Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Video of Police Extorting U.S. Citizen

Monday, November 22, 2010 |

I pulled this video as I was having a conversation about whether or not to visit Mexico with my significant other. Needless to say she found this sort of thing is less than encouraging. On another personal note, watching this comes off the heels of hearing about someone close to me that was extorted by police last month for not paying a bribe to an officer, who stopped him as he walked home one evening. The officer mentioned his daughter had a quinceañera that was approaching, and my friend should give him some money, otherwise he would be taken to jail for loitering. My friend refused and he was beaten up pretty bad.

This sort of extortion is an epidemic and really gives tourists and visitors doubts about making any travel plans there. I don't want to sound sensationalist, that isn't were I'm coming from, but it really draws my ire to see this sort of behavior from police officers. It is such an obvious shakedown and its so frustrating to see this guy getting treated like this; he is there to spend his hard earned dollars in this country that so desperately needs commerce and relies on its image as a tourist Mecca.

Petty crooks like these are not worthy of calling themselves police officers, they do more damage than they realize. Each time a foreign citizen comes home with a horror story to tell his neighbors, it makes it harder to bring in tourist or investment dollars into the region. This video is just as damaging to the Mexican economy as the photos from the latest cartel beheading.

The local police in these towns need to be reviewed on a consistent basis; the days of cuotas and mordidas must end if Mexico is to achieve a truly civil society.

This was posted 11/7/10

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45 Borderland Beat Comments:

Capo said...

I am surprised that they didn't take all his money? This must be from awhile back, not really recent I would think.

Anonymous said...

I'm about to make my bi-yearly 2400 mile road trip to Mexico later this month. This sort of behavior is nothing new. You cannot show fear and honestly you have to haggle. Man should have offered him $20.00. He admitted he lost the upper hand from the jump.

Besides, I'd rather pay the 'mordida' than go by the actual law book. If one is caught speeding; one has to go see the 'commissioner' immediately with the police officer (which means having car towed + impounded), have the officer take your license plates (retrieve only at station and you technically cannot drive without tags), or have the officer take your driver's license (again retrieve only at station). Every once in a blue moon you'll just get a warning. All in all this is much more expensive and time consuming. Just fork over the money.

Its unfortunate Mexico doesn't have an infraction system like in the USA but hey, you're up for anything driving in Mexico (or in any foreign country). Don't like it, fly or take a road trip in the US.

Anonymous said...

The extortion is a natural process in every single country. The fact is that this police officer is dishonest because he should give a ticket in the case that this traveler was speeding. But in Mexico no one respect speeds limits because they do not have so many police in the roads or cameras like in the US. But I can notice the evidence that he was probably speeding, if the officer would give you a ticket, you with certanty wouldn't pay the infraction and continue your journey. In every country the extortion is present and it hasn't to be necesarily money, there other ways to do extortion in the US, with laws and the inflexibility of the rules, like the parking tickets that every american citizen have receiving unfairly by his authorities. The world isn't white and black. You pay your infraction but unfortantely you have to give your money a corrupt, but if you will be riding the bike in your country, they will stop you, extent a summons, judge you, and at the end you have to pay more money to the system, including lawyers, judge, that represent a waste of the money of the contributors because represent a very expensive legal system that some times it makes no sense. All the countries are corrupt in one way or in another, we as societies should be ashame of our double standards. including you.

Anonymous said...

Marc

My personal criticism is that police officers from municipalities do not get paid a "living wage" they are expected to take bribes akin to waiters of restaurants in the U.S. that get paid less then the minimum wage expecting customer to make up the difference on tips. Not getting paid a "living wage" in Mexico is a key problem that is exasperating police corruption in Mexico. Instead town mayors and their cronies devide municipality revenues amongs themselves, this is why posts are sometimes fought tooth and nail. If average pay for Mexico's municipal police earn on average $350.00 and if in Miguel Aleman,Tamps. Zetas were giving $18,000 per month to 22 municipal police do the math, thats a little over $800.00. don't get me wrong I am not justifying what they do, but a possible answer would be giving municipal police a living wage.

Smurf said...

I really doubt the money went anywhere other than the officer's pocket. We must hold civil servants accountable for corruption if we want a civil society.

Just because corruption is more "convenient" than following the law doesn't make it right. Its simply unacceptable if you want to create a climate of stability and accountability. Little things like this add to the perception that its ok to be corrupt.

It isn't

Smurf said...

