Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Raven is really down in the beak today.

Seems that it had never occurred to him, despite
all of his scams and scatological capers that have
been the source of legends for millennia (well, that
may be overstating his audience drawing power just a
feather), he discovered when he read this week’s Proceso
(over my shoulder, of course) that he had been rotundly
one-upped by the rector of the Basilica of Our Lady of
Guadalupe in Mexico City!

Turns out that this guy, monseñor Diego Monroy Ponce,
has pulled off one of the All Time (for the Book of Records)
Scams: He managed to sell exclusive rights to the image
of Our Lady of Guadalupe for 12.5 million dollars to a
company called Viotran, based in Disney World! (well, at
least in Orlando, Florida) whose previous dedication had been
the transfer of money between Mexico and the US. According
to the CONFIDENTIAL contract signed by Monroy Ponce
and Viotran’s agent, María Teresa Herrera Fedyk, only Viotran
may use the image of the Virgin on posters, jackets, lighters,
telephone cards, plastic and wooden products, cds, watches,
candles, votive lights, ceramic articles, textiles, holy cards, gold
and silver objects...and anything else that it occurrs to them could
bring in a few bucks. These are special lighters, candles, condoms
(oops, maybe not those), etc. because they will be guaranteed to
be “BLESSED” by either Monroy or by the archbishop Norberto
Rivera Carrera. All profits will be split 50/50 by the Basilica and Viotran.

Raven finds this singular—and I as a lapsed protoCatholic do, too—that
the guy running the Basilica has managed to sell exclusive rights to
traffic with a religious image in the PUBLIC DOMAIN (not to mention
arguably being a big part of Mexico’s patrimony) to a US hot bucks
company (maybe the idea came because a US company holds the
copyright to Mexico’s national anthem?) This beats the archbishop’s
1999 papal visit Sabritas potato chips campaign (which a lawsuit stopped
in its tracks) all to hell. Legal specialists—especially those in canon law,
have indicated also that a deal of this magnitude must have had the collusion
of the Vatican, in that any deals over 250,000 dollars must be approved by
that entity.

Meanwhile, Monroy Ponce is buying up expensive houses in Michoacan and
Mexico City (on the deeds he has had the audacity to identify himself as a
“professor”, as opposed to a con artist of the first order) and along with the
Viotran agent is spearheading a campain called Help Your Loving Mother to
raise funds for the Basilica—because 20 million visitors a year have tapped
out the budget for keeping toilets clean and paying security guards to see that
nobody runs off without any rosaries without paying.

Raven is unconsolable. How did this one get by him?

Tomorrow: Saddam Hussein's bestselling book--some thoughts.

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