Dealing with Corruption in Mexico??
Over the last few months i've began what i feel to be my first mid-life crisis. I sold my house, quit my job, gave up everything i own except what fits on my motorcycle and moved to Mexico City with my girlfriend Claudia. This is a big challenge for me! I will attend University starting in January to study Spanish and will need to start some sort of business to make a living. One thing i am having the hardest time with is adjusting to the level of corruption that is part of everyday life in Latin America. Especially with the Police! You cannot trust the police in Mexico and they should be avoided like the plague. Everytime my girlfriend has been stopped for whatever reason, you can guarentee that some sort of payment will be made, service with a smile! Here's how al this began:
I've traveled through Mexico a lot over the years and have never had a problem. Both the police and military have pretty much ignored me, and using ignorance has gotten me out of a few situations (no hablo espanol??) This last entry to my new home left a very bad taste in my mouth. First, Banjercito refused to recognise my motorcycle registration. On the form is a slot for Aircare, a pollution controll service used for cars and trucks, moto's are exempt. Therefor it is left blank. I've never had a problem with this before with my other bikes, but this time the guy said there is no expiry and refused to issue a permit. A asked him what i can do, and with a smirk he told me to go see La Senora in Aduana, so i did. She was a nice lady, very friendly, and i carefully explained the situation the best i could with friendly smiles and laughs. She then kindly wrote me a letter saying she felt the paper was indeed valid and to issue me the permit. She then asked me for $20...what?? Indeed, this little note will cost you $20, or you cannot enter the country.
I was furious! But, i kept my cool, got my permit, gave the beggar missing one leg enough money to feed him and his kid and sped away, giving everyone who wasn't paying attention the bird. Nice...
Three days later i enter Mexico City, my new home. Not my first time here on the bike, but exciting and intimidating none the less. Not 15 minutes into the city, i'm surrounded by four cops on moto's. Uh oh, now what?? So i pull over on the side of the highway and the first guy introduces himself in a friendly manner and shakes my hand. I jokingly ask him why there are four policemen for only me?? He begins to explain the "program" in Mexico city, where vehicles are prohibited from driving in the city one day a week, based on their plate number. It's thursday, and on thursdays, #4 is prohibited from driving. I said i was sorry, i'm a foreigner and don't know the rules,and will leave immediately for Queraterro and return in the morning.
"No Senor, you are in DF now and prohibited. We need to go to the station where we will keep the bike until tomorrow. You will then pay a fine and you can have your bike."
Well, how much is the fine?
...okay, so at this point i know i'm about to get fleeced by Mexico's finest. I take a good look around me. The cops are riding two Harley sportsters and a couple of Honda's. Out of the four of them, only one actually looked like a cop, and he was in the background watching carefully. The rest looked like they bought their outfits at a set-dec sale for the tv show "The Streets of San Francisco" Keystone cops without a doubt!
I told them i'm a foreigner travelling in their wonderful country, and i apolagise that i don't know the rules, and i will leave right away and return in the morning. They said i need to pay them a fine, they will let me go for only $300 dollars. I showed them the $25 i had in Peso's in my muggers wallet and said it's all i have. They said we can go to the bank and take out the money. I flatly refused and said that was very dangerous for me, no! Let me leave to Quereterro.
"Senor, you need to pay us the fine now or we will take you to the station."
I called his bluff:"Okay, vamos al estation! I have no money, so lets go!"
...he didn't like that! The keystone cop kicked the dirt in frustation, called me some bad name in Spanish and walked away. At this point, the "real" cop walked up to me, opened his book and asked me to give him what i had. He also tried to extort everything he could, but i stood my ground only showing him my wallet. He asked if he could look in my bags. I said of course, once we go to the station. He finally accepted my $25 and let me go, reminding me to stay off the Periferico.
This experience has left a very bad taste in my mouth, and i keep thinking of how i might of managed the situation differently. I've heard of this before in DF, from Wyomex i think??
I would like to here your input on how i handeled the situation, and really what is the law regarding motorcycles in DF? For now i have both a fear and hate for the Mexican police, extortionist bastards, every one of them! I don't like feeling this way, especially considering this is my new home for the next few years, and i'm hoping someone can convince me different. Who can you trust in Mexico, other than your closest friends? Is this corruption only found in the Police and Gov't circles? Do i have anything to look foreward to??
If you plan to live there, I'd get the name and phone number of a public official(s) who you could call on your cell, or be perceived as calling, when stopped in the future. Ask around and actually visit an official. Carry a few officials' business cards with you. There's also the media.
