Strange question, but have any of you ever paid a bribe to a Mexican police officer in, say, the past 10 years? If so, when, where, why, and how much?
There was an article in the New York Times the other day about Cancun police extorting people, in this case a Minnesota state senator. My wife, cookbook and travel writer extraordinaire, thinks this is yet another undeserved example of U.S. anti-Mexico propaganda.
Mexico is a lot less third-world than many Americans think. Sure we wear rose-colored glasses, but our experiences in Mexico have been pretty rosy. I've sped through thousands of miles in southern Mexico and my wife has been stopped for driving the wrong way done a one-way street (it's easier than you'd think) and been in a minor accident that was entirely her fault. And yet neither of us have ever been in a situation where we've been presented with any bribe possibility.
We think it happens very rarely. If it does happen to you, don't pay! Now of course there may be reasons you want to pay (like paying $10 is quicker and easier than going the legal route), but the Times article says they coughed up $300 when the maximum fine was $50. And it is a crime to bribe police officers. Some rental car companies even offer a voucher to pay any traffic fines. Clever!
It's also interesting what happen after word got out of this state senator's experience (especially compared to what might happen in the US). The police officers were fired, the mayor got involved, and the city of Cancun reimbursed the Americans for the amount of the bribe.
Here's the story in the Yucatan paper.
For non-Spanish speakers (like me), here's the gist: car rental agencies say they get an average of 50 tourist complaints a month about bribe attempts by cops in Cancun. Typical amounts are US$10 to $20. (Which, for the record, is cheaper than paying for the ticket, usually about US$50.)
It also says that this is about double the rate of complaints last year. Which the car-rental group rep attributes to the economic crisis. Although what isn't, these days?