Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bribing the Man

I don't think I would ever drive in Mexico City. At first glance the drivers are aggressive, don't signal, and for that matter don't even obey traffic lights. Sometimes the left hand turn lanes are at the right hand side of the road, and sometimes there aren't left hand turn lanes at all--the turn is accomplished by pulling perpendicular in front of the waiting cars going in your desired direction, and then turning to drive with them across the intersection when their light turns green. You soon learn, however, that driving in Mexico City has its own sort of logic. Everyone seems to be following some sort of rules, even if these aren't immediately apparent to an outsider (me). 

This brings me to the subject of traffic laws, which are certainly not the set of rules that everyone is obeying. But while no one seems to follow the laws, that's OK, because neither do the police. My friends, for example, were in a car when their driver was cited for drunk driving (don't worry Mom, I was not with them). While this is a serious offense in the United States, in this case the driver payed a bribe of 50 pesos (about $3) and went on his merry way. 

Many Mexicans decry the corruption of Mexico, and highway patrols are perhaps one of the most obvious signs of them. Yet when it is this easy to break the law and get away with it, why change anything at all? There is one person, however, whom I deeply admire, you refuses to play in to the corrupt system. When she is pulled over, instead of shelling out her fifty pesos and shaking the cop's hand, she pulls out her copy of the penal code--which she keeps handily stashed in her dashboard compartment--and demands that they point out the law which she is breaking. They of course, are unable to do so. Then, she insists that if she is breaking the law, that they write her a ticket. This is also an impossible task for a patrol man--he has never been forced to write a ticket in his life.

The third way of getting out of a ticket, I have learned, is to work for the government. The other night, we were heading back from the centro, four of us crammed in to the back seat of the car, when we were pulled over. Like riding without a seat belt, we were clearly in the wrong. But after allowing a short inspection of the car, all my friend had to do was show him his government ID and we were back on the road without further troubles. Cops cannot ask for a bribe from a government official--even if he was only 21--because of the danger that he will report them. So even though everyone knows that cops take bribes, at the federal level it is treated as if it simply doesn't happen.

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