FAQ: Corruption

Is it true that Mexican authorities are corrupt?

Unfortunately, yes. At all levels of government there is some corruption. But if you think that only happens when you cross the border, you are living a dream. The difference here in Mexico is that it’s less hidden, almost accepted. Sometimes people think this is a benefit because they can skirt around the laws and rules by simply paying for that privilege.

I keep hearing about “mordida”. What is it?

It’s true that sometimes drivers get stopped at roadside and asked for mordida, which literally translates to “a little bite” but is more commonly known in English as a bribe. Whether you pay or not is up to you. The law says it’s illegal to ask and to offer. As a foreigner you are well advised to never offer, as that will definitely put you on the wrong side of the law.

What are the odds I will get pulled over while driving through Mexico?

If you are driving an easily identifiable car, like one that has foreign plates or a rental car, you could very well be targeted. You may not have done anything wrong but the police officer will come up with something, like having an unharnessed dog in your car, or eating while driving, or having tinted windows (the latter is actually illegal in many places). Or maybe you really did do something wrong, like running through a stop sign (which is often obscured by tree branches or other objects). If you do get pulled over, be patient. You’re in it for the long haul. If you are not fluent in Spanish, don’t attempt to speak it. Play dumb, offer your license if asked, and if the officer says you can “fix this right here” just ask for the ticket and directions to where to pay it. More often than not, this will be somewhere very inconvenient, or closed today, but insist on it and even ask the officer to take you there. If you really did something wrong you will get a ticket and go pay it. If the infraction is contrived, you will most probably be delayed for a while and then sent on your way.

Are there other forms of corruption?

Short answer, yes. Although traffic cops get a lot of notoriety, you will find corruption in other places too. From city officials who say you need to pay ‘gringo tax’ to get your water turned on, to well-known and ‘respected’ lawyers who insist on extra notario fees for the purchase of your home, fees that never make their way to the notario. If you decide to live in Mexico and enable corruption, that is up to you, but you are helping no one by doing so.