Felipe Calderón is changing the rules of the game for fighting corruption. Earlier this month, Calderón announced a series of initiatives targeting corrupt practices in public service and for the first time, providing rewards to whistleblowers and citizens who provide information leading to identification of these practices.
Mexico’s President recognized that “the depth at which corruption has penetrated our society is a problem we can no longer permit.” These types of declarations, which candidly and honestly recognize our fragile state, are unbecoming of what we are accustomed to hear from him.
Possibly wanting to shift public discourse away from the violence and crime dialogue (which is obviously linked to corruption), Calderón talked about this new legal framework and what it looks to achieve in more economic terms: “we must not allow corruption to continue hurting Mexicans, reducing our competitiveness or blocking our country’s ability to grow.”
Calderón praised the effectiveness of a process called Denuncia Ciudadana through which citizens denounce public officials for illegal practices such as corruption. However, actual follow through on these claims is the real problem in Mexico. Enforcement and the capability to prosecute is a definite must if we are to see a successful outcome of these initiatives. Reforma newspaper recently ran a story on the fact that out of 1,779 public officials who have been denounced for corrupt practices only one has been prosecuted and was set free on bail. The rest of the cases continue piling up on the docket.
What is new and sends out a powerful message to all of our citizenry is the fact that the federal government is actively seeking and promoting more civil participation in this battle by offering economic stimuli to individuals denouncing offenders. He did not mention amounts of money, but if implemented correctly, this change in the game could prove to be most successful in a country where people do not denounce crimes, partly because of lack of trust in the system.
Another part of the initiative, the Ley Federal Anticorrupción en Contrataciones Públicas (Federal Anticorruption Law on Public Contracts), targets the private sector by setting sanctions against companies that offer public officials any type of gifts (usually money or some type of benefit) in favor of winning public contracts. These sanctions include removing the company’s eligibility to obtain contracts for up to eight years and a fine of up to 30 percent of the contract in question.
It seems Felipe Calderón was holding off on some of the most important and popular governmental initiatives until they became relevant toward the next presidential elections. Recently, we’ve seen a more publicly active President being the spokesperson for transformational efforts that could give the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN) a better shot at retaining power. With the PRI swinging back, the PRD falling apart from within and PAN-PRD alliance talks still up in the air, the 2012 process could prove to be one of the most interesting elections we’ve seen in recent history.
We can only hope that pre-election jitters become the catalysts for many more of these very needed reforms and that they are actually and successfully implemented. It’s unfortunate that we always have to wait until election times to get the ball rolling but for now, let’s enjoy a step forward.
*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AQ Online. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.