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by Fer Hidalgo
I was driving to lunch last Sunday in Mexico City with a relative who owns his own business. He asked my opinion on establishing a sporting arena in one of Mexico City’s most populated sectors. His company imports sporting goods, and sells them to two of the largest distributors in the country. He explained to me that he wasn’t too sure about getting into business with the government: the public sector would pay for the costs of the arena’s rent, and all the equipment associated with it - lights, sounds, floor, snack bar, etc. -- which would be about a million pesos. However, the Mexican government’s representatives would write a check to my relative’s company for two million pesos -- an amount which my relative would be expected to give half back in secret. In a sense, these officials wanted to wash money through my relative’s proposed business. Two nights before, my relative had even asked me to wake up early on Saturday -- and take 150,000 pesos to another official who was auditing the company.
Mexican bribery and the corruption it represents are not just in the business sector – they are rife in education as well. My girlfriend, along with her best friends and about twenty other students, paid about 600 pesos in bribes to the school officials in charge of arranging their class schedules -- in order to get into the best classes, or to have the best teachers, even though her university is totally autonomous and practically free.
I myself have had four separate encounters with the police – all of which were ‘solved’ by bribery. Two were because of alcohol-related misdemeanors during my party-hard early college years; the other two were due to paperwork on my car being out of order. However, none of them is on any record, because I paid about 1,500 pesos in total to bribe the officers.
None of these bribery or corruption cases is out of the ordinary here in Mexico; something similar can happen on any given weekend -- or even in any given business meeting.
My question is: why? Some people claim that it is due to a lack of educational standards; some say it’s a lack of values. Still, I don’t think these two explanations can explain the corruption that goes on at all levels of Mexican social life.
How can a country with such a rich culture and such beautiful sights have such ugly features just beneath the skin?
Many factors come into play in this issue of Mexican corruption: corrupt governments dating back about 100 years; criminal organizations that have been growing for the past 70 years; possible past U.S. interests and influences; a deteriorating in our public education system; an ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor; and most importantly, the apathy that has been present in Mexican life -- for who knows how long.
This is an election year for Mexico, and it’s turning out to be a very controversial one. Mexico’s youth is awakening; protest movements are arising all over the nation, much as in other parts of the globe. Many people are joining these movements. This will create more friction, which will either lead to further divisions among Mexican society -- or else to peaceful strides toward constructive resolutions.
To me, it is very inspiring to witness first-hand this sense of indignation that’s been sweeping the globe these past few years. Hopefully, it will be a wakeup call for this wonderful country, Mexico, too --- to take more steps in the right direction, and tackle this widespread, demoralizing corruption next, as part of a democratic awakening in Mexico.
NOTE: "Fer Hidalgo" is a pseudonym chosen to protect the identities of the writer and the writer's family members.
:: photo courtesy of Esparta via Creative Commons license ::