lid but I kept it swallowed down enough to not become redfaced and scary.

“So there is nothing we can do?” we ask, completely depressed and dejected.

“Have you been to the hospital?” she asks. No. We are in good health. “No insurance?” No. I have only had to go to the doctor once for a general checkup, done a few labs myself (because I’m smart and keep tabs on things) and paid all out-of-pocket.

Well, that won’t work for you either then.

“Well then what *can* we do?” we asked her, out of ideas.

“Join a club. Then come back in 3 years.”

…pardon me but what the f’ing FF FFFFFF? All this complete distrust in 100% verifiable legitimate records, and joining a club will trump it all? We can join a club and then never show up. What good is that?????

In the end, what went down is that because we have the ability to freely come and go, and the wealth to hire underlings to do our bidding, we cannot possibly prove in any way, shape, or form, that we really live here. Had we been pobrecitos sucking the state’s tit for welfare money, or minimum wage drones, we’d be in like flint.

Join a club. Fuck you. No, really. FUCK YOU.

So we left. Lawyer-boy offers no help and no solutions, looks me straight in the eye, and says:

“I think it is hopeless.”

Then has the gall to tell me, “Email me about what happened today and I’ll see if I can figure any other ways.” What? Me email you? If I have to keep tabs on my own shit, and work for YOU, then YOU need to be paying ME, bitch. How about YOU go do YOUR job, and find a way to fix this disaster.

I told him some very frank things, about the firm and its mishandling of things in the past. When we first applied for residency, our file was trashed because of a typo in the forms which they should have caught but didn’t, which held our file back, which made it take 18 months instead of 6. Then we were held back at the end while Migraciones tried to extort us for extra fees and “backtaxes” which weren’t on the agenda nor list of requirements when we applied.

Then as soon as we received our legal residency, I inquired SPECIFICALLY about this sort of thing (see Exhibit A)

THEN, had they been keeping track of our file, they SHOULD have contacted us 18 months ago when we turned out to be eligible (3 years from application of permanent residency) instead of the 3 years from receipt of legal residency which is the “other official answer”. And THEN they should have revisited this little gem below, and gotten our shit rolling so that we would already be 18 months toward getting our passport for the second fucking time, which would have made the whole situation slightly less painful.

Let me offer a key piece of evidence from the past…

Exhibit A:

30 April, 2009 (when we received our legal residency status)

Lawyer wrote:
So, when the time comes, we´ll review your situation with you, to see what elements you need to add, to prove “habitual residence” which is what the Constitution requires to grant citizenship.

I wrote:
This sounds somewhat scary– 3 to 4 years from now is no time to find out that we should have been saving some asinine slips of paper, should have made sure to get something registered, stamped, etc. I want to know NOW what I need to be doing NOW, in order to be able to prove my habitual residence when the time comes to do it, not to collect things at the last minute only to find out that I should have done it years ago. If they can be “added” to “prove habitual residence” then let’s bloody add them and start a paper trail that the gnocchis can go after with their precious rubber stamps.

Our goal is to become passport-holding citizens.

===end of Exhibit A.

If that’s not irony, I don’t know what is. I never received a response. Surprise surprise.

I’m twisting the huge fucking knife in my back.

Now I am fantasizing about selling everything here (to the Argies!) in order to fund the construction of an unstoppable death machine which I will steamroll through the capital, blasting it into a smoldering wasteland of rubble and corpses.

The final word: what we are left with here is that we are now more confused after going to the interview with the judge than before we arrived. We don’t know what they want, and it seems that they do not know either. What we DO know is that they do not want wealthy, independent, productive people with the means to make things happen.

So many times I would have thrown in the towel and gone back to greener pastures if it were not for that light at the end of the tunnel which was the second passport. I have thrown away opportunity after opportunity whiling away the time in this communist backwater battling bureaucrats when I could have been building even more businesses and employing even more people, adding even more value to the world and innovating and creating even more new technologies.

We have wasted 4 years of our life chasing a lie.

I have a headache from clenching my teeth in frustrated anger for hours. And other things. I guess it’s OK now but when it was happening it was blood-boiling.

Today the person responsible for walking us through the process had an appointment for something more important, apparently, and left us to hang in the bank to finish depositing money. Afterward, we were to be escorted, through the final part of submitting all the paperwork, by their runner thug who buzzes around the hive and does his “let’s get it done” dance in the hopes that the other bees will also do the same dance. He seems like a guy who can get things done, but he won’t look me in the eye, and despite the fact that he knows I speak and understand Spanish, he still speaks to me as if I am an invalid pasty-white gringo.

So we are sitting at the desk where the bored functionary goes though your papers and papers and papers and papers and papers and papers.

ThugBob has disappeared. And then after sitting in front of this dull worker drone for some 2 hours, some problem inevitably comes up. ThugBob, who knows the process, is nowhere to be found. We check across the street at the office where he seems to work, but he is not there either. We need his help to smooth the hackles down on the functionary because she cannot compute something or other with our application.

