By J. Parnell McCarter


Interesting insights concerning conditions in Mexico are found at http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispo/news/world/13500169.htm :



Last year, a member of Mexico City's legislature was videotaped accepting a bribe. The brother of a former president is widely assumed to have built a $100 million fortune through influence peddling. In 1997, the head of the country's drug interdiction office was dismissed - for involvement in drug trafficking.

Those and other examples illustrate the perennial stigma of Mexico, considered one of the most corrupt countries in the hemisphere. The recent furor over a video in which four enforcers for the Gulf cartel are interrogated and one is executed has sharply refocused attention on corruption.

The men on the video suggested links between drug traffickers and the government, and authorities have conceded that federal law enforcement officials and perhaps current or former members of the military may have been involved in torturing the four men and making the video.

The videotaped allegations are a reminder, analysts say, that in Mexico corruption not only is a disease that afflicts government and public officials, but also a national pathology



When President Vicente Fox of the National Action Party, or PAN, finally ousted the PRI in 2000, some were hopeful that corruption would decline.

In March, Fox declared that his administration was in a "head-on battle against corruption."

"Together, we work for a Mexico full of justice, legality and democratic opportunities," the president said.

But the latest measurement of corruption by Berlin-based Transparency International found that 50 percent of Mexicans remain pessimistic about corruption and believe it will get worse.

The 2005 survey, released Dec. 9, showed that Mexico was one of the top four countries (along with Cameroon, Paraguay and Cambodia), where the largest number of respondents - between 31 percent and 45 percent - answered yes when asked if they or someone in their family had paid any kind of bribe in the last 12 months.

A majority of the Mexicans told pollsters the bribes had been directly solicited by authorities.

"In Mexico, corruption does not have a party," said writer and political commentator Homero Aridjis. "It's the same with the PRI, the PAN and the PRD.



Analysts said Mexicans cannot look to their elected leaders to change the country's culture of corruption. Civil society must take responsibility, they say. Several maintain that the legal and judicial system must change to make everyone - especially police - accountable.

James Cooper, assistant dean at California Western School of Law in San Diego, is spearheading a program, Proyecto Acceso, to reform judicial systems in Latin America.

He said the program has seen considerable success in Chile and that his team has been encouraged by the reception in Mexico from Fox's office.

"That's where the change has to take place," he said.