Saturday, March 17, 2007

How to Bribe a Corrupt Mexican Traffic Cop

I got robbed by the Mexican police a few days ago. It´s an unpleasant experience. Mexican traffic police have a horrible reputation that is largely deserved. Unfortunately, foreign plates are like flashing lights on your car that say: "Easy money here".

It happens mostly in big cities. You are driving along in the dense, chaotic traffic and then you pass a police car. As soon as he sees your plates he turns on the siren and pulls you over. You panic. What did I do? Above all remain calm. Most likely you didn´t do anything and are simply going to be hit up for a bribe. We are used to thinking of police encounters as serious trouble. However, for many people in the third world the police have little to do with fighting crime. Their main job is simply to be a nuisance.

The police officer will come over and ask to see all of your documenation. He is probably hoping that you have misplaced some of it. If you haven´t he may find some technical problem with it that doesn´t make any sense. In my case they said I was guilty of tax evasion because I didn´t have a detailed list of all of the items I had brought into the country. According to them under Mexican law all tourists need to declare every item they take into Mexico with them. It´s nonsense, but it´s just plausible enough to be true.

If you are being hit up for a bribe the police will generally not be in much of a hurry to do anything to you. Instead they will probably go to great lengths to explain how much trouble you are in. They told me that my car would be impounded, the goods confiscated, I would be fined $2500 dollars and then deported from the country for one year. Wow. Heavy stuff. Fortunately, I knew that I hadn´t really done anything wrong, and I also knew that they were explaining all of this to me to try and increase the bribe amount.

While Mexico has much corruption there have been various efforts to clean it up and it is bad news for police to be caught harrassing tourists. For this reason the first rule of bribes in Mexico is to ask to get more people involved. A ploy that many of my friends have used quite successfully is to insist to be taken to the police station immediately. Corrupt police won´t want to do this because even if the charge sticks they won´t get their bribe. My friends won´t hand over their keys or cooperate in any way and will simply insist over and over again on going to the police station and dealing the with the problem there. This works almost every time. Of course if you have genuinely done something wrong this is the absolute worst strategy. Make sure you are in the right.

I unfortunately made a mistake at this point. The officers asked me to step out of the car and hand over my keys. At this point one of the two policemen took my keys and drove off in my truck. The other officer said it was going to the impound lot. I had no choice but to get into the police car and follow. Now I was worried that the officer in my car would take my camera and iPod which were loose in the front. I hadn´t had time to secure my valuables and I no longer had control of my car. I should have insisted on going to the police station before handing over my keys. In one moment of innattention I had lost my best bargaining chip. My job now was to minimize my losses. If I was too insistent on not paying anything they might just help themselves to my stuff.

Of course the officers had not yet mentioned a bribe or asked for money. I likewise needed to avoid being to direct. Here is roughly how the conversation went.
Me: "Clearly this was just an accident in my paperwork. Is there anything we can do to avoid all of this trouble?¨"
Officer: "Well. I don´t really know. What do you suggest?"
Me: "Maybe I could simply pay a fine to you right now."
Officer: "That might work, but it´s going to be very expensive. The alternative is a US$2500.00 ticket and confiscation of all the stuff in your vehicle. I think the fine would have to be at least US$2500.00."

At this stage I was much happier. The amount was ridiculous, but I now had confirmation that the whole thing was bogus and they just wanted a bribe. Unfortunately the other officer still had my car which was out of my sight and I was still worried about him looting the vehicle.

Me: "Well, I don´t have that kind of money and I´m sure once I explain it all tomorrow it will all be OK. I´m just trying to save myself a night´s delay. If it´s US$2500.00 then take me to the impound lot."
Officer: "Do you have a video camera. I´d take $1000.00 and a video camera."
Me: "Just take me to the lot. I´ll give you $50.00 to avoid all this trouble but any more then that and I´d rather explain it tomorrow."

We pulled up on a deserted side street. There was no sign of an impound lot or official looking compound and there were few other people. Not a good place to be.
Officer: "This is where we are going to impound your car. I´ll take you to the station and you can call the embassy and get a lawyer."

The officer the grabbed his radio and spoke into it. "Hi. I have an arrest for tax evasion and will be bringing him in shortly." I didn´t hear a reply.

Me: "Listen officer. I´m really sorry that I don´t have the paperwork, but I can´t pay you more then $50.00. I have a low limit on my bank card so that I don´t get robbed at an instant teller (true) and I already spent most of it on gas."
Officer: "Ok. Let´s go."

They drove me to the highway, I paid them $50.00, and they gave me back my keys. As I had hoped nothing was missing from my car. I suppose that by the complex logic of corruption, stealing from my car would have been wrong. I turned around to write down the license plate number so I could report them, but they were gone.

17 comments:

Michael said...

oh my this happened to me last time in mexico... i was scared they would shoot me....

Anonymous said...