I absolutely agree with a living wage 2;34, that is part of the problem.

But if you give cops more money, won;'t the cuotas just simply get bigger?

Anonymous said...

I've been 'bit' in Mexico before by the cops, but I have also gotten taken worse in the US. The difference is that the whole system here in the US robs you, whereas in Mexico it is the individual cop who walks off with usually some relatively chump change.

All in all, it's a toss up in which has the more corrupt system in place. If you are living in the US and think that all those police are in place there to serve anybody other than really the very wealthy, then you are a total chump. Who enforces the laws in the US against those that steal billions? NOBODY.

Ernest1

RiseMakaveli said...

Bribes is a way of life in Mexico, but not all officers oblige by this. Out of every 10 times I get stopped I probably have to pay 1 or 2, most of the officers won't actually waste the time to take you to jail or intow your vehicle, specially in this times. All you have to do is stand your grand and don't look intimidated. Big problem is like previously mentioned, they don't get paid enough, with what they get paid in a whole month they wouldn't be able to maintain a two bedroom house in the US.

How can you expect so much from a public servant, when they get treated with so little respect and appreciation. Most of the officers in Mexico are charged for every bullet they carry, wouldn't doubt they think twice before shooting at somebody. Increasing their wages will not increase their bribes, if anything it'll make them think twice about it in fear of losing an actual "good job".

Anonymous said...

I was doing mission work right across the Texas border when I got flagged over in a parking lot by a Mexican policeman. He said I was going the wrong way in the parking lot and it was against the law. He said he would have to take me to the judge. I asked him how much would the judge charge me for the ticket and he said probably a hundred dollars. I told him I was a student and only had 20 dollars and I really needed to get back to my group. I asked him if he could take the money to the judge for me. He rubbed his thumb and forefingers together and I gave him the money. That night I met the mayor at a social function and told him what happened. He was very angry and embarrassed. He told me next time get his name or badge number and insist that he take me to jail where I will be released and the officer will face retribution. Again, he apologized, took out his wallet and gave me a twenty dollar bill.

I think officials really wanted to clean up this kind of behavior so tourism would not be affected. Now they have a different problem ....

Anonymous said...

Really,,,this is nothing new,,lol,,i have been going back and forth to mexico for 6 years now twice a year, and have been ripped off twice, the first time it hurt but the second time was ok not bad,,if your going to travel by car through mexico you have to expect it.

Smurf said...

Maka,

Well that ain't right, charging them for bullets, but that's part of the problem, the state should provide them with weapons, training, vehicles, body armor, pensions, a living wage.

Maybe I HAVE been in the U.S. too long, but these things seem pretty much common sense items, My question is, how can they NOT be corrupt if they don't get these things for free? I find it hard to believe that the state simply can't AFFORD these thing, they can't afford NOT to have them, it breeds corruption!

If you pay shit; you get shit. But that just can't be an acceptable situation. Its not like cops get paid a kings ransom over here, but they certainly get THOSE items for free.

Pay them better, train them better. Its the only way to start building some integrity in the police. The whole thing is really frustrating....

RiseMakaveli said...

Exactly, we can't completely blame them by themselves, they're only a part of the problem, the need to feed a family will slouch the straightest of men.

I've known of cases where cops get killed because their guns where empty, couldn't afford the bullets. In an interview a cop actually said, "I know it's for my safety, but it was either feeding my wife or buying bullets for my gun".

Anonymous said...

Frontera said…

Smurf, in the past Mexico could have well afforded to pay more than a living wage to law enforcement with oil production income, but not with Mexico’s Peak Oil http://www.oilcrisis.com/mx/ situation, which is getting worse, daily.

Mexico never looked at where they would be when they had no oil to sell, which is what the government lived off of for decades, or what other avenues of income could be produced to keep the government operating.

Anonymous said...

That is how mexico is governed, corruption from the lowest level up to the highest,

these officers are not as bad as they could have been.

Kidnapping, theft of all his money, and bike,

Boy, this sorry bolillo dosent know how lucky he was, you just cant play with your life in such a manner.
This has happened to me and many mexicans every day, and we consider ourselves blessed and watched over by the lord when we can get out of this situation without as much as a scratch.

John said...

I think the systemic corruption issue was fleshed out real well in the movie 'Traffic'. In the opening scene, for example, when the general and his crew first ask Benicio Del Toro and his partner how he knew about the load and for a local police he was well informed; then take the load from him.

