• Jun

    How to Deal with Mordida (Bribes) in Mexico


    The reality is, there’s corruption in Mexico, which exists in various forms. I refer to it as “in your face” corruption, as opposed to the institutionalized corruption which I see in Canada and the United states.

    One form of the corruption in Mexico is known as “Mordida” (which literally means “the bite”). The first time I encountered it was when I needed cable Internet for my apartment and I found someone to translate for me. After the fact, he demanded ($40 – in 2005) for his “work.” I was incensed, but I felt I had no choice, so I paid it. The next day he came around and tried to do it again, but I refused to pay. Fortunately, he went away and left me alone.

    Where you hear about it most commonly is with traffic incidents where a corrupt cop will stop you for an alleged traffic violation and tell you that you now owe some sum of money, but if you pay him, the cop, you’ll get a reduced rate.

    This is a scam. While tourists are often targeted, even locals aren’t immune from this less than subtle shakedown. In La Paz, where I lived, drivers who were shaken down were told to report the corrupt cop to the police station.

    But the bottom-line is when it happens, you’re on your own. Some drivers deliberately drive with a small amount of money in their wallets, so if they do get stopped, the amount they pay is minimal. Other drivers, like one I know in La Paz, refuse to pay anything.

    One guy in particular, when he was stopped, would pull out his iPhone and take a picture of the police officer. The officer, realizing what was happening, would wish him a nice day and send him on his way. I thought that was pretty ballsy and definitely not for everyone.

    Still other drivers demand that the cop write out the ticket. Another tactic is to play dumb, as if you don’t know any Spanish. That’s sometimes effective, too.

    One last thing, when driving, never carry original insurance papers nor your driver’s license with you. Always make copies. If a police officer attempts to confiscate them, you have the original.

    One thing I did see was when someone had parked in an unauthorized spot. The police stopped and instead of writing a ticket, they removed one of the plates from the car. Presumably, when the driver discovered the missing plate, he/she would have to contact the police. There, I’m guessing, they would be notified about the plate, the fine and have to pay it to get their plate back. If anyone knows more about this practice, feel free to add it to the comments.

    © Nathan Segal 2013.

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