Mar 9, 2004, 10:18 PM
Post #13 of 36
My, my, you guys are shy!
Re: [raferguson] Corruption in Mexico - Bribetaking on TV
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I've read about this stuff in Mexico travel books….. The traffic cop pulls you over and you bat it around for awhile, he threatens to take you in or write you up, you trump him with, “Good, let’s go see the chief.” He backs off; you exchange “good days” and go your separate ways. You didn’t pay the bribe and he learned a little lesson about true, blue Americans.
I can make this story short and cute (Aren’t these foreign customs cute!). And if you are just passing through these adventures make great stories to tell back home at a party. The price of the adventure is worth it for all the center of attention you might get just telling the story. But I’m going to make the story painfully long so you know what actually happened. That will best communicate the sense of it, and squeeze the cuteness out of it.
Two years ago I was in Mexico for a short trip with a friend. We drove my pickup down, got our Tourist Visas, and I got my Vehicle Permit. On returning I did not turn them in because I had specified that I wanted 180 days on each because I was returning to Mexico with my wife in the coming summer for a month. I would thus save the same cost all over again. Just weeks before the summer started she fell with complications and we summered driving back and forth to Mayo Clinic. An operation was scheduled for September, which was also the date of the expiration of the permits. Knowing there was not a chance I could make a personal trip to the border to turn the stuff in, I called he Mexican Consul for my area. He is a personal acquaintance dating from a year before when we all had dinner together after his trip to my Midwestern town to issue Matricular ID’s. We hit it off, and “I should call him when we wanted our FM3.” So with the pickle I was in I called him and told him the whole thing about the permits and my bad situation. He immediately understood, and expressed kind concern for my wife’s health. He said he had to see the pickup with the sticker on the windshield in order to truthfully verify that the pickup was in the USA and not sold in Mexico. The Consulate is an 8 hour drive one way. Drive down, office time, drive back = 2 days. I didn’t really have that kind of time with her operation and recuperation coming down on me. He immediately said that they were coming to issue Matricular ID’s in a town only 1.5 hours from my town the following Saturday – why didn’t I drive down there and he would help me there. I did. And with a six hour line of his countrymen waiting for ID’s, he took 7 minutes of his time to go out to my pickup, verify its existence, and scrap the sticker off to send in. He took all my paper for the Visa and Vehicle Permit and said he would take care of it. He asked about my wife, asked about my son-in-law, and he asked about my son-in-law’s brother in Chicago. A few weeks late he sent me copies of his letters to the Mexican government to return my Visa and Vehicle Permit.
Nothing happened for a year. Then he forwarded me all my documents with a denial from his government which in essence said that I would have to do this at the border. He was sorry it didn’t work out, but no problem, I could just turn it in at the border when we were moving down. I got the FM3’s and his instructions; I had all his letters of attempt and explanation of my circumstance in a file. I even called the Mexican office in charge of this stuff – no problem.
When I got to Reynosa I was moving throw the lines just fine in the very early morning light. In requesting my new pickup permit, I gave them the whole file and expected it to go as I was told it would go – no problem. I got shuffled to another window, they called back to Immigration office, I got my new truck permit, but I would have to go back to the Immigration office to get the FM3 stamped.
