As the holiday season approaches I am reminded that the season of La Mordida is truly upon us. The only thing that is different at the moment from past years is that the new Governor, Claudia Pavlovich is all on this anti corruption campaign in Sonora now. She is even reportedly going after the last governor Guillermo Padrés for corruption. Which is a good thing since the last governor of Sonora was a huge crook. Just check out our story on the Deadly Dophinarium of San Carlos and the fiasco of trying to put in Zip lines over at the Estero El Soldado. Anti corruption seems to be the new trend in local Sonoran politics. Evan the new PAN mayor of Guaymas, Lorenzo DeCima is now going to bring in the last PRI mayor of Guaymas, Otto Clausan, to ask him where all the money went while he was in office. I will remind everyone that whoever the Mayor of Guaymas is at the moment is also the mayor of San Carlos as well since San Carlos is owned by Guaymas. We do have a comisario here but the comisario has no real power over anything and is simply a mouth piece for the mayor. So what Otto Clausan did at the end of his term last summer was put Guaymas and San Carlos into 700 million pesos of debt. Since San Carlos accounts for approximately 30 percent of property tax revenue in Guaymas with about 3% of the population you can realistically say San Carlos will be paying a large portion of that debt.
Anyway back to the local street cops here in San Carlos and how they will try to extort you in the coming weeks all the way into the new year. I have been going back through the archives of posts that I have read and made on the local forums over the years. So far I have found posts going all the way back to 2007 on the subject and it has never been more true that the more things change the more they stay the same. Even with the new Mexican judicial system just months away from implementation we should have no reason to believe that any thing will be any different this holiday season in San Carlos and all along highway 15 from the border. Especially be on your guard driving through Hermosillo. You should be extra careful to drive the speed limit while going through the states capital since if you are driving a vehicle with plates from the U.S.A. you have a much higher probability of being stopped. Even if you are going the same speed as the flow of traffic around you. The plates make you a target, plain and simple.
With all this in mind if you follow these simple guide lines your experience with La Mordida should be a relatively painless yet highly cultural affair. After all we come to Mexico for different reasons, cheap beer, beautiful brown eyed señoritas, sandy beaches and of course to revel in the culture. For the record I don’t believe that corruption in Mexico is cultural. I believe it to be Institutional and you can take our poll on that very subject at the following link and vote on that very interesting subject.
Guide lines on how to avoid paying or not paying a bribe while diving to San Carlos via highway 15.
- Don’t do the time if you didn’t do the crime! Here is the number one rule that gets you out of jail for free damn near every time. I am gonna say 100 times out of 100 you will drive away from the traffic stop in less than 20 minutes if you take this advise. Don’t be in a hurry and don’t be intimidated, take a deep breath when you get stopped and simply do the following. Have you drivers license and registration ready to give to the officer asap. They will almost never ask for insurance or your visa but you can give them that as well if they ask for it. At this point the cop might walk back to his car with your paper work in hand and chat with his partner for a few minutes and pretend to run you vehicle plates or something like that. What they are really talking about is how much they are gonna try to extort you for! When the officer returns and informs you have committed some kind of offense you must simply deny it. This will work as long as you did not commit this offense, what ever they tell you that you did you must be adamant that you are innocent. If the officer continues to insists that you did something wrong then you can ask him to write you the ticket or give you the documento official. If you speak Spanish I recommend not letting them know that you understand them. After about 10 minutes of this if you are not yet on your way then you tell the officer that you will follow him to the oficina del comandante so you can plead your case to his boss. You can also ask for his name and badge number as well. What ever the problem was at this point you should be off with a warning. The police officer does not want to waste his valuable time taking you down town to the comandante because that means he is not going to get paid anything so he will let you go. If you have done nothing wrong stand your ground and don’t be extorted! It is as simple as that.
- Ok you got me, I did something wrong now what? This scenario is different clearly since you have been caught doing something wrong. I will remind everyone right now that drinking and driving in Mexcio will cost you dearly. Aside from the fact that you should not do it I want to warn everyone that you have the potential to have your human rights abused should you actually get in an accident while driving under the influence in Mexico. Just last Saturday night a women who was driving and drinking plowed into a street light in front of the Santa Rosa. Several witnesses saw this women who could barely stand up let alone drive a car get slammed up against a cop car, cuffed and shoved aggressively into the back of a police car. Several of the by standers were giving the cop a hard time for being rough on the drunk tourist and the cop told everyone he did not give a shit. Cops are well know in Mexico for abusing the humans rights of citizens, just understand who you are dealing with. Here is what the law is regarding drinking and driving. If you have alcohol on your breath then guess what? You are guilty of driving with the smell of alcohol on your breath. Yes it is against the law to drive with alcohol on your breath in Mexico. That is not saying your are drunk. Drunk driving is different and worse. So watch out when you are coming out of the bars at night. You are a potential traffic stop almost immediately. So if you are guilty of doing something wrong here is what I recommend. Usually if the cop wants to extort you he is going to tell you how much the fine is right then and there. If you don’t have money on you he is going to take you to the ATM over at the CI Banco and expect you to take the money out of the machine to pay him. If you are really drunk and driving around town he may demand thousands of pesos from you. If you are simply speeding or you ran a stop sign it could end up being anywhere between 200 up to 500 pesos or more. In general these bribes are more than the fine if you went down to pay at the comisarios office so you should certainly negotiate. In general I would offer him at least 50 percent of what he is asking and it is a good idea to have a few hundred pesos in your wallet for this just in case. Tell them you don’t have any more money and you don’t have your ATM card with you. In general you should be able to be on your way quickly after paying them the fine right there on the street. If you were driving and drinking you may or may not be so lucky. Back in the day when a buddy of ours would bet busted for DUI if he was a local you often got escorted home and no fine. A few years ago a local friend of mine who will remain nameless but not forgotten was pretty much blotto driving home. They charged him a Ben Franklin and then sent him on his way. If you are not a local then they are gonna go after you for many thousands of pesos. Bottom line, don’t drink and drive! If you are speeding or run a stop sign don’t pay more than 50% of what they are asking you to pay. Remember everything is negotiable in Mexico when it comes to bribes. The last thing the cop on the street wants to do is to take you down to the comisarios office since then you will have to pay the official cost of the ticket, or if you are going to pay the bribe then the cop who stopped you will have to share the bribe with his boss the comandante. If you are actually going to pay the ticket and not the bribe them then make sure you get an receipt that states the infraction and what you paid for it! If they refuse to give you a receipt then you actually paid the bribe and not the fine.
- Getting caught with small amounts of Marijuana, what if that happens? Two years ago a local women was caught smoking a joint after leaving a local bar. She was fooled into believing she had committed a grand crime by one of the local tourist police. The ones on the quad runners. The local tourist cop was able to get 1500 dollars out of her. I heard about the story on the radio in Guaymas not long after it happened. The reason we heard about the story was because the local gal who paid the cop off found out afterwards that possession of less than 5 grams of Marijuana in Mexcio is a misdemeanor. When the local found out she had just been taken she went to the Ministerio Publico and filed a complaint. The media got a hold of it and for one day on the radio in Guaymas this incident was the talk of the town. The local cop get reassigned to Guaymas and nothing else become of it. So don’t be carrying around more than 5 grams of Mary Jane with you!
Also the laws in Mexico are getting ready to change in regards to the recent Supreme Court decision in Mexico City that the laws governing marijuana in Mexico were Unconstitutional.
Here are some links to the story from Mexico Voices.