Police corruption in Mexico

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Police corruption in Mexico is currently one of the greatest challenges facing Mexican law enforcement agencies and politicians. Corruption has a long-standing role in Mexican history and culture.[1]

History of Corruption

Corruption in Mexico has its roots in colonial times. With the arrival of conquistadors, the Spanish crown began assigning offices of power to certain wealthy and influential people. These offices were often short-lived because officials were charged with collecting revenue, maintaining order, and sustaining their regions while relying on only local sources of wealth and sustenance. At the same time, corruption in the church became widespread, with people of power and money purchasing positions of influence within the church. People began to learn how to manipulate their local political and religious leaders. They would hold fiestas to gain favor with church officials who could protect them from landowners or officials while political leaders were bribed so that they would protect the people from the church. This system of bribery and purchasing one's way into power and influence continued into post-colonial times, where the Mexican society organized itself into a pyramid-like hierarchy with the rich and powerful at the top. After independence, corruption was used not only as a means of advancement but also as a means to provide goods and services. In this way, corruption became a method for lowly-paid bureaucrats to raise revenue in order to boost infrastructural and social projects as well as supplement incomes.

Some Causes of Corruption


As described above, Mexico has a long-standing history of corruption and as a result, corruption continues to permeate through most echelons of Mexican society.

Social Advancement and Economic Survival

Corruption exists as a means to either boost ones standing in the local community or to supplement the extremely low incomes that most of the Mexican population receive. Many Mexican officials use corruption to either boost their social influence or to boost their income. Corruption is also caused by a desire to manipulate and influence other people. People follow an "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" philosophy where they expect to receive certain benefits in return for bribes or favors.

Fear, Organized Crime, and Drugs

One of the main causes of corruption in Mexico is the prevalence of drug-trafficking criminals who bribe police and official to either overlook law-breaking or to use their positions of authority to actively assist in criminal activity. The saying "plata o plomo" which translates as "silver or lead" personifies the criminal mentality. Police and officials can choose to either cooperate with criminals and be financially rewarded or they can choose to go against organized crime and be killed. This is a very real threat, as thousands of civilians, police, and soldiers were either publicly executed or killed and displayed in public locations such as town squares, highway bridges, and city streets. All the police do is not to do anything.

Corruption in the Police

Corruption in the Mexican police can take many forms. It ranges from taking bribes to ignore crimes to active participation in criminal activity such as extortion, drug-trafficking, and assassination. The Mexican police are notorious for their corruption that is evident on all levels of law-enforcement, local and federal. Many Mexican police officers enter law-enforcement not because of a genuine interest in policing but because of ulterior motives. Some join to escape criminal pasts in other states, others join to earn some money before moving onto other business ventures, while others join to increase their criminal networks, allowing them to boost drug and crime spread, connections, and distribution.

Effects of Police Corruption

There are several resulting effects of the blatant and widespread police corruption. Over 90% of crimes go unreported or are not investigated. Many Mexican citizens do not feel safe and protected by the police tasked with their safety and protection. 43% of Mexican citizens believe that corruption is the main obstacle facing successful law-enforcement. Many people have reported bribing the police, even for minor incidents such as illegal parking and other traffic violations. Mexico's business officials have noted that police corruption has had a severely negative influence on business and economic progress. Police corruption is also in part to blame for the widely accepted failure of the war on drugs and the continued spread of illicit narcotics and the growth of the drug-manufacturing and distribution industries.

Efforts to Stop Corruption

The Mexican government has taken many steps to combat corruption, some efforts including international aid, mostly from the United States.


  1. http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/951127/lomnitz.shtml
  2. http://business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/the-americas/mexico/snapshot.aspx
  3. http://www.jstor.org.proxy.library.emory.edu/stable/pdfplus/40209705.pdf?&acceptTC=true&jpdConfirm=true
  4. http://www.kentlaw.edu/perritt/courses/seminar/joanna-benjamin-Seminar%20Paper-final.htm
  5. http://www.transparency.org/country#MEX