Use and repeat the suspect cop's name when speaking to him, the one who stops you. Whether to take a pic or not would be your option.
People pay because of fear and/or being in a hurry. If you're not in a rush, I'd suggest refusing payment. But also be aware of your surroundings if you do go to a 'station'.
Hi sorry to say that you have done the completely wrong thing in that situation, all you have done by paying out money is made it harder for the next guy they pull. Here’s the correct way of doing things in the order that I use them, don’t feel too bad about it but learn from the experience.
When you get your visa for your next country, logon to the net and do a Google for the Embassy from your particular country, store it in your mobile phone.
WHEN you get stopped be nice smile a lot be DUMB, have a photo or two done with them and your bike, BUT NEVER speak to them in their own language. Got it you have to be completely THICK, being bi-lingual is NOT DUMB be as dumb as you can be.
Then IF they don’t back down (70% will) call YOUR embassy ask for anyone who can help you out of the situation give the policeman the phone, they will then tell the Police to f*ck the hell off in their own language saving you the trouble, after all it’s what you pay your taxes for. For those that don’t know the emphasis is for YOU to have the embassies phone number in case of emergencies, it’s a telephone number THAT could save your life in more ways than one, or save you doing time in prison.
Stand your ground and make a phone call it’s not hard and always works with scam artists, If on the other hand you are actually in the wrong the embassy will tell you so, if that’s the case then GO to the police station fill out the forms and pay your fine.
DON’T ever pay an on the spot fine EVER, you wouldn’t do it in your own country don’t do it in theirs.
I also have to take my whacks here as well because I did it once..... in Cambodia that was before I got smart and figured out the above, and that was only because I had a Cambodian bike without the little ‘P’ rivets in the number plate which is a fools give away and I didn’t know until that point. But after that experience I now just call the Embassy and ask for assistance it saves you time and lots of money.
Oh if you’re out of telephone range then just put your iPod on and sit against the nearest wall tree etc with a bottle of water and something to eat, it’s then a patience game of waiting and smiling. Once it’s been made clear you’re not paying up I bet they give you about 20 minutes and then wave you on your way.
Just think how it looks to passersby when you’re sitting there they will know the officers on the take, and think of how humiliating it is for the police officer a complete loss of face so he wount want you there any longer then need be.
I tell you a common expresion in spanish... :censored:Mexico lindo y querido!!:censored: Welcome to the paradise my friend... :funmeterno:
The true fines in Mexico are expensive and the bribes much cheaper. For example, a parking ticket can be $25, and driving in a bus lane over $100. The bribe for the latter is only $10. Truth is i didn't mind only paying $25 if i really was doing something wrong. I've dealt with corrupt police many times in L. America, usually just refusing to pay, playing the payaso and becoming their problem, but i feel this situation was a little different and a little more dangerous. Now i'm dealing with four guys instead of only one or two, and i don't believe they were cops either. Truth is i had no intention of going anywhere with these clowns, might end up in an alley somewhere with my brains bashed it...it's happened before. I like the ideas about meeting public officials, my new landlady works for the police, maybe i can get some leverage through her or her friends. The Embassy number is a good idea also, thanx for all the input.
Not seeming nervous or worried, and looking like you have communicated with someone via phone (real or fake) makes you seem less tasty to the vultures.
If you sense serious, dangerous problems, one idea is to walk out into traffic and create a disturbance, getting mucho attention.
You can ride a bike everyday in Mexico City without a problem. The law was changed changed a year or 2 ago. Before that you couldn't use your bike 1 day a week. Try to get a copy of the law or a note from a newspaper. I used to carry a copy with me but was never stopped once the law changed. I think having Mex plates helps as they know they can't pull a fast one which they did with you. You are not allowed to go on the Periferico or any other "high speed road" in the city. I was using Periferico everyday to get to work but the police seem a little less lenient recently so I am trying to avoid it, although I just came back from a trip this weeknd and used it from Xochimilco to San Angel. I got stopped 2 weeks ago coming back from the Sierra Gorda when I was on Periferico I spent a long time complaining but ended up giving them $80(pesos). It is a bummer having to bribe police but I did break the law.
You have to accept corruption as a way of life. It is much better than it used to be and if you have everything in order you won't have many problems. We are now in December which means the police are trying to get their Xmas bonus.
I am fluent in Spanish and playing the dumb foreigner doesn't work for me. Most Mexicans and probably all the police believe foreigners are loaded so I'd rather speak Spanish and be treated like a local which I basically am as I've been here 30 years.