In that same scene what RiseMakaveli said was also brought up -- he makes a comment about how they took their handcuffs, like it was a big loss since they have to pay for them.

Also later on when an American tourist couple get their car towed and Benicio Del Toro tells them to "call a number" to find their car.

A couple more scenes dealt with the corruption element in the country very well.

Buela said...

Smurf

This happened in my state. I posted my exp long before this came out but I will again. Each time I drive to Saltillo to MTY this happens to me...and ALWAYS speeding even though I make it a point to not speed. I have paid and not paid. A few years back it was not in my mind I would be hurt just harrased, usually the fine is around 20 USD. This 100 was way ought of ordinary. The other thing is one makes the stop and another always comes for intimidation. My male assitant was mouthy and refused to pay even thought I was telling him to under my breath and it was the one and only time they said "ok follow us to the station and pay there" I was not going to follw them anywhere and I asked the officer to come to my window for payment. That time I was scared but none of the other times. This is on the "safe" hwys toll routes. As one who fredquents that hwy often I would pay, in this climate of violence it is not worth taking a chance. I have bartered at times depending on the demeanor of the person, saying I am a humanitarian working with children in Mx and I am very sorry for "speeding" but I have not a lot of money...and so forth that works and it is true because I use CC and carry pesos and little USD. DOn't think this is helpful but it is a "warrior's" exp of many years.

The extortion by walking thing I never exp or heard of anyone I know exp. WHere was this? Was it in a bar? if you send me an email where you contemplate traveling to I can give you specific info, I have friends and family in many states.

Buela said...

The Mx government tried giving the police a much higher wage...I believe it was Juarez I have to check I just saw it last month doing research, but gues what? cartels offered double

'lito 'brito said...

waiting for ernest 1 to blame this on the USA

'lito 'brito said...

you gotta pay...best thing is to keep some pesos handy..it is the way it is in mexico...i have plead poverty...and talked them down....but if you are a gringo, you still are gonna pay 4 times what a local pays...but you got more money right?...don't argue, just pago la mordida....it makes you more of a local...jajajja

Anonymous said...

If there is a Z on this board, please find this pig and execute him, please. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I believe I would forward a copy of this video to the state and municipal authorities and all the way to DF.

Clear pics of vehicle # and officers.

Ovemex said...

@Smurf

"I really doubt the money went anywhere other than the officer's pocket."

It may go in his pocket for the moment, but it won't stay there for long.

In my town, before the former Police Chief was picked up by the military he had sent his cops out with very specific orders. Each cop had to stop X amount of cars per shift and threaten to give X amount of tickets for each stop.

After having 4 or 5 tickets tacked on, they would then tell the driver how much each one would cost, before offering them a "cash discount"...they would even offer the driver a "police escort" to the nearest ATM or their home, or patiently wait for friends to show up to lend the driver money..

Now imagine you have, in a small town, 15-20 police for every 8-12 hour shift and each one of those are ordered to make at least 40 stops per shift and collect anywhere from $200-$500 pesos per stop..Imagine city patrols where there are hundreds of police per shift.

It is sad and it is wrong, but it is what happens here. It must be changed. Public servants of ALL levels must be held accountable.

Traffic stops are just the tip of the iceberg. If you get a chance there is a movie (here they say are dubbing it as Infierno 2)that shows police corruption..It is called Bala Mordida.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agITi1-3hfg

Guero said...

Happened to me last time I was in Akumal. We were driving back to the airport in Cancun when a cop standing on the side of the hwy (no radar gun) waved me over. he said I was speeding and I laughed, before I could reply my wife started in on him (she was raised on the border) once she piped down he asked for my license which I told him was in back in my luggage, I told him I had a plane to catch and he was full of shit. I refused to exit the vehicle and he kept trying to tell me to go to the station and I could see the judge in the morning, I finally told him to screw off and made my offer, I pulled 60usd out of my pocket and he gladly took it. 1 dont show fear 2 stay in the car 3 never never never hand over your passport 4 always keep some mordida money in one pocket and hide the rest in a good spot 5 dont back down, offer them the mordida money and hold your ground.
I knew on that trip that I would not be headed back anytime soon, instead of the usual traffic cop on the corner in Playa Del Carmen we saw military armed with machine guns, had a long talk with a fellow that worked for the rental car place at the airport and he made it very clear that the airport was controlled by the narcos...the guards were there on the corner as much to protect the drug shipments coming from southern Mexico up the highway as they were for show. I am a pretty tough sob and can hold my own in most situations but I sensed something something dark beneath the surface this trip. I watched guys on the beach sell coke in broad daylight and they kept it in a house right next door to the hotel, once the money changed hands one of them would run to the house and get the dope...all day long. I figure the hotel knew not to make a fuss for fear of reprisal. The whole trip was creepy, it was as if something bad could go down at any time, a gut feeling...this was January of 2008. I was told by a local panga captain that my usual fishing guide had quit fishing as I had noticed his panga on blocks up on the hill in the puebla, I asked the captain why and he seemed reluctant to answer...finally he said he went to work for the narcos. I always loved Akumal as it was a far cry from the shit in Cancun and pasty white Canadians in speedo's doing aerobics on the beach, but this time it was different and left me with an uneasy feeling. Hopefully someday we can return to the place we used to know and love.

