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Mexico should pay attention to International Anti-Corruption Day

December 9, 2008 |  9:53 am

Mexicans might be encouraged to do a bit of soul-searching today by a United Nations campaign, which has declared Dec. 9 International Anti-Corruption Day.

Why should Mexico be particularly interested? Because, as we reported today, more than 5,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence so far this year -- that's more than double the toll for that time period in 2007. Although a lot of the violence is being put down to infighting in the drug gangs, corruption within Mexico's police force and legal branch is also a major obstacle to bringing down the powerful drug networks.

President Felipe Calderon's government is currently undergoing a probe called Operation Cleanup, which has resulted in a number of ugly discoveries within its ranks. As Tracy Wilkinson reports in the dispatch linked to above: "Mexican law enforcement has also suffered its worst corruption scandal in a decade, with dozens of senior officials and agents accused of accepting money to pass secrets to traffickers."

Noe Ramirez Mandujano, for example, a veteran federal prosecutor who headed an elite organized crime unit known by its initials in Spanish, SIEDO, was arrested in November on suspicion of passing intelligence to drug gangsters based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, reported Ken Ellingwood.

A TV spot from the United Nations campaign marking today International Anti-Corruption Day can be seen below and shows how fighting corruption is everyone's responsibility. Few residents or foreigners living in this country can say honestly that they haven't in some way sanctioned a corrupt system, whether it's paying off a policeman to get him out of your hair or tipping the garbage collectors for collecting the trash.

As we reported in April, Mexicans paid the equivalent of about $2.6 billion in bribes last year, according to the nonprofit group Transparency Mexico. That’s 42% higher than two years earlier and an average of more than $24 for each of Mexico’s 105 million people. Much of the money went to fix parking tickets, get garbage collected or secure parking spots from the legions of informal attendants who block off spaces and charge for them.

Almost everyone who lives in Mexico shares blame because so many turn a blind eye to others' corruption. So it's smart that the campaign focuses on individual responsibility.

On a side note, activism for a reduction in corruption around the globe is based around the U.N.'s Convention Against Corruption, which of course, Mexico has signed and ratified. The 2003 convention was opened for signing by participating states in Merida, Mexico.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

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