Translator’s note: Mexico’s narco problems are impossible to analyze without taking into consideration the roles that corruption and impunity play in its political, legal and law enforcement institutions. I realize this column is not directly related to the war against drugs, but I hope it gives Borderland Beat readers a glimpse into the context in which the war is being fought. — un vato
Some years ago in Russia, in the former USSR, the Soviet State was very worried about growing alcoholism among it workers. Brezhnev and his government companion — I don’t remember his name, but they used to work as partners, like policemen– held a meeting to deal with the problem and they decided — on the advice of publicists and experts — to place huge billboards at the factory gates. And a single phrase: DRINK BEER.
They asked workers to reduce the level of alcohol, to reduce their consumption of vodka and not drink it every night, to drink beer. This request was not lacking in cunning. The leaders knew their people. They knew the Russian soul.
Extrapolating from that scenario and that realistic example of governing, it might be reasonable for Mexico to do something like that with the deep-seated problem of corruption and its structural cause: impunity. Tone it down. Don’t steal so much. Steal half as much.
For example, if the untouchable and fire proof Humberto Moreira defrauded the State of Coahuila (by falsifying records of state congressional proceedings to obtain authorization for several bank loans through Cordero’s Revenue Department) of 32 billion pesos (about $256 million), well, man, he could have done this for only 16 billion pesos, part of which could have, in any case, been enough to fund Pena Nieto’s campaign very well.
In Mexico, practically and tacitly, corruption is permitted. It is almost impossible for anybody to go to jail for unlawful appropriation of public resources. A governor from Sinaloa used to say that the least amount a governorship will leave, even if his state is very small and poor, such as Tlaxcala, is about $100 million dollars. Another former governor, from Morelos, used to say that it was impossible not to become corrupted when they would place a tray full of bills by your desk. That it is very easy in Mexico to use a government position to steal. Everything is designed for it to be that way. Neither the purchasing officers nor the administrative secretaries hesitate to inflate costs and negotiate with providers under the table. To this day there are no controls to tie their hands or dissuade them with the threat that they will end up in jail. At most, they scare them with the dead man’s shroud of “disqualification” (from government employment) and they die laughing. Carlos Salinas stuck his hand as he pleased into the pockets of secret accounts. His brother and a so-called Fausto Ceja would take suitcases full of cash to deposit at CityBank. Well, they could have deposited only half and returned the rest.
The PRI’s is a well-oiled system for looting. In fact, in the Chamber of Deputies they have to account for no more than 30% of the annual 800 million peso (about $65 million) expense budget, that the chimpanzees distribute as they please. It is not impossible that 40% of the annual federal budget is lost through embezzlement of public funds. Out of a billion pesos, some 400 million go into bank accounts, houses, ranches, buildings, political campaigns. Public officials have a weakness for land, condominiums, housing developments, in short, real estate. It’s how they save money. So then, tone it down. Control yourselves. Don’t be such sons of bitches. Drink beer, not whiskey.,