TheBronze said...

"The local police in these towns need to be reviewed on a consistent basis; the days of cuotas and mordidas must end if Mexico is to achieve a truly civil society."

That will NEVER happen.

ajulio said...

its not the polices' fault that they live in a country where you have to find ways to make money outside of a poor payroll to support your family. when i first started going to mexico, my friend taught me the phrase, "echame la mano." and i used it many times and it got me out of some seriously potential problems. lets face it, its this impairment of integrity and mischievous environment that draws many gringos to mexico. its what makes mexico exciting and fun. that you can be bad and get away with it. but the problem becomes an epidemic when hateful people abuse this privelage. that is what is eating away at mexico right now. simple hatred gone catastrophic. this has gone way passed just making money. mexico has become the devil's playground.

Anonymous said...

Sorry pal, but you initiated the bribe by asking "how much" since the beginning. Just ask them to give you the ticket, go pay it and that's it. If you're lazy to do it, that's your problem.

Smurf said...

Ovemex,

Thanks for the comments, I'm def gonna check that movie out, I'm always looking for any Mex cinema to watch. Your post is an example of how this seemingly "insignificant" level of corruption can breed a huge criminal mentality in the police department.

The reason countries like Mexico, Russia, China, India and so on haven't reached the 1rst world status that the U.S. appears to hold is because if you can't control the local police, you can't expect to control the federales either. Everyone starts running their precincts like a little fiefdom, where the Lord of the manner takes a little bit out of everyone's pocket and soon you have a mafia mentality to go with it. Its not just $10 here and $50 over there: It becomes SO much more than that!

@ Buela,

Que Dios te Bendiga on your journeys, they sound both adventurous and harrowing at the same time. I'm glad someone is helping the people of Mex out of the ground level.

This friend that I wrote about isn't much of a drinker, he is a young guy, still in school and looking at him he barely weighs 110 lbs if he was standing in the rain. The way the story was related to me, he was at a friends house in an affluent part of NL and decided to walk home (only a few blocks away) before the sun went down. On his way he cut through a parking lot that was attached to a shopping center. The cop or perhap security guard (not sure which) told him he was loitering, even though he was just taking a shortcut! To avoid arrest he told him to pay up for his daughters quincenera. He refused, either because he didn't have any money, or he didn't think it was right to be shook down just for trying to walk home. One thing led to another and the guy hauled of and hit him, left him with a black eye and a busted lip. Took him in to press charges.

From my understanding, his family raised holy hell and the charges were later dropped.

Anonymous said...

mandalos a chingar a su madre yo vivo all i yo les e dado hasta 5 dollar domas

Anonymous said...

As if formality make revenue enhancement by police to city coffers more legitimate. Everyone knows that city police men in the Sates have quotas on citations written to usually more economically vulnerable people - the one who least can afford it.

Anonymous said...

for the 2400 mile road trip guy, I am against your attitude, you rather go to pay, I do not. I got two tickets in Mexico (Hermosillo) visiting my hometown, I went to pay the next day $90 pesos!! like $8.00 dlls. People have to stand up and say NO MAS!! No more!! As long the police and the rest of the Mexican law enforcement (judiciales, federales, judges, office employees) continue corrupt, the citizen will be a helpless sheep. Atte. Lioness

Ovemex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

@Anonymous November 23, 2010 11:09 AM:

Ok, but what happens when you try this and get the super corrupt cop on the cartel's payroll who would rather just shoot you when you start giving trouble, drive 10 miles away, and then "respond" to the shooting?

If I was down there, I'd have a set amount set aside in a separate location than rest of money and if I have to, break down and offer that as all I have.

hasta la madre said...