Well, not so fast! The Immigration people can’t stamp our FM3’s due to the $1500 US fine due to the old Vehicle Permit not being turned in on time. But I had papers signed and dated of my attempt and etc. (see above). But no problem, the boss would be coming in about 15 minutes and he could help me – maybe lower the fine. These upright guys certainly didn’t have the jurisdiction to lower the fine – especially with the no bribery sign tacked up right behind them. So I sat around for an hour, nothing happens except an official keeps coming over and talking to me, being helpful, complimenting me on my Spanish (that’s when I should have figured him out), etc. I had my wife’s FM3 as well as mine and I had explained that she is crippled with a nuero-muscular disease (all documented in the FM3 by the Mexican Consul in my area, and accompanied by a letter explaining that she should be allowed to pass with oxygen tanks, and uddles of mobility equipment. That is why she isn’t in the office. Fine. Now she is out in the pickup parked at the curb in the corner a block away near the bridge entrance. I better check that she is OK, doesn’t need anything. It was only going to be 20 minutes. Sure, go ahead. The boss should be in anytime. Back already. Nope, he not in yet. Anytime. An hour later my wife needs her refrigerated medicine – with food. Sure, go ahead. Back again. Nope, still not in. Then the lowly Immigration parking lot guard takes me aside in a fatherly manner and says, “Why don’t you pay the fat man.” (Thinks I, the fat man never asked me for anything. He only commiserates with me about the boss not being in to work yet. The boss is now 2.5 hours late for work.) With a crippled wife sitting curbside on the street, maybe waiting for a traffic cop, refrigerated pills being cooled at the expense of my battery – I know that things could begin to get a lot worse and even fast. My situation was in a downtrend and gaining momentum. So the parking lot guard walks me into the office and middlemans the negotiation with the desk official who is not the boss (not in yet), but who has been making various decisions and having lessers come up to him for signatures and stamps, etc. It’s $1500 US and he can’t lower that, but how much do I have? (Well….I haven’t much time to decide how much I have. How much is it good to have? Not too much. But enough to not insult him [assuming he is insultable]. He is certain to know about credit cards and banks. Well, Ok.) I’ve got 700 pesos….but I need 200 for gas for the trip into Mexico. = $500 pesos (or $50 bucks. What’s he going to do?). The middleman says he says it’s OK. But don’t give it too him. I must put the money in my passport so when I hand him the documents he will know where to find it. I must not tell anyone about this. (We are 8 feet from the no bribe sign.) The middleman wants a tip. I give him 20 pesos. Low station – low bribe. If he want to really get his snout in the trough he’s going to have to go to secondary, or prep school, better yet university. Next……Here’s my documents. Very good. STAMP..STAMP. Much thanks, Mister. That you go well.
I was in a perfect victim situation. They knew from the first minute (I had explained that my wife couldn’t physically get into their office from the pickup because she couldn’t walk…. Documents signed by higher Mexican officials to prove it.). If American psychiatrists had only a small proportion of the people skills of a Mexican vendor or government clerk, they could do an accurate analysis in 2 minutes with nothing more than an orange crate on the street for an office.
Some other time:
A government tourist lady comes to our house one day to see if we want to rent a room to tourist for Semana Santa. Blah, blah……Dorothy asks why the handicapped parking spots near the zocalo are most often filled with cars that don’t have handicapped stickers, and there is always a cop standing right in front of those 3 spots…..every day. She says they sell them, nothing she can do. Bad for tourism? Sure. That’s the way it is. Maybe you can call this complaint number. Me? Have the Tourists’ Office call the police Department? NO. It wouldn’t do any good. It would be better if you did it.
My wife mentions the brand new Jaguar sedan that was parked there the other day without a cripple sticker. Not many cripples jump in and out of Jaguars. That smooth white shirt would be one of the first guys sitting in an expensive restaurant to criticize Americans for not having flowery manners - "la respeta"…..a real cultural watchdog. Some types of culture you are better without.
How about the landlord who had me sign a contract that requires me to pay the rent in cash (he owns a hotel that caters to tourists with prepayment by credit card) so he can avoid the 15% tax - former local politician - patriot. Hell of a manners man.
There are a number of abuses the USA has pressed on Mexico since the 1830’s. But this kind of corruption is not one of them – this is self-abuse. There is a great deal of self-abuse in Mexico, and their opportunity time is running out. Korea didn’t wait; and China didn’t wait, so Mexico is loosing its low wage factories. Now India isn’t waiting, it is doing the more valuable mental work – in unaccented English. Meanwhile in the university here in my state, students in gangs are extorting grades from professors with threats. Good grades are very important toward getting a good position, in order to secure a good future for oneself. Understandable! Does Mexico intend to compete with the Arabs????
I hope the men learn to stop pissing on the toilet seats before it is too late. Poor Mexico!
Opps! Did I forget we got some too…..Enron? Hang em. Not one year, not two years. Hang em……before the infection spreads. It’s a terrible disease that feeds off of vulnerable people. And it is extremely contagious. Let their wives’ cry.
“Rank has it’s privileges”……and extreme responsibilities (somebody forgot to write).