This happens to me every time I drive to Mexico City. One day I was stopped 3 times trying to cross the city to get on to Puebla. The last time I told the cop he had to escort me to the highway to Puebla, he put on his lights and I had a police escort out of Mexioc city for $40.oo. craig

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately this just happened to my family and I. We were on our way to Cancun airport from the Mayan Riviera in a hire car full of suitcases...Red Flag to a bull... We were pulled over and told we were breaking the speed limit.(Which we weren't) My husband had heard of this and immediately offered to hand over cash to the officer... we needed to catch our flight. The officer peered into the car to see our two sons and me sitting there in the dark, obviously unnerved.
Hope he can sleep at night.

Anonymous said...

In third world a little payola. Here parking tickets. Just a nuisance. Just make sure you use right words. "Can't we resolve this like man to man"?

Anonymous said...

Mexican natio is totally corrupt. USA mus throw 10 nuclear bombs over Mexico. Why does USA fear the stupid country Mexico? They can be destroyed easily.

Anonymous said...

I am an American living in Mexico. I and my friends, Mexican guys, drive around all night totally wasted. Sometimes we get stopped, sometimes we just drive around wasted. I have been stopped a few times. And sometimes we pay some thing to get out of it. Around 400 or 500 pesos is often enough. Now imagine you are in the USA. You get stopped by the cops for DUI. You lose your license, you have to get a lawyer. The fines are most times quite large. In the end you are out at least $5k and you lose your license, have to pay for reinstatement and your insurance goes sky high. Here you pay 40 or 50 bucks and the cops tell you to go directly home and sometimes will follow you to make sure you do go home. It reminds me of the old days in the USA. I mean the 60s and 70s. Cops didnt try to destroy your life back then. They realized that every corner store sells beer and that everybody drives home drunk from the bars. Here most cops I have met have been extrememly courteous, and they have only ever stopped us for cause. Id rather give some underpaid cop a bit of money and go home than to go to court in the USA and pay thousands. Mexico is actually more civilized in the regard. They dont want to destory your life, they want you off the street and yes, a few bucks can go a long way with a cop here. Try to be a cop in Mexico. It is very dangerous...and they want to be compensated. Anyone who says cops have no purpose down here other than being a nuisance are mistaken. Its a dangerous job. I wouldnt do it. When they are called, brother they come, and when they come, they come with shotguns and machine guns and they are ready for battle.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone in his right mind travel to Mexico? They whine about our "unfair" immigration laws, but the looney liberals here give the Mexicans a free pass on this sort of behavior.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Everyone is born to living in a risk world. No matter where you are, but the world is NOT perfect, I don't know why, but it just happen and there is nothing we can do to change for the better for the WHOLE WORLD. War started many, many centries ago.... and it will go on forever. Everyone is born to a good and a bad person. Life is not fair.

Unknown said...

Americans need to buy guns as soon as they cross the border. Then point blank the spic in the face. It's not that hard once you crossing the border. From there it's just about surprise. Be a model subdued suspect them with 0 warning quickly draw the gun and shoot him in the face. It's pretty simple. Make sure no other cops are around, if so kill them if you can. Both ways lets execute these fucks whenever possible. Americans should be giving a quota of how many corrupt police they waste when they go down there. Think about the impression and fear you could create if average American Joes suddenly had the balls to point blank bribing spics in the face in broad daylight? What if you were behind and you saw this and it started happening more all the time? Excuse me amigo you have to this or else then pow the picks mother fuckin brains on the sidewalk. Send a post card to his degenerate family. I would point blank one of these fucks in a heart beat if I could get away with it and I was threatened. Others need the same mindset. They think they have the power then pow...brains splattered you corrupt degenerate spic fuck. Coul almost jack off to it I have so much disrespect and hate for them. But really more Americans should buy guns in Mexico and waste punk mfuckers that fuck with us like its nothing. That's if you don't see any other officers around. These people are so willing to casually kill Americans. I guess I don't understand why we don't get buck and fire back. Their lives hold no value and are really the opposite. They don't have a system in Mexico so you could get away with it. Seriously, this is a trend that needs to start asap. I could would amd will do it if it evr happens to me. POW! drop him in the street and his backup if need be. Waste their ass like its nothin.

genini1952 said...

Unknown, are you nuts? You're more likely to get caught with your illegal piece, and try bribing your way out of that. Kill a Mexican cop? They make about $350/month, what do you expect?

Jon said...

This is why I never drive in Mexico. I park my car on the American side and walk in. I did have a cop try to give me a jay walking violation once when I was crossing the street after leaving a bar but the bouncer of the bar came over and started yelling something to the cop in Spanish and he let me go.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I live in Montreal Canada. I have been targeted by political influence networks and harassed since I did study the war on drugs for a Research Institute in Europe in 2003. The situation came to be absolutely worse in Montreal, Canada. The judiciary background of this situation is known by various Police services (France-US-Switzerland-Mexico). I was also said by the Judiciary in France to be under Police protection. I search a US-European-Canadian HEAVY WEIGHT LAW FIRM to engage prosecution. Some of these networks are easy to locate. Please give info about a Law Firm that could take that case. LEAVE INFO Thanks. By APG-68.