Now after experiencing the whole of the process, it is my firm belief that these peoples’ job is to look through the stack of papers and find one “problem” that they cannot solve. I argue back and forth with them, but to no avail. They cannot accept our application. Give me a moment, says I, and I go to look for ThugBob. He is still not there. So I just grab my stack of papers and stomp furiously across the steet to find out what we should do.

The attorneys had our papers for months, and if there was any problem they should have spotted it. Probably not their fault– everything looked fine. But the paperpushers still find “something”.

The attorney’s errand runner is not here. ThugBob is not here. So I call whoever I can, angry, to find out what we can do.

ThugBob eventually returns and acts surprised that we are not in the Migraciones building. He goes to “find out” what the “problem” is and returns with his pidgin English explanation involving what Paraguayans refer to as “solutions.” Si, por supuesto, says I. Que sorpresa. Siempre.

Now the “solution” does not phase me. I had expected it. However, if you are going to be a rule bender, don’t make me sit there in a chair for hours in my personal idea of Hell and hem and haw and say, “No, creo que no puedo,” and feed me with bullshit drama. I am not there to see your goddamn act. Instead, make it take 5 minutes, go through a cursory examination of my paperwork, say, “I see a problem here but there is a solution,” hold your filthy hand out and “solve” it, stamp my fucking papers and tell me it’s done. I have wasted the greater part of 4 hours doing this bullshit.

We solve, not insignificantly, the “problem” and then another hour later ThugBob comes in with a smile on his face and directs us into Migraciones to sign the now “solved” papers and have our photos taken. Part of what solved the situation was a letter about the “lacking” portions of the application, approved by some invisible Jefe with subsequent instructions for official forgiveness of said errors.

Not a single one of us escaped without a “problem” with our papers. Big surprise.

We are officially done, until some other “problem” comes up. 6 months from now we should have our documents and be official Paraguayan residents. Then we can come and go as we please and buy and register cars much more cheaply than Uruguay, and sometime in 3 years we ought to be able to fanagle some passports.

Today provided us with much amusement. Since we have been through so much BS in Uruguay with its squareheaded government daleks, this process seems like a breeze.

One part of the residency process involves “legalizing” your entry visa. For those of you not familiar with the South American flavor of document legalization, it is basically a way for one government idiot to prove that another government idiot’s paper is “official and legitimate.” In this case, Paraguay is making sure its own document, which it demanded we attain, is official and legitimate. It is a true chicken/egg paradox within another chicken/egg paradox. First, we had to get the tourist visas to enter Paraguay.

The first paradox involved not knowing when we were going because we needed the visas first, but you can’t get the visa until you already have tickets booked. The second paradox is that we are already in Paraguay, the document having been accepted by immigration at the airport, so obviously it worked. So now we have to prove that it is an authentic Paraguayan document, because apparently the fact that it was made on Paraguayan soil at the consulate in Montevideo does not count as it being authentically Paraguayan. So we are here, and you stamped it, like 10 times when you made it, then another 2 when we arrived, and now we have like 3 more for the authentication. How can this massive collection of rubber and paper stamps be anything BUT Paraguayan?

Now I’m out of passport pages.

Then we go to some other office where they have to take another set of fingerprints. Then they hand us a single paper towel to clean off the ink. No good. So I try wetting it at their water dispenser. No good. So I go to the bathroom, which is NASTY, and they have no soap and the faucet is half-attached so I am getting ink all over their sink. My inky finger smudges help spruce the place up, honestly. Turds would be afraid of that bathroom.

During our wanderings about Asuncion going from office to office to office, we run into this guy:

Nice wang.

I have nothing to say but, “dude’s got talent.”

We met a few folks at a Sushi buffet, one being WebsiteBob who used to live in Uruguay and I knew, and NewBob, who I had never met before but it turns out he grew up in my hometown and attended the same schools and had the same teachers. Such a small world we live in, when we meet in a Sushi buffet in Paraguay!

Paraguay has Asians! Lots of them. And vitamin stores and stuff that you would NEVER see in Uruguay. As a challenge, WifeBob and I went looking in a local grocery store for all the spices and things we always have difficulty finding in Uruguay. And we found everything but clear gelatin. And this is in the podunk basement grocery store in downtown Asuncion.

We bought a bunch of stuff to take home with us, and all of it came to less than $20. It would have cost us $35-40 or more to buy the stuff in Uruguay. We go to see the big-box grocery store tomorrow. I am afraid we will have to buy a suitcase to bring back groceries, and it will still be cheaper with the suitcase included.

On the taxi ride back to the hotel, I asked the driver what he thought about the future of Paraguay. He had his doubts. “We have lots of problems here in Paraguay. Increased violence, we need more jobs, and people are starving in the interior. Hopefully with the new government, things can turn around. And if we can attract more capital and investors, it will help.”

So I had to ask him, being the angry anarchocapitalist that I am, “Do you think the people can solve these problems on their own, without the government?” But he didn’t seem to be able to imagine the concept.