Mexico is the second most corrupt country in Latin America. That’s not an award countries usually strive for but it is, according to UNAM’s Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales (the National University’s Social Research Institute, or IIS), the disgraceful situation Mexico finds itself in at the start of 2011.
On January 3, UNAM released a press package in which they declared that according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index and the Latinbarómetro indicators, Mexico is only led by Haiti as the most corrupt nation in the region. IIS’s Corruption and Transparency Research Coordinator Irma Eréndira Sandoval Ballesteros explained that throughout Latin America “Mexicans are considered extremely corrupt in terms of public and private practices.”
TI’s 2010 Corruption Perception Index report explains that 75 percent of people believe that Mexico’s corruption has increased in the last three years. Political parties, police, Congress, and the judiciary top the list of corrupt institutions in our country (considered extremely corrupt), followed by media, businesses, organized religion and NGOs.
Sandoval Ballesteros reported that while the 2003 creation and further strengthening of IFAI (Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información y Protección de Datos, Federal Institute for Information Access and Data Protection) has been a significant progress in terms to access to information, transparency has done little in battling corruption and has been marginally useful in creating a public conscience. In her own words, “if Mexico is not a leading nation in political and economic terms, it is because corruption has not allowed it and has become an obstacle to possible progress.”
According to Transparency International, 50 percent of the people surveyed in their 2010 report worldwide consider that anticorruption policies put forth by government are and will be ineffective. This number is rather conservative for Mexico if you look back at recent history and try to identify one big successful case of combating corruption by our government (hint: there are none). This leaves us with an unavoidable truth: lowering corruption levels cannot be left up to the government. Each and every one of us—as members of Mexican society—has to play a part. We should not forget that while political institutions show the worst cases of corruption, businesses, churches and NGOs aren’t in the clear either.
As with many cases, our hope for the future lies in education. And in this case, I don’t mean building better schools, but better educating our children so that they are less likely to be what we are collectively: a corrupt generation which frustrated by the system, turned to its loopholes to try to navigate through it instead of changing and uprooting it.
Now you can tell a child not to be corrupt but this is a lesson we need to teach by example. For this reason, I propose that instead of (or ideally in addition to) losing five pounds, reading more and smiling, all Mexicans declare that our new year’s resolution for 2011 will be to not exercise in any form of corruption. I propose that we no longer bribe public officials to avoid a speeding ticket. No more tax evasion even though we know how badly the government manages its collections (creating one problem does not solve another). No more paying $2 to a street peddler for a pirate DVD movie or a copied music CD (who by the way will give part of his profits to organized crime and drug cartels). No more negligence in our duty to monitor and demand effectiveness from our local congressmen and women, especially in terms of how they allocate funds and determine contracts for public construction. No more questionable practices in the companies we work for (I invite businesspeople to take and abide by the Thunderbid Oath).
Keeping this resolution will cost time and energy of each and every one of us, but we have to believe that our kids will thank us for it. Most corrupt nation, second only to Haiti? This has to be a wakeup call. This has to lead us to action. As Mohandas Gandhi is famously quoted for saying, we need to “be the change we want to see in the world.”
*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.