Recently, ANA met with Lic Eduardo Valdivia, of Tourism’s Legal Attention to Visitors Office, to discuss its free legal assistance for, not just tourists, but all foreigners in Puerto Vallarta, including us part- and full-timers.
Lic. Valdivia’s office, conveniently located in the little casita at the southeast corner of Cardenas Park, is open 8-4, Monday through Friday. Its three English-speaking lawyers provide a variety of free legal services to tourists, both foreign and domestic, and foreigners in general.
Their services include offering legal guidance and assistance in making both civil and criminal complaints. The lawyers will even accompany you to the Fiscalia (DA’s office), providing transportation and translation services (again, free) if/when you need to appear there in person.
They’ll also help with filing complaints on anything from garbage to speed bumps, disputes about contracts, disagreements with landlords, and problems with bad local service (products purchased, but not delivered, etc.).
In the case of bad local service, the Tourism lawyers will first attempt to mediate a settlement between you and the provider. If that fails, they’ll help you take the matter to PROFECO, or the appropriate department regulating that business.
The lawyers will try to handle everything at the time of your visit. Questions and complaints can be dealt with in as little as 10-15 minutes or as much as an hour or so, depending on the complexity of the situation.
Lic. Valvidia reports a solid track record for his office, which handled 10 complaints last month. Out of 20, he says 15 are usually resolved satisfactorily.
The office has recently taken over for TaxiSafe, a non-governmental program created to make reporting police misbehavior and rogue taxi drivers easier for tourists – and the rest of us, for that matter. The office will take and forward any complaints about police abuse or harassment directly to Internal Affairs at UMA for immediate action, but a specific process must be followed.
Within a couple of days (usually 2-5), a police line-up will be held so the victim can identify the police element/s responsible. There’s no skipping this vital step. The following legal process can take a couple of weeks, but a tourist with a plane to catch can sign a Power of Attorney, giving the Tourism lawyer the ability to stand in for him or her, so justice can be done in the victim’s absence.
With bad taxi drivers, the Tourism lawyers can take the matter to the Sindicato, which regulates and disciplines cab drivers, and a fine or suspension can result.
A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE
Lic. Valdivia offered the following information and advice:
- Police officers must have and show their ID.
- The police have the right to ask you for your ID.
- If you’re out late at night, it’s smart to keep your ID separate from your wallet, so if you have to present ID, you don’t have to flash cash.
Legal Attention to Visitors: The Cardenas Park office is open 8 to 4, Monday-Friday. There’s also a desk in the Tourism office in the downtown City Hall, open 8-8, Monday-Friday. The office phone is (322)-222-2224. Initial complaints can even be made by email, preferably with details and photos included. Email the office at firstname.lastname@example.org