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Mexico - Corruption

Bribery or "mordida" - the bite - plays an important role in the Mexican criminal justice system. The word "bribe" is, of course, known throughout the world. In the United States, it has been called a pay-off, a kickback, hush money, payola, and a sweetener. It is sometimes concealed behind what is called a commission, a reward, a finder's fee, a gratuity, or a "thank you." Other countries have even more colorful language, like in India where it is known as a "backhander," the Middle East where it is known as "baksheesh," or in Nigeria where it is sometimes called "dash." One of the most pointed, and accurate, word for bribe comes from Mexico where it is often called mordida, or "the bite."

The report "Money Under the Table: financing and illegal spending of political campaigns in Mexico", a study released 29 May 2018 that addresses the main problem of Mexican electoral democracy: the excess of illegal money, both public and private, that flows into campaigns for winning elections and buying future benefits, such as access to public works contracts, special permits, purchase of impunity and access to favorable regulation to do business. The study shows that the generous system of public financing of parties and campaigns that was born in 1996 has failed to combat the influence of illegal money in democratic life and that it is necessary to rebuild the system from top to bottom.

"Money under the table" is a study coordinated by Mara Amparo Casar, President of Mexicanos Against Corruption and Impunity, and Luis Carlos Ugalde, General Director of Integralia Consultores, with the support of research by Ximena Mata Zenteno and Leonardo Nez Gonzlez. To carry out this, an extensive documentary and newspaper investigation was carried out in which more than 60 actors linked to campaigns were interviewed, among them governors, candidates, political operators, campaign strategists, advisers, businessmen, public officials, pollsters, media and journalists.

The forms of illegal private financing involve the commission of some crimes such as money laundering, fraud and tax evasion, simulation of operations through ghost companies or faade, illegal media coverage, among others. Campaign money is delivered in cash or in kind, either directly to the candidate or party, or through third parties using triangulation schemes. The main destination of illegal money in campaigns is electoral clientelism: purchase, mobilization and inhibition of voting, as well as the payment of campaign strategists and media coverage.

For every peso that is reported as an expense exercised in a governor's campaign, there are 15 pesos that move under the table, which are never reported and whose origin is unknown. On average, candidates for governor spend ten times more than the legal limit. If the average cap is 46.8 million pesos, the average expenditure exercised is 470 million pesos, with higher and lower cases, depending on the size of the entity and its level of electoral competitiveness. The main sources of illegal financing are the diversion of public resources, illegal private financing and the financing of organized crime.

Bribery has long been widespread throughout Mexican politics. Mexico is well known for its illegal drug trade and the corruption the industry fosters. Corruption is rooted in the national culture of Mexico. There is a deeply entrenched culture of impunity and corruption in Mexico's government, particularly at the state and local level.

Mexicans view their police as having the lowest legitimacy out of all governmental functions due to corruption and lack of professionalism. Much of the public animosity toward the police stems from personal experience of solicitation of bribes by police, poor or nonexistent police response to emergency calls, and soaring levels of street crime in major cities. Even officers that wish to remain clean are forced into corruption by their superiors.

Mexico is strategically close to narcotic smuggling routes of Central America and parts of the Caribbean. Most of the violent crimes reported over the last 12 months are the result of various drug trafficking groups fighting for control of smuggling routes. Police corruption and involvement in criminal activity occurs in most parts of Mexico. Low apprehension and conviction rates of criminals contribute to Mexico's high crime rate. Corruption, along with fear of reprisals from criminal elements, leads most to believe that many crimes go unreported.

A tradition of official corruption and influence peddling throughout the seven-decade rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional-PRI) has been a significant factor in promoting criminal activity at various levels. Mexico's twentieth-century history as a centralized authoritarian regime with heavy state regulation of the economy created opportunities for domestic organized crime groups to function as purveyors of contraband, influence, and evasion and protection services. Organized crime groups historically have relied on large-scale bribery of politicians, civil servants, and law enforcement personnel to protect their criminal enterprises. For example, former drug kingpin Juan Garca Abrego claimed to have spent up to US$50 million per month to buy protection from Mexican law enforcement and judicial officials during the 1980s.

