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Zero tolerance meets total tolerance: Giuliani and Mexico City
News Radio 88 ^ | 11/9/02

Posted on 11/09/2002 7:06:24 AM PST by areafiftyone

MEXICO CITY (AP) When Rudy Giuliani comes to Mexico City this month, he'll find a law enforcement system with an Alice in Wonderland quality where cops sometimes are not cops, and it's often better to avoid them than ask for protection.

The former New York mayor, who championed a ``zero-tolerance'' policy credited with drastically reducing crime, was hired in October as an anti-crime consultant for North America's largest city. His first visit, set for Nov. 18, will probably include a tour of some of Mexico City's rougher areas.

But in this megalopolis of 18 million, Giuliani's idea of zero tolerance may clash with a practice of total tolerance, in which the current mayor once ordered police to overlook violations like parking on crosswalks in an effort to reduce corruption.

``Rudy is entering the Twilight Zone of crime,'' wrote newspaper columnist Carlos Toledo.

Police officers have been arrested for holding up other cops, using their patrol cars to kidnap people and taking bribes to let offenders walk. They have fled from armed suspects, yet killed unarmed detainees.

In Mexico City's system of antiquated laws and spotty enforcement, it's all ``by the book'' literally. Cops carry bound versions of traffic laws because the small books are a good place to stash bribes.

Sometimes, what looks like a police officer actually is not: Cops occasionally make extra money by renting out their uniforms, badges and patrol cars to shakedown artists known as ``madrinas'' or ``godmothers.'' City residents have learned to spot the telltale signs of a ``godmother,'' such as ill-fitting uniforms and badge numbers hidden by vests or electrical tape.

``It's good that Giuliani is coming,'' said flower market vendor Ricardo Hernandez, 51, ``but he should bring his own cops. How is he going to get anything done with ours, the way they are, all fat, lazy and crooked?''

The city's latest anti-crime idea only fuels this kind of public scorn. Mexico City officials want mounted police to dress in Mexican cowboy outfits complete with mariachi hats and braid-trimmed pants.

``They can't possibly expect Mexicans to take this seriously,'' said detective novelist Paco Ignacio Taibo II.

Corruption is so rampant that for several months in 1999, only female officers were allowed to issue citations, on the theory that they were less likely to seek bribes.

But why even bother with tickets? Officials estimate that 93 percent are never paid.

In December, Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tried an approach nearly opposite to that of Giuliani. He slashed traffic fines by 50 percent and ordered police not to tow cars that were double-parked or blocking crosswalks, hoping to make fines less painful and bribes therefore less attractive.

Many criminals seem to have little fear of officers, perhaps because police often back off from armed assailants, discouraged by a legal system in which police are routinely detained as suspects after shooting incidents.

A humiliating video broadcast on television in 2000 showed a dozen Mexico City police officers armed with pistols and shotguns being chased around a line of cars by two men with kitchen knives.

Which is not to say police never get tough. When protesters throw bricks or chunks of concrete at riot police, the police often lob them back.

Police also are confounded by their own obsolete technology. In a city of nearly 3 million cars, there is no reliable registry of license plate numbers. In 1999, a motorist left his license plate embedded in the body of a young woman he ran over. The motorist was never prosecuted.

Mexico City residents have developed survival strategies. Pedestrians hesitate to cross the street to accommodate the stream of motorists who routinely run red lights. At night, many drivers don't stop at lights because they fear carjackers.

On a reconnaissance trip, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said there were a lot of things Giuliani's team couldn't change. ``We are going to take the tolerance that goes on in this society into consideration,'' he said.

But some Mexicans even a veteran crime writer like Taibo are hoping the former New York mayor can tame the city's wild side.

``I was talking to a Czech writer once at a conference, and he said, `You're so lucky. You can just open the newspaper and get a novel,''' Taibo said.

Taibo said he responded: ``I'd change places with you any day of the week.''


TOPICS: News/Current Events
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1 posted on 11/09/2002 7:06:24 AM PST by areafiftyone
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To: areafiftyone
Coming soon to Cali. and other Southwest areas. Can hardly wait.
2 posted on 11/09/2002 7:28:21 AM PST by willyone
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To: areafiftyone
Mexico is corrupt because the people are corrupt. The people are corrupt because they don't take their Christianity seriously. They therefore have no strong internal system of self restraint. They look to government to do something, forgetting that they are the government.

