Just recently two people in San Carlos that I know very well were forced to deal with corrupt government officials. These officials were from the the state, not the city of Guaymas. What is interesting is how these two individuals dealt with the corrupt government officials. Both people secretly taped the officials that were preparing to extort money form them. One individual showed the officials that they had been recorded while asking for a bribe and then threatened the officials with exposure if they did not back off. They backed off! The other individual never told the official they had been taped and was only going to use the taped conversation if they were unable to resolve the situation with a greatly reduce fine, which they succeeded in doing. So the question from this excellent article by Vadillo below is very relevant to me. What do you all think?
Please consider taking the poll on this question below and I do recommend reading the below article before you take it and then seriously ponder your answer! Gracias
Sinembargo: Jorge Javier Romero Vadillo*
The unjust penalty marked in the last minute of regulation time in the match between Panama and Mexico in the semifinals of the [CONCACAF, Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football] Gold Cup, and Andrés Guardado’s decision to make his kick with the intention of scoring a goal has generated an interesting national debate, despite the trifle that a soccer game is in the midst of the sad national circumstances.
MV Note: With this penalty kick in overtime, Mexico won and advanced to the finals, where they defeated Jamaica.
On the one hand, the chroniclers of television at the time of the event … the many always outraged in the social networks and various newpaper commentators have expressed irritation that the player executed the kick despite the lack of doubt by anyone that the referee’s call was unfair. On the other hand, there have been those who have defended Guardado because what he did was play by the rules of the game, by which the game referee is the undisputed authority on the field and even though his decision may be wrong, it cannot be contested. Two articles published in El Universal, one by León Krauze and the other by Mauricio Merino clearly summarize the polar positions on the issue.
Merino, perhaps the most prominent expert on corruption among Mexican academics, sees in Guardado’s action a reflection of the ethical disease in the country. In scoring an unjust goal, says the professor from CIDE [Center for Research and Teaching in Economics, a private university specializing in social sciences.], the player acted like many entrepreneurs who twist the law and pay bribes to get contracts, or public servants who turn a blind eye to corruption because of the money they receive. Thus, for Merino, corruption is an ethical problem that would be resolved if we all acted in accordance with principles and moral values.
Krauze, however, sees Guardado’s action as appropriate behavior within the environment of the game: in making the goal, Guardado did as he should, as both teams had agreed in advance to submit to the referee’s decisions, one of the basic principles in the rules of soccer. There was thus no violation of ethical behavior by the player, because he acted within the regulatory framework and took a legitimate advantage.
Beyond being anecdotal, the controversy is relevant insofar as it raises two ways of understanding the phenomenon of corruption that grips the country and that is undoubtedly one of the main causes of its economic stagnation, inequality and backwardness. I usually agree with Mauricio; I have fought a thousand battles with him, including the crusade for accountability to which he has been committed, but not in this case.
The idea reflected in Merino’s article is that to fight corruption, the thing to do is to undertake a process of moralization: those who are corrupt are so because their morals are twisted. Thus, the solution would be to reissue the call to the moral renewal of society proclaimed by the government of Miguel de la Madrid [president, 1982-88] thirty years ago. The cure of the evil would be an educational or religious matter of propagating spotless ethics in Mexicans. In essence Merino agrees with Peña Nieto that corruption is a cultural issue.
I think Krauze gives better clues regarding this issue. The question is: what is the appropriate behavior within a given institutional framework (rules of the game)? Corruption exists in Mexico in a generalized manner not because Mexicans are more morally twisted than Swedes or Germans, but because the institutional environment, the real rules of the game (not the written ones, which are usually worthless) make corrupt behavior appropriate and rational.
The driver who gives a “mordida” [“bite”, bribe] to the traffic police doesn’t do so because his soul is eaten away by moral degradation, but because that is the most appropriate behavior to solve the problem in which he became involved. He negotiates his obedience to the law directly with the agent because this practice is institutionalized and it is the rational behavior in the given environment. If he were to do the same in Berlin or London, it would be absolutely irrational behavior, because the police there would not be willing to negotiate obedience to the law, and it is likely that the Mexican willing to offer a bribe would end up in jail, as would the police for having behaved like a traffic cop open to bribery in Mexico City.
Rational behavior is not absolute. It is an adaptive mechanism for the institutional environment in which one operates, and what is rational in one society can be totally irrational in another. A friend of mine, an architect of impeccable rectitude, spent three days trying to renew the registration for his car, an older model, but each time he got to the clerk’s window, he learned that he lacked a specific piece of paper. His ethical behavior was stupid when all the gibberish could have been resolved with a hundred pesos [US$6] and a smile to the official who attended to him.
Corruption in Mexico is rational because it is the right way to deal with a civil service based on making deals with clients that has solved the problem of agency by granting relative autonomy to its employees to personally manage the rules and negotiate in their own way obedience or disobedience to laws conceived not as the actual rules of the game but precisely as boundaries to be negotiated.
The problem of corruption is not rooted in the morals of drivers, or business people or officials, but the way in which the Mexican State has established its relationship with society: handing out privileges and protections in exchange for income or political support. It is true that stronger public ethics would help, but it would end up being superfluous where the operation of the State involves selling favors…. Spanish original
*Jorge Javier Romero Vadillo is a political scientist, professor and researcher in the Department of Politics and Culture of the Autonomous Metropolitan University, Xochimilco Campus. He holds a masters in Political Science from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and a doctorate from the Faculty of Poltical Science and Sociology of the University Complutense of Madrid. He is a regular contributing columnist for Sinembargo.