How Did Governmental Corruption Become So Rampant in Mexico?

Posted on June 7, 2019


As the theory that “to be efficient government should be run like a business” became more popular after World War II, concepts like “trade balance” and stock market values became national concerns. The governments of the United States and leading countries in Europe and Korea and Japan in Asia supported manufacturing and exports, sometimes to the disadvantage of their own citizenry. Countries in Latin America and Asia, including Mexico, imitated them, shucking internal development for raw materials and manufacturing exports.
But it didn’t work the same way. Mexico and other “developing nations” more recently had emerged from autocratic ruler—kings, dictators, emperors. Their bureaucracies were not solidly established like those of the United States, England and France. Police under a king or emperor need not be well-trained. Tax collectors, judges, accountants needed only to serve their rulers’ wishes. Obedience, not efficiency or honesty, becomes a rule of thumb.
When a government becomes a business it takes its governmental functions with it, one of which is law enforcement. In most so-called democracies the President/Prime Minister/CEO’s staff has a variety of separate duties, most of which are designed to increase the corporation’s profits or assist profit-making by establishing well-functioning working conditions. These working conditions include production tools, well-defined processes of production and distribution and safeguarding production methods and those involved in their performance. These create expenditures that per se do not generate profit but do contribute to overall profit-making.
This independently functioning bureaucracy didn’t exist in Mexico. Local and state police were among the lowest paid in the world, making them easy recipients of bribes, particularly from drug cartels. Within the bureaucracy a spoils system existed: department heads hired wives, daughters, cousins, in-laws to posts for they had no experience. The executive branch controlled the judiciary and regulations governing money transfers were ineffectual and in many cases non-existent. Governors like Javier Duarte of Veracruz pocketed billions of pesos and weren’t checked until the 2018 presidential elections loomed and the incumbent party, the PRI, faced losing because of corruption scandals. (I deal with this more explicitly in Mexico vs. Trump due out from Sunbury Press this fall.)
Newly elected President Andrés Manuel López Obrador launched an anti-corruption campaign immediately after taking office in December 2018 but he inherited a system imbedded with the corruption of hundreds of years. Mexico’s police are still among the world’s poorest paid, the laws governing financial transactions among the world’s weakest. Forbes Magazine lists Mexican entrepreneurs among the richest individuals in the world but as a nation Mexico has one of the largest gaps between rich and poor of any country. Despite so-called “democratic elections” Mexico is an oligarchy. The wealthiest 100 families are those who, in reality, rule.

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