An object lesson on the inability of the state to produce a moral people.

3 posted on 11/09/2002 7:40:02 AM PST by ecomcon
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To: ecomcon
The people are corrupt because they don't take their Christianity seriously

Give me a break...Broad sweeping generalizations rarley hold water...and this one is leaking like a sieve...

4 posted on 11/09/2002 7:42:51 AM PST by antaresequity
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To: antaresequity
Generally speaking, women have bigger breasts than men.

It is a generalization but it has a lot more than a thread of truth.
5 posted on 11/09/2002 8:29:36 AM PST by RobRoy
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To: ecomcon
Actually Mexican people are very religious. Its just that corruption is so widespread. Especially when you have cops who are just as corrupt as the criminals. People have no sense of fear of the law or cops when they know they can be bribed. They have a serious sense of hopelessness and there is no escape. They have no sense of justice and probably have had one for decades. Guiliani was an excellent and relentless prosecuter. If Guiliani can't fix their problem - NO ONE CAN!
6 posted on 11/09/2002 8:31:15 AM PST by areafiftyone
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To: ecomcon
Mexico is corrupt because the people are corrupt. The people are corrupt because they don't take their Christianity seriously. They therefore have no strong internal system of self restraint. They look to government to do something, forgetting that they are the government. An object lesson on the inability of the state to produce a moral people.

ecomcon, well-spoken, wise, and true. Thanks.

7 posted on 11/09/2002 8:33:40 AM PST by Weirdad
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To: Weirdad; ecomcon
You're both quite naive and shortsighted. How much time have you spent there? And no!! Not in Cancun or Cozumel.

On just one of my trips driving through the entire country (this trip was 3 mos. long) I saw what I always see: a people beaten down by a corrupt gov't that has hobbled freedom since it's inception.

But you'll not find a people warmer, more helpful to strangers, more giving to those who visit, yes, even to some hopelessly arrogant Americans.

You need to travel more. Then again, maybe it’s better if “Ambassadors” like you just stay home, and drink beer out near the outhouse.

8 posted on 11/09/2002 9:59:01 AM PST by InkStone
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To: InkStone
You miss the point. I'm not saying anything about Mexicans that doesn't apply equally to Americans, or anyone else for that matter. Being warm and friendly doesn't get the job done.

In order to restrain evil, you must restrain yourself. Who do you think is offering the bribe money? The warm and friendly participate in that corruption because their self restraint is not strong enough to resist it. It is easier to be pragmatic than to resist.

9 posted on 11/09/2002 1:57:32 PM PST by ecomcon
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To: ecomcon
There is some truth is what you say, but could you do better, if you had no history, no background, no experience with living under true freedom?

I doubt if i could.

10 posted on 11/10/2002 6:55:46 AM PST by InkStone
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To: InkStone; ecomcon; areafiftyone
Here is what ecomcon said, which I thought was well-said, but which you find short sighted:

Mexico is corrupt because the people are corrupt. The people are corrupt because they don't take their Christianity seriously. They therefore have no strong internal system of self restraint. They look to government to do something, forgetting that they are the government. An object lesson on the inability of the state to produce a moral people.

You are obviously passionate in your defense of the Mexican people, but you are very presumptuous, making amazing deductions about our backgrounds. You also miss the point.

I have never been on a "fancy vacation" anywhere south of the US, but I have done mission work in Mexico building and repairing orphanges and traveling to small towns to install small inexpensive (and free to the people) water purification systems which we built ourselves. Many people there are indeed beaten down. Many others have learned to play the game. As a whole the culture there is NOT to be "law abiding;" rather, the only restraint on many (not all) people is what they can get away with without getting caught. When a certain percentage of the population, perhaps 20%, is restrained only by the enforced letter of the law if caught, or else by a corrupt paralegal system (involving illegal power, violence, bribery, etc.) of restraints on behavior, that has massive implications for the whole of society, and is indeed very unfortunate for the 80% of people who want to behave well. In fact, that's a large part of what's beating them down!