The political influence of organized crime in Mexico peaked during the administration of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-94). Deep structural reforms introduced by the Salinas administration eliminated the rationale for organized crime activity based on evasion of burdensome government regulations and tariffs. At the same time, the reforms opened up new channels for criminal participation in the newly liberalized economy. According to organized crime expert Louise Kelley, during the Salinas years "drug traffickers acquired unprecedented influence at high levels of the national government as well as at the level of regional governorships." Lingering public anger at the Salinas-era scandals contributed to the defeat of the PRI during the 2000 presidential elections, which ended seven decades of single party control over the executive branch.

Mexico deposited its instrument of ratification on the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions on May 27, 1999. The implementing legislation entered into force on May 18, 1999. The Mexican legislation was reviewed by the OECD Working Group on Briberyunder Phase 1 in February 2000 and the on-site visit for the Phase 2 examination took place on February 2-6, 2004.

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators and other indices reflected that corruption remained a problem at all levels of government, as some public officials continued to perpetrate bureaucratic abuses and some criminal acts with impunity. Corruption at the most basic level involved paying bribes for routine services or in lieu of fines to administrative officials and security forces. More sophisticated and less apparent forms of corruption included overpaying for goods and services to provide payment to elected officials and political parties.

In the speech at the National Accord for Transparency and Combating Corruption on February 26, 2001 in Mexico City, Mexican President Vicente Fox described corruption as deeply rooted in the environmental sector in Mexico under the previous administration. According to the President, "the nation's public property invaded and used for private interests; beach areas and ecological reserves illegally exploited by former and current public servants as well as businessmen and foreigners; environmental impact certificates and forest, fishing, and hunting permits granted on a discretionary basis; preferential treatment given to companies responsible for polluting; distribution of water for political purposes; punitive actions not carried out."

President Calderon remarked in speeches in March 2009 and October 2009 that corruption was a serious problem in the police forces and a primary reason for the use of the military in the domestic counternarcotics fight. President Calderon stated that the future of democracy in Mexico is at stake inthe government's fight against corruption and organized crime.

The CNDH reported that police, especially at the state and local level, were involved in kidnapping, extortion, and in providing protection for, or acting directly on behalf of, organized crime and drug traffickers. Local forces in particular tended to be poorly compensated and directly pressured by criminal groups, leaving them most vulnerable to infiltration. According to a 2009 HRW report in impunity in the country, impunity was pervasive; this lack of accountability contributed to the continued reluctance of many victims to file complaints. Responsibility for investigating federal police abuse falls under the purview of the PGR or the Secretariat of Public Administration, depending on the type of offense.

To better manage the corruption problem, in January 2009 the government enacted legislation establishing a four-year deadline to vet personnel in all of the country's 2,600 police forces using a series of testing mechanisms. The legislation requires all police forces to meet certain compensation and training standards, and it also makes it easier for authorities to fire corrupt or unfit officers. In addition to rooting out corruption at the federal level through "Operation Cleanup," the government led anticorruption operations in several states. On May 26, federal authorities arrested 10 mayors, a judge, and 16 law enforcement officers in the state of Michoacan for ties to drug trafficking. At least 12 of these officials were later released for lack of evidence against them. SSP officers arrested 92 police officers in the state of Hidalgo on June 26 for protecting a DTO. Also in June the military arrested more than 70 local and state law enforcement officers with presumed ties to organized crime.

By the end of 2009, 16 SSP and PGR officials had been indicted for corruption since the government launched Operation Cleanup in July 2008; however, none had been convicted. During the year the Customs Agency relieved more than 700 employees and replaced them with vetted officials.

Since 2007 the National Migration Institute (INM) has sanctioned approximately 300 migration officials for involvement in corruption. In May two officers assigned to the Mexico City International Airport were detained for human smuggling, and another two were detained in June for the same reason. Also in June INM's regional director in Yucatan, Hernan Vega Burgos, resigned after being accused of corrupt activities.



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