By RICARDO CASTILLO
Every morning since Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) came into power last Dec. 1, 2018, he has repeated over and over again that his leadership is meant to oust thievery within the Mexican federal government. The word “corruption” is repeated constantly in his daily speeches at the morning press conferences he holds at the National Palace.
Also nearly on a daily basis, AMLO defends his stance against corruption, claiming gains in a struggle that most Mexicans had thought impossible. Eradicating the nefarious corruption that’s disrupted the Mexican economy for decades is no easy task, but fighting against it brings political gain.
Before I go on, many Mexican profiteers at large oppose this policy, but much to their chagrin, the political results point in a different direction.
On the morning of Monday, Sept. 23, a little known (at least in Mexico) polling station in Berlin, Germany, called Global Corruption Barometer, a dependency of the global watchdog International Transparency, claimed that in its polling, 61 percent of Mexicans “positively value” the anti-corruption strategy AMLO is following, “which clearly contrasts” with the ratings of the same institution back in 2017, which was 24 percent.
That, of course, is good news; 61 percent of Mexicans approve of AMLO’S anti-corruption strategy. This is unheard of news in Mexico in my 77 years of life, with 55 as a bilingual journalist.
But hold your horses, Pancho, corruption is not even close to being ousted in Mexico. My dear friend and now very veteran journalist Salvador del Rio wrote an article in El Sol de Mexico daily newspaper back in 1974 saying that corruption exists in Mexico because Hernan Cortés imbedded it into the structures of the original Spanish colonial rule in 1521, as a form of enticing Spanish conquerors to get gain and profit, which, of course, they did. Land grants in the then-wide open belongings of the Aztec Empire were humongous. So was corruption among the conquering Spaniards. Corruption in Mexico was inherited as a form of governance from colonial times.
The saying goes that old habits die hard and that happens to be true in the case of corruption. Whatever AMLO has managed to do thus far in stopping thievery through ax evasion must be recognized, but it is only the tip of the iceberg.
Bribery, kickbacks, “bites” or “mordidas” has been the name of the game forever in Mexico. It was there before I was born (1942) and it’s been a way of life for the now-arrogant and wealthy families still ruling the nation, “los gueros,” namely the “white ones,” still ruling the different posts of government all over the nation. Racially speaking, they now represent the most corrupt minority of the population. Still, they rule.
One of the big fights currently in the federal government is the struggle by the Treasury Secretariat (Hacienda) to eradicate fake bill factoring. As recently as last Monday, Sept. 23, AMLO denounced the discovery of literally thousands of big tax savings scams of fake companies located at, what else, fake addresses in the name of lowly paid employees. The objective, of course, was to evade paying taxes to the federal government.
In the current administration, the most notorious struggle against thievery against government (the people’s) property was the one launched head on by AMLO’s administration (with soldier’s upfront, some now dead, having fallen in danger’s way) against fuel theft from state-owned oil company Pemex. The move has been most successful, with up to 94 percent (AMLO’S figure) of fuel theft being stopped.
The list of government employees involved in corruption scams is very long and it’s going to be nearly impossible to stop it all. One of the worst cases is definitely the one of contraband in customs, right in the heart of the Treasury Secretariat.
As you know, every nation represents a market niche for other nations and Mexico is no different. But nowadays, the nation is being flooded with dumping-priced goods from China. How do they come in? Definitely, by way of corrupt officials at customs in the different ports of entry into the nation. Is this news? By no means, but this is an iceberg that does not have one tip, but many.
Eradicating corruption is Mexico is no easy task, but Mexicans who earn their daily living on limited (often too limited) wages and with honesty definitely approve of AMLO’s moves, much to the chagrin of ideological opponents, who still claim the old days were better.