I think that the system of government in the US is a direct result of the strong Christian background of the founding fathers who recognized the ultimately corrupt nature of men whether in power or of the masses. They were blessed with a governable people who "took their Christianity seriesly" (sorry) and therefore they were able to institute a self-balancing system that disfavored micromanagement and depended substantially upon a spontaneously well-behaving population restrained by its Christianity.

If too many (even 20%) are not well-behaved, then the people choose law and order over freedom, permit their government excessive power, and create a self-perpetuating system in which those at the top seek to perpetuate their power in order to use it for personal gain.

Therefore although I agree with you that the Mexican people have some amazingly good qualities and that a majority of them are not law breakers, the perpetually dismal state of the country as a whole would improve immensely if they only had a critical mass of people with a mature grounding in the faith that made America, which the Mexican people also espouse, Christianity. They do not have that critical mass.

By the way, there is no arrogance involved either. I think that the perfect storm that created these United States was a demonstration and gift from God. These United States are on the edge of losing their own critical mass of people grounded in faith. As a result we are turning more and more to the centralized micromanagement of We the People in which we give up freedom in favor of law and order. With that, decline is inevitable, and unless it reverses, we also will see what ecomcon characterized as "an object lesson on the inability of the state to produce a moral people."

Peace.

11 posted on 11/10/2002 11:38:32 AM PST by Weirdad
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To: Weirdad; sarcasm; FITZ
Very nice post! Thanks.
12 posted on 11/10/2002 12:11:02 PM PST by dennisw
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To: areafiftyone
Actually Mexican people are very religious.

I hear this is stereotype and their religiously is only skin deep and has pre-Columbian elements to it. The abortion rate in putatively Catholic Mexico is high enough.

13 posted on 11/10/2002 12:20:05 PM PST by dennisw
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To: dennisw
I hear this is stereotype and their religiously is only skin deep and has pre-Columbian elements to it.

That's true. Some Mexicans are very religious in a good way, some are religious in a Mafia way but worse, some are religious in a very superstitious way, many aren't religious at all. It's a stereotype that doesn't fit ---but I think it comes from the Southwest Hispanics who were descended from Spaniards or some of the Conservatives who fled Mexico at the time of the Revolution in the early 1900s, they tend to be pretty religious Catholics.

14 posted on 11/10/2002 4:15:02 PM PST by FITZ
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To: Weirdad
As a whole the culture there is NOT to be "law abiding;" rather, the only restraint on many (not all) people is what they can get away with without getting caught.

In big ways and in little ways. I remember some Mexican police showing us how to put pesos in the pay phones only so far so you can get them back. The mordida is also part of their system and an official wouldn't consider it corrupt at all to take it and no one considers it corrupt to offer one.

15 posted on 11/10/2002 4:17:59 PM PST by FITZ
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To: Weirdad
I worked in Mexico City for about 13 months on a project. Your comments and ideas are good ones.

I'd like to add my own observations. The police are paid very low wages, barely livable -- under their uniforms in the some cases is the most threadbare underwear -- if they are not proficient yet, or they are honest -- in collecting "user fees".

The response time to an emergency call runs very long -- 45 minutes at minumum, and longer if any response at all. I saw this on some investigative TV show when I was there, as well as anecdotal reports from local co-workers.

The Law, courts, etc. is all by connections, well-established family connections. Not connected? No luck for you.

(Side note: Don't buy property in Mexico -- the deeds of us gringos are just about worthless, they'll figure out some way the land doesn't belong to you, and all you'll have to show for it is your lawyer bills.)

In a way, the law is open -- to persons of energy and vigor and money to spread around. You don't see people hanging around at crosswalks three minutes for a WALK signal on an empty street like you will in Germany and Switzerland. People do what they will to get where they want to go -- on the sidewalk and street and in business and the courts. The rules are "flexible". Yet there is a snide pride in some, and in such a situtation you may not be able to go on directly but must seek agents and intermediataries to get around things.

Bribes and kickbacks are common -- a gringo I know of almost lost his job because his workers didn't trust him -- he wouldn't take the payday kickbacks that were the norm. In a way they felt dishonored.

Religiously, Mexico is an unstable mix. Every calendar will have the Saints Feast Days on it -- that is every single day has it's saint. Veneration of statues of Mary is common. You'll have the most despicable, disgusting place and right in it and well-kept beautiful statue with fresh flowers. Yet the state has a history of hating and actually warring against the church clerics.

