Yesterday morning as we were leaving Coatzacoalcos we were pulled over by the police. This is something that many people deal with here in México, but we really never experience it where we live.
This was a “routine” traffic check. They were checking papers to make sure that the drivers had licenses and car paperwork in order. I have no problem with that. When I was told to pull over, I did not immediately suspect anything fishy.
That all changed when the police officer came to my window and stuck his hand in to shake mine. That was odd behavior for a policeman. I then knew what was coming. He asked me if my paperwork was in order. I replied with a simple “Si, Señor.”
He said, “Then just buy me a Coke and you can be on your way.” Buying someone a Coke is a euphemism for paying them a bribe. México is known for its corruption in the police system. The government even runs TV commercials here telling people to not pay bribes. They call them “mordidas” which is “nibbles.” As in, small bites.
I simply told the officer, “No Sir. That is illegal.”
He thought for a second and said that if my papers were fine (he did not ask to see them) then I wouldn’t mind buying him a small snack. Again, I replied, “No Sir. That’s illegal.”
He was about to let me move on when his boss came up and asked if my papers were in order. I said they were and he asked to see them. I started showing them to him and he said, “Don’t worry about the papers. Just buy us a Coke and you can go on.”
For a third time I replied, “No Sir. That’s illegal!”
He looked in at my family and said we could go on. As we pulled away I heard the boss say, “They are religious people. They won’t give us anything.”
That, my friends, is a classic example of extortion. Forcing me to pull over so that they could ask me for a bribe. They obviously had no intention to look at papers. That was the pretext, but they were not doing it. They were using their authority to force people into giving them money. And many will do it.
I just acted as authoritative and refused to give them what they wanted. What are they going to do to me? México is a changing place. Gone (I hope) are the days that they will lock you in jail under false charges just to get a bribe out of you. There is too much public awareness of the problem today. Only those who are scared of their authority will bow to that.
I am not advocating breaking laws. I am just wanting them to live under the same laws everyone else must obey.
We never experience these kinds of actions in Yucatán.