I've put 8,000 miles on a V-strom in the last 5 months and have been stopped a couple of times for regular paper checks plus once on the Periferico as I mentioned before and once near Guadalajara for speeding (just a warning) I don't ride very fast but I normally ride faster than other road users and the posted limits. I think I would have had more problems and expense in the USA or England etc. so I'll live ith the corruption.
I had a similar problem in DF. Cop pulled me over (UK plates) and showed me the same regulation in the "book" - it clearly showed that foreigners could not ride/drive that particular day. Suspecting a scam I just hopped on the bike and rode off. I had stopped to look at my map and he was on foot so that was easy. Not sure I would have done the same with four of them after me on bikes though........
As for corruption I had generally an easy time of it in latin America. I got fleeced entering Honduras but that was it. One tip that seems to work (unless your appearance doesn't match up) is to tell officials that you are a policeman back home. This I'm sure prevents bad cops from trying it on and makes good cops shake your hand.
As for the embassy helping out if you're British, forget it. They don't give a monkeys about any problem you get into. British Embassies/Consulates tend to be responsible for raising a lot of revenue by fleecing their citizens by charging exorbitant fees for basic services. I recall that a letter written on my behalf to show to another embassy in Pakistan cost me as much as a new passport at home - 5 minutes work and 40GBP. After a crash in Chile which got me into trouble with the police they refused to offer any advice claiming that it was not policy to advise on local laws. Thanks Britain.
I also prefer not to play the dumb foreigner trick but each situation is different and what works one time may not produce the same result.
I hope you get on better in future.
Deal with the cops looking for la mordida according to the circumstances either by outsmarting them or calling their bluff. They have the homefield advantage , so to speak, so don't make more trouble for yourself than you can handle. Sometimes it is best to whittle the fine down to the lowest few dollars and leave.
Last year March I ran into an instance of these kind of cops when I was riding out of the DF east end suburbs .Two "cops " riding two -up on a KLR among the trees on the median pulled me over on a Thursday and claimed I was riding illegally on the wrong day for my plate. I KNEW this was not the case, that bikes were exempt from the "Hoy no circula " campaign and that even if they were not , my last number was not up on Thursday. I refused to even show my drivers license. These clowns also rattled on that I would have to pay a big fine.I argued the contrary and pulled out my own little hotel guide book and showed them the page with the schedule of prohibited days/numbers and the note exempting motorcycles, all copied from an original gov. media release document. After reading the English ( se no comprenden) page they changed their tune and soon let me go, no money spent .
In dealing with these kind of cops, always ask to see their official badge and name tag and write these down. If you eventually do admit to paying a "fine" insist that you be issued an official ticket first and hang on to it. It must show the cop's name, badge number, infraccion number, fine value. Then insist they guide you to the commandancia so that you can pay in person to the actual cashier, AND have a discussion with their jefe. This will often get them to modify their claims.
Take out your camera and insist on taking a picture of the cop and any relevant signs you may allegedly have violated.
The gov. is interested in curbing corrupt cops and will be happy to hear from you if you want to report an incident .Write them at the Ministry of Tourism at Presidente Masaryk #172,Colonia Chapultepec,Morales CP11587 Mex.DF and write in big letters "QUEJAS" atop the address. Even if you did get nicked you will at least have the satisfaction of knowing you made the sumbithches squirm a bit when their bosses get wind of what they are up to. Eventually you will get a letter back thanking you for your input.
Just tried the Embassy in DF, left a polite message...I wasn't really expecting anyone to answer and am not surprised. Thanx for the tips Gary, i'll contact you soon. Molly, please leave your gun at home.
I'll start searching for the rules and regulations and carry them with me. I feel that l came out of this situation all right. After all, the price started at $350 and ended with $25. Really, dealing with the corrupt policia is nothing new to me. I bought my way out of a speeding ticket in Panama for $25, i was doing 120kph in a 60 zone, think i got off lucky there. Outside Managua the cops tried to extort $90 after i gave them my International DL (i carry two just for this purpose and they're easy to fake!) He said i need to return to Managua for my licence and pay a fine, or just give him the money. I told him i'll go to Managua the next day and pay the fine there. After getting him down to $10 and still refusing to pay, he gave up, gave me my licence back and let me go. Colombia cost me $23 to get my bike out of impound, cheaper than the $150+ you need to pay for the mandatory insurance, which is required in Colombia. What i really would like to know is are the cops that pulled me over real or fake?
