By Rosi Orozco
MEXICO CITY, Feb 28 2022 – For a country like Mexico, which in recent years has made the fight against corruption one of its highest priorities, a story published earlier this year fell like a bucket of cold water.
One of the most important international rankings on public administration, the Corruption Perception Index created by Transparency International, stated that Mexico was paralyzed during the pandemic: the country, for the second consecutive year, had a rating of 31 points out of 100.
In the school system that means failing the class. Entrepreneurs, public servants and specialists who evaluated the fight against corruption in the country concluded that, from 2020 to 2021, there has not been a step backwards… but not forward either.
The 31 points put Mexico on a par with nations ravaged by corruption and experiencing recent democratic crises, such as Gabon, Niger and Papua New Guinea.
Denmark, Finland and New Zealand are in the first places and Mexico seems closer than previously thought to the worst ranked countries, such as Syria, Somalia and South Sudan.
To make the news worse, the 31 points obtained by Mexico puts it in a dishonorable place: the worst evaluated country in terms of corruption of the 38 countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The information revealed earlier this year is especially harsh for the current administration, which came to power in December 2018 with the promise of rooting out corruption and establishing a new public morality.
The efforts of the current government have been extensive and well known. Among them, the simplification and digitization of procedures, the use of technological platforms to make public purchases transparent, more audits in real time and detailed publication of the federal budget. All of that fuels the battle against the rottenness in government.
However, there is still a long way to go, especially in the areas of law enforcement and victim assistance, where pending issues remain.
A few months ago, one of the most important events for public administration — the III Convention of Anticorruption Prosecutors brought together top experts to discuss how to move Mexico towards the best international practices.
The venue was the state of Coahuila, which in ten years achieved an amazing transformation: from being a drug cartel land to one of the safest regions in the country.
The key was to make changes that were apparently insignificant, but that dealt strong blows to the social base of organized crime: since 2011, the illegal businesses that corruption in government kept open —such as casinos, cockfights, clandestine bars, table dance and newspaper ads promoting prostitution were banned.
These measures had an immediate effect on peace in the region, since they cut off an important flow of money to the drug cartels, which were unable to pay bribes to public officials and buy the wills of the people who lived in their strongholds.
In 2016, following the path of Coahuila, Tamaulipas closed those illegal businesses and went from the third most insecure state to the 26th, according to official figures. Edomex has also advanced with a firm hand to prevent human traffickers from disguising themselves as businessmen.
Specialists such as the prosecutor in the Fight Against Corruption at the Attorney General’s Office, María de la Luz Mijangos Borja, the Coahuila anti-corruption prosecutor Jesús Homero Flores, prosecutor Gerardo Márquez Guevara, among others, discussed these measures and new public policies that can lead Mexico to the next frontier of human rights.
They focused on the road ahead: the urgency of installing state anti-corruption systems, creating citizen councils on public security, implementing external audits and articulating crime prevention networks
During my speech I focused on the debts of the past: the need to recognize the burdens that stagnated us with the dishonorable 31 points out of 100 that Transparency International evaluated.
In Mexico, it is a reality that there are still public servants who sit down with owners of illegal businesses to accept the bodies of girls and women in exchange for impunity.
There are still judges who close cases by putting piles of dirty money on top of victims’ files. And there is still the habit of purposely losing lawsuits that affect the entire country so that a few get richer.
I remember the case of the former president of the Federal Court of Fiscal and Administrative Justice in the state of Tlaxcala, Juan Manuel Jiménez, supposedly a great judge, who today is out of that important position because he had 52 folders with irrefutable evidence of human trafficking, kidnappings and rapes and yet he freed the criminals involved.
For the fight against corruption to advance, it’s urgent to stop the flow of dirty money, but that is not enough.
The conclusions of the III Convention of Anti-Corruption Prosecutors are clear: small actions can lead to big changes, but only if it is accompanied by a moral renewal and the certainty that we all have the right to a life free of the evils of corruption.
That compass must be the dignity of people and their value as human beings. If we’re heading there as a country, there’s no way we can go wrong. We will move in the right direction.