Mexico had it's godless secular state long before the godless Marxists detrained in Russia.

There are three great things that make Mexico's law and policing systems so rotten, imo -- rotten in our eyes, that is. They are as you may be suggesting, the strong scent of that deadening form of religious worship known as idol wqorship, preserved not only from recast ancient native practises, but also from the idolatrous Chritianity of many of the conquisadors and clerics. One aspect of that idolatry -- to my view -- is the hard anti-religiousity of the secular state.

The second is the massive mess of the Spanish Codex they inherited, that even in Spain at the time of the colonization of Mexico engendered a grave disrespect for the laws, as an overabundance of laws causes abitrary, haphazard enforcement. The refuge was in family circles, the rule of by a basically non-tyrannical, yet self-serving, small group of elite families, who kept judges and officers in their extended household.

The third is the lack of respect for the laws of agency and contracts by agents. It was a deep and active regard for laws of agency and agents that empowered English colonial experience. Without resepct for the independent actions of agency and agents, micro-management is prevalant, stumbling blocks are set at every distant turn.

16 posted on 11/10/2002 4:59:29 PM PST by bvw
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To: bvw
Amazing observations and analysis! You taught us something! Your observation that "there are three great things that make Mexico's law and policing systems so rotten, imo -- rotten in our eyes, that is" namely idolatry, "the massive mess of the Spanish Codex they inherited," and "the lack of respect for the laws of agency and contracts by agents" is very interesting and makes sense. (I did not know about the Spanish Codex in particular.) Thanks!
17 posted on 11/10/2002 6:25:57 PM PST by Weirdad
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To: Weirdad
Many years ago I had a friend -- actually my Dad's friend -- who was a cleric. He was a theoretical linguist, and also a street-wise ex-golden-glove boxer. He traveled in Mexico without collar. One day he was at a cantina, and a number of federales came in. They grabbed a priest and took him out and shot him dead.

Why? Don't know. But life went on almost unchanged -- that was the Brother's report.

I think Mexico City's a wonderful place. I'm pretty sure that in parts of it -- and in parts of the neighnoring estatados as well the policing can be improved. Anyplace with money has plenty of private -- and very well armed --police already. That means there is economic incentive for successful public policing if it means less private police.

However, in Mexico, people make decisions slowly, and consider --- must consider -- long term risks. Here in the north, wealth can be regained quickly, a few years. In Mexico it takes generations. Sure Rudi and crew could make things better for a few years, but long term?

18 posted on 11/10/2002 7:20:39 PM PST by bvw
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To: Weirdad; bvw
Well said. And right on point.

The second is the massive mess of the Spanish Codex they inherited, that even in Spain at the time of the colonization of Mexico engendered a grave disrespect for the laws, as an overabundance of laws causes abitrary, haphazard enforcement.

And,

The Law, courts, etc. is all by connections, well-established family connections. Not connected? No luck for you.

And further;

micro-management is prevalant, stumbling blocks are set at every distant turn.

I'm thinking of Kafka's "The Castle"

19 posted on 11/11/2002 7:40:23 AM PST by ecomcon
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To: areafiftyone
Bump
20 posted on 11/11/2002 7:44:52 AM PST by Fiddlstix
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To: ecomcon
"The Castle" -- haven't read it but just read over some reviews. Yes -- if K. had been an "independent agent" he would have either surveyed per common practise, left his bill, it would have been paid and forwarded to him or K would have almost immediately left in the absense of adequate understanding of what was to be done.

K. however has fallen into something like idolatry -- if one avoids idols one gets a better direct connection. This causes confusions and leads to less self-respect for the automony of operation that K. as an agent in the field should expect to enjoy.

An agent has the status of bailor with regards to the property bailed, that is entrusted, to him by the person or incorporate group of persons he is acting as agent for. The agent must keep the property so entrusted to him in better regard than the agent would his own property, and with more care than the common expectation for his own property. But having met that expectation of more care and responsibility for the entrusted property the agent is quite free in his operation on behalf of his Trustee.

Idolatry can also give rise to the confusions of the process of law as well as underregard for agency and other property rights that results in over legislation, over-regulation, and then general scoffing at the law.

21 posted on 11/11/2002 8:29:31 AM PST by bvw
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