An Episode From a Marathon Negotiation Of A Bribe With The Nicaraguan Tax Appraiser
By late January [of a year about five years ago], my latest lawyer had not made any progress in achieving a reduction for the absurd property assesment the Catastro engineers and officials had threatened to apply if I did not come up with a "decent offer". I devoted more time to being in the tax office myself, and eventually scheduled a site visit with the engineer technically empowered to do the appraisal (just a front man for the higher-ranking Aleman allies in the office).
D and I planned to drive out in the jeep. The engineer said he would go in a motorcycle with a driver from the tax office.
“Which way are we going?” asked D. (he only speaks Spanish)
“Go through Santa .”
“Isn’t the other way faster?”
I thought, “You idiot. These are the tax appraisers. What we want to do is show them the worst part of the property. They don’t know about the house, or the well, or the coffee, or the big trees. And I don’t want them to. Their bullsh** appraisal is already almost three times what I actually paid, even without them knowing about the well.”
I said only, “There’s a tree across the road. We’ll have to enter through Santa .”
D said, “Whatever, gringo. I can smash through any roadblock with shis vehicle.”
“We’re going through Santa ,” I said.
When we arrived at the worst part of the farm, we stopped the jeep, and I got out. “Stay here,” I said to D.
The engineer got off the motorcycle, and we walked over to one of the fencelines of the farm, where the farmland fell off into a canyon.
“The farm goes that way,” I said, pointing into the canyon.
“You paid eighty-five thousand for this shit?” he asked.
“You crazy gringo. Nobody will ever buy it back for that price. But that’s your problem. What I can tell you is that now you have to deal with me. What stupidity you had to come in with your lawyers, and your lobbiests, and then your other lawyer. The only one who can change the appraisal of your property is me. But it will cost you one thousand two hundred dollars.”
“Take a look at the land. What do you think it’s worth?”
“Who cares? We’re businessmen.”
“I offer you one hundred dollars as the grease and that's all,” I said to him. “I want to pay the correct price. Three thousand, four hundred twenty dollars.”
“You’ve got more than one hundred dollars!” he replied. “Look, I’m saving you five thousand. You can pay me one thousand two hundred.”
“Saving me? You aren't saving me anything. You know your initial appraisal was a joke. I'm a gringo but I'm not an idiot. My final offer is that I will give you one hundred fifty dollars upfront, plus that I will employ for three lessons of one hour each to teach me about Nicaragua, for which I’ll pay you twenty-five dollars each. That’s two hundred twenty-five altogether.”
“Look, maybe if you bring me some gringa girls to have a little fun with, we can talk. But right now, you’ve got nothing to offer me. I’m the one with the power here.
The motorcycle driver who had brought the engineer said, perfectly out loud, “It’s not all that bad. It’s something.”
The engineer shook his head and said to his driver, “There’s too much complication involving other properties around here for me to accept that. I’ve got the same situation with everyone else. I'm negotiating with all of them. What are they going to say if I let this guy off easy?”
He tiurned back to me. “Gringo, you can pay either eight thousand five hundred, or you can pay four thousand four hundred.”
I thought, “At least the "high price has now come down by a third. But the low price is still a one thousand dollar bribe.”
“No thanks. I’ll just keep my property provisionally inscribed then.”
They got back on their motorcycle and headed back to town.