Hoy no circula
MEXICO CITY DRIVING RESTRICTIONS
If your car license plates end in the following digits you may NOT drive in Mexico DF from 5 am to 10 pm ...
Last digit 5 or 6 Monday
7 or 8 Tuesday
3 or 4 Wednesday
1 or 2 Thursday
9 or 0 and ALL Letters Friday
All cars may travel on weekends unless otherwise proclaimed for a dirty air emergency.
MOTORCYCLES MAY BE RIDDEN ANY DAY
They used to have big billboards with this info posted along major approach roads to the DF
For more detail info try google search under "driving restrictions Mexico DF ,( I see what you mean by wanting to save a few hours !) like http://www.ontheroadin.com/travelinn...n-mexico-c.htm. Just print one of those official looking pages and carry it along to wave under the cop's nose
Some useful information here:
I just received a letter from the Canadian Embassy. They were really not much help considering you can only reach a switchboard and leave a message. The nice lady could not give me any advise other than to call a lawyer and fill out a formal complaint. This is Mexico, get used to corruption and paying fines.This is the letter she sent me with some great links to lawyers and where to file a formal complaint:
Dear Mr. Ron,
In reference to our previous phone conversation regarding what happened to you while you were in Mexico City, please find below two internet links where you will be able to file a formal complaint against the police officers who offended you:
quejas y denuncias
:::Procuraduría General de la República:::
Should you require legal advice or legal help, please refer to the next link where you will be able to find a list of lawyers that are registered with the Embassy:
Lawyers in Mexico
Please note that for purposes of your own safety, the Canadian government highly recommends that all Canadians travelling abroad register themselves with the Canadian Embassy in the host country for the duration of their trip.
You can do so by simply following the instructions provided on line on the following page: Registration of Canadians Abroad - Consular Affairs Bureau Web site - Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Please be advised that current information concerning safety & security conditions, health issues, entry & visa requirements and embassy contact particulars for over 226 destinations, including Mexico, can be found in the destination specific Travel Reports available in English and French on the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Web site at
Travel Report for Mexico
Country Profile for Mexico
I also especially encourage you to take a look at the publications attached below, which contain important and useful information to assist Canadians in making their trip to Mexico a safe and enjoyable one:
BON VOYAGE, BUT... Essential Information for Canadian Travellers 2007/2008 - Bon Voyage, But...
Travel Reports & Warnings
The Consular Affairs Bureau of the Department of Foreign Affairs also provides both destination-specific Travel Reports and weekly Travel Bulletins highlighting current "hot spots" and time-sensitive information.
I highly recommend that you consult the travel report for Mexico prior to your intended trip. Current information is available from the Department through the following means: telephone: 1-800-267-6788 or 613-944-6788; e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
You will also be able to obtain more information about Mexico by accessing the web page of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City Embassy of Canada / Ambassade du Canada / Embajada de Canadá - MEXICO and going to "useful links" located under the heading "Consular Section".
You can also visit the Mexico Tourism Board website where you can find specific information about the cities you plan to visit in Mexico:
Mexico Ministry of Tourism Portal, SECTUR.
I hope that this information is useful.
Diana de la Huerta Gaston
Consular Assistant/ Adjointe Consulaire
Embassy of Canada/ Ambassade du Canada
Schiller 529 Col. Polanco
11560 Mexico, D.F.
Tel. (52 55) 57 24 79 00 ext. 3322
Fax. (52 55) 57 24 79 43
As far as calling the Embassy while pulled over, this is useless. They don't answer and you can only leave a message and hope or a return call in a few days. Even if they do answer, there is nothing they can do. When dealing with Mexican Law, the embassy cannot interfere, they can only sugest an appropriate lawyer and wish you luck. Lee, are you serious, has this really worked for you?
What i have learned is every situation is different, there is no one fix-all. Knowing the laws and your rights are key, and let your instincts take you from there. Paying a small fine is a lot better than ending up in an alley with your head kicked in. The Mexican people themselves are terrified of the police. I can't think of how many times i've been rushed to the other side of the street or in another direction from one of my friends to avoid any confrentation. Most people would rather just pay than take a chance with their lives. Just saying here, if you can avoid the police, avoid them like the plague.
I believe this is the case for any Embassy in any country; they can't interfere in the laws of that country, not openly anyway - "not Diplomatic, don't you know".
Because you are staying there for quite some time, the answer must be to blend in as much as possible - with a local licence plate and wearing a helmet/dressing like the locals you are just one among many; then stick to the speed limits etc and, thereby, don't draw attention to yourself.
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