You guys know that police officer got fired after the incident right? Another thing, I'm willing to bet he was talking with a Zeta on that civilian W-T.

Anonymous said...

As a resident of Monterrey, shakedowns like this happen more and more. Two weeks ago, I was driving back from the US with my wife and children only to be pulled over by police near the Monterrey airport.

The charge: having more than one suitcase per person. Ridiculous! I would have argued more with them but the kids were cranky after 2 solid days of driving, so in the end, I gave them $40 USD to go away.

Regardless of whether this is done in a lot of countries, it is not right. I have less of a problem if an actual infraction were committed, but these guys just make things up to shake down any target. You could be parked and they will say speeding. With no system to defend yourself, it is a matter of paying as little as possible to these crooked cops.

Anonymous said...

These mexicans cant maintain a civil society. Colombia had the heart to clean house Mexico does not have that

'lito 'brito said...

the police rob everbody...the monterrey ratas robbed my wifes abuelito...walking home from work...they just ask for more if you look like you got more,,,and act scared...act a little scared for respect...but also act like it is no problem...you will pay the ticket...then they will start negotiating with you , because if you take the ticket , they don't get shit...and lose the money... 50 100 pesos usually lets you walk..i will not even argue whether it is wrong...of course it is ...but thats life

'lito 'brito said...

i swear i know that cop...mebbe he got me once also

Anonymous said...

Rights??? If Mexican citzens have no rights, how could you assume that US citizens or from any other nation has rights? Lioness.

Anonymous said...

OVEMEX its easy to say use your rights in mexico, But when the cops in their unit have a passenger that happens to be a zeta, you will be peeing in your pants wanting them to take everything but your life.
I am not a coward just someone who has lived through this for the past three years, THE PAST does not apply any more.

Anonymous said...

State corruption at its best.

Anonymous said...

Really? This is a "horror story"? Give me a break. I think that the language barrier was not the only problem. The other is the cultural barrier. This has happend for decades. You need to educate yourself about how things work here.

i have been hassled far more by US border police and I am a US citizen with blonde hair who happens to live in Mexico.

Very ignorant comments here about how/why these kinds of things happen here. US is corrupt and politicians at very high levels take bribes of all kinds. We just call it "campaign contributions".

You just keep a wallet with only 200 pesos or less and they will basically let you go. MUCH MUCH MUCH cheaper than ANY speeding ticket you will ever get in the US! Seriously!

Get over youself (and I am a female who has driven hundreds of miles in my truck (Calif plates too) in Mexico. Beautiful country amazing people.

Try looking at the US with same hard, cold eye and the US doesn't fair any better.

Ovemex said...

when I said know your rights, I meant you have an option to take a ticket or not. Of course, this would all depend on where you are and what time of day it is.

I have been stopped while visiting Mty and was given the traditional spill "we CAN take care of this quicker with a little "propina"..It was noon and I was pulled over on a highly trafficked avenue. I did not ask touch, I was not disrespectful in anyway, I simply told him I had no cash and requested he give me the ticket, which he did.

On the other hand, I have also been pulled over by two patrol cars for speeding in Nuevo Laredo. It was late, I was alone and did not think twice when the cop told me my fine was $400 cash..I handed it over and would have probably given him everything I owned had he told me to.

Everything depends on where you are, who you are with, and what time of day..

What I was trying to say about "knowing your rights" is you have a choice (technically)..With that in mind, if you ARE pulled over, put in this position, and have to pay, for your own good...don't act intimidated, keep it simple, and do not act tough..You can report the abuse afterwards if you choose to.

Ricardo said...

Cops on the take in any country are not good, in Mexico they have bribes in America we have Lawyers.Our system is just more sanatized , done with a suite and a smile.
He was in fact speeding, and with some language skills, and cultural savy he could of walked for $20 U.S.

Anonymous said...

hot damn...you paid 60 usd for speeding...with an angry mexican wife to back you up.....you could have just let her talk...200 pesos would have been strate robbery.....500 pesos ...dang

Anonymous said...

After going through this twice here is what I learned:
1) First thing they ask is for your driver's license. DO NOT give it to them. Tell them you left it back at a hotel a ways away.
2) $40 should be max you should pay. If they insist on more, tell them fine, you have any attorney there and he can deal with it. (We had an atty in Cancun we used for real estate transactions).
That seemed to work. They let us go without paying a peso.

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