What do Mexicans mean by corruption?
According to the experts, President-Elect López-Obrador benefited from a backlash against corruption.
I don't deny that it worked on his behalf, but what exactly do we mean by corruption?
During my time living in Mexico, I used to hear about bribes to police officers. It went like this. The policeman stops you and asks for your license, and you give him one wrapped around a peso bill. Then the policeman gives you back the license and tells you not speed again.
My sense is that most Mexicans did not really object to that kind of corruption. In fact, some told me it was a way of helping policemen surviving with very low wages.
Another kind of corruption was paying bureaucrats to move your paperwork. I saw this with my own eyes when I went with a lawyer to a government agency.
Again, I don't remember a lot of opposition to that. In fact, I got the feeling that Mexicans liked to bribe to avoid bureaucratic delays.
So what kind of corruption are we talking about? Bribes to policemen? I don't think so. Bribes to bureaucrats to move documents? I don't think so.
My sense is that Mexicans are tired of a different kind of corruption, or the unelected bureaucracy rewriting rules in Congress or arbitrarily targeting businesses.
I think we call that picking "winners and losers" – sort of like Solyndra!
According to an international index, Mexico has a serious level of corruption:
The Mexico chapter of Transparency International blamed the federal government's resistance to extend the National Anti-Corruption System throughout the country for the drop in its ranking.
The NGO also said that the absence of a truly autonomous federal Attorney General's office and the lack of firm punishments in corruption cases are contributing factors in Mexico's score.
It recommended the efficient installation of the National Anti-Corruption System and the incorporation into the system of the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Federal Taxation Administration, SAT, to avoid the laundering and diversion of funds.
The final laws governing Mexico's Anti-Corruption System went into effect in July of last year. The system was widely hailed when it was first introduced, but has run into strong criticism from the citizens' commission designed to investigate corruption cases.
My sense is that Mexicans are tired of the arrogant bureaucracy.
What is López-Obrador going to do about that? Not much, because the public-sector unions supported him.
You can't clean up Mexico unless you are willing to downsize the public-sector unions and the bureaucracies they run.