It’s not often that a country drops 28 places in a major corruption index. But 2016 has been a bad year for Mexico.
Transparency International’s yearly survey (”Corruption Perceptions Index 2016”) ranked 176 nations on perceived levels of corruption. Last year, Mexico ranked 95; this year, it fell to 123.
Ironically, Mexico enacted its first major anti-corruption bill in 2016. But in reality, it’s still plagued by untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions – especially its police and judiciary. Just because a law is enacted doesn’t mean that it won’t be skirted or ignored in practice. Laws in themselves are meaningless.
President Enrique Peña Nieto promised to fund proper implementation of the National Anti-Corruption System and the General Law on Transparency, but many experts remain skeptical. Major corruption scandals continue unresolved and the president’s approval rating is at its lowest level ever.
As Transparencia Mexicana said: “Transformation of the legal and institutional framework must be accompanied by systematic actions to dismantle the insidious networks of corruption that characterize many of the country’s public institutions.”
In light of the case of the Missing 43 (and others), how many insidious networks can this government dismantle? Its credibility was and continues to suffer as a result of multiple fiascoes. Police on the take, military on the take, mayors and governors on the take. The entire system is seeped in bribery, graft, patronage and dirty deals. Pride of uniform, pride of public service, price of nation… dissipate with the roll of crisp hundred dollar bills.
The “insidious network” is still very much alive in Mexico. And the predicted economic crisis with the US will only make things worse.
When will real reform occur?
Transparencia Mexicana made a series of recommendations, including “an independent, autonomous and independent Attorney General’s Office to ensure that the country’s anti-corruption policy is not influenced by domestic or international politics.” But in a state characterized by impunity, few observers expect this to happen soon.
The real question is whether the Mexican political class is willing to admit that the privileges they have historically enjoyed are no longer sustainable. Will they accept the rule of law where all citizens, regardless of class, are treated equally before the law? This is the real question, and one rarely asked among politicians.
Will Peña Nieto acknowledge that he and his wife were gifted vacations, beautiful homes, etc. by a construction company that received billions in government contracts? Will the PRD accept responsibility for the criminal activities of its politicians in Guerrero, Michoacan and other states? Will the PAN admit the hundreds of millions of dollars their senators and congressmen have received in kickbacks from state officials in return for federal funds?
None of these cases has been adequately investigated – and they probably never will. Mexican politicians simply turn a blind eye, and the public winces again and again. In reality, Mexico still lacks real checks and balances between powers. And the levels (and severity) of corruption, influence peddling and impunity are simply overwhelming.
Unfortunately, the “pueblo” doesn’t score much better. According to INEGI’s National Quality and Government Impact Survey (2016), 93.3% of Mexican victims of corruption don’t report anything to the competent authorities. The 3 most common reasons for their refusal were: (a) they doubt the authorities will properly follow up; (b) they view corruption as a common practice, what Mexicans sometimes call “customs and mores”; or (c) they consider filing a report to be a complete waste of time.
What José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International, said in general applies to Mexico: “people are deprived of their most basic needs” (including a proper education), “while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity.”
That pretty much sums it up.