Poverty and Corruption in Mexico

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Corruption and poverty are two anomalies that pose a serious dilemma to any country and if not resolved, they could become the ultimate downfall of a nation. Corruption and poverty can occur in any country, both poor and wealthy. These two anomalies affect the well being of Mexican society and continues to be a problem. But corruption and poverty are not just two separate entities, they have direct correlations and consequences.

Mexican Government Corruption

For decades, Mexico has been plagued with government corruption. What makes corruption such a dilemma is that it directly affects the ability of a country to prosper and develop economically. One of the main factors of corruption are Mexico’s police forces/security and judicial system. This corruption stems from the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1917), when an immensely authoritarian, one-party system developed called the Institutional Revolution Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI). Corruption soared, political competition became non-existent, and the judicial system became insufficient. As the PRI continued its corrupted control, the Mexican economy and judicial institutions began to weaken. As a result, in 1982, a debt crises lead to “lower wages, higher unemployment, and a lower standard of living for Mexico’s citizens.” Beginning in the 1990’s in the presidential administrations of Zedillo and Fox, reforms took place aimed at putting an end to corruption in government institutions. While these reforms and others were a move in the right direction, some questioned their strategies, such as consolidating police power, which leads to concentration of power and corruption. One of the problems with the inability to resolve the problem of corruption has been the Mexican government’s decision to focus on structural changes, which only provides short-term change and does not provide sustainable reform.[1]

In a recent event, 43 Mexican students, studying to become teachers, went missing while on their way to a protest. It has been alleged that the mayor of Iguala had ties with narcotics traffickers and was the individual who ordered the attack on the students. Many Mexican citizens protested and continue to protest against the government’s handling of the tragedy and their decision to call it an “isolated incident”, but the protest was not only for the 43 missing, it was also in protest for the more than 80,000 disappeared and killed Mexican citizens in the last decade as reported. Tragedies like this exemplifies how drug violence has infiltrated and gained influence into Mexican political and government institutions.[2]

Another significant form of corruption on Mexico is bribery. Bribery comes in all forms, whether it is in the form of paying-off officials or authorities, being used for personal gain, or taking part in a devious transactions. As reported by the New York Times, “Studies have found it costs the [Mexican] economy upward of $114 billion — 10 percent of its gross domestic product — and dampens potential investment.” Also reported was that between 1970 and 2010, Mexico overall had lost $872 billion due to crime, corruption, and tax evasion. Also to note is that losses increased significantly when NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was taken into affect.[3] Transparency International reveals even more insightful statistics. Among 177 observed countries, Mexico ranks 106 in the Corruption Perception Index (2013), which is “based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be.” Ranking the wealthiest countries, the Bribe Payers Index ranks the likelihood of firms to bribe abroad where Mexico ranks 26 out of 28 countries (2011). Further statistics show Mexico providing “little enforcement” of anti-corruption laws and having mediocre Control of Corruption or the ability of the public to exercise their power for private gain.[4] As explained by Luis Carlos Ugalde, a Mexican political scientist, the Mexican government has good laws that try to reduce corruption, but in the real world they are not effective.[3] Because the nature of corruption takes the form of secrecy and uses informal and illegal methods, it remains a difficult entity to expose and remove from government institutions.

Poverty in Mexico

Poverty is not being able to afford ones necessities. Poverty is a global issue and how it contributes to the social status of human beings depends on many factors, specifically the practices and actions that each leader partakes in their own country. The government and the new laws that get implemented are always aimed to help society. However, for the most part, new laws that get implemented come at a cost. The poor are the ones that are always paying the price. In Mexico, there was a new fiscal reform that took effect on January 1, 2014 that was aimed toward the implementation of higher taxes on the rich. However, this reform took a drastic change and ended up hurting the poor. The increase of taxes hiked up transportation rates to 16% and in addition, a tax of 1 peso was added to soft drinks, and an 8% levy on calorific foods.[5] For the rich this increase isn’t much, however, for the poor who already struggle to purchase their necessities this change means sacrificing one thing for another.

Increases in taxes has become more common lately as a pattern continues to develop every year. The increase of prices is beneficial for the economy, but the outcomes have a tendency to affect a certain population, the impoverished. For the most part, the poor already spend 50% of their income on food, and with prices continuing to rise, the poor will not be able to afford or sustain living under these type of conditions.[5] The government always focuses on having a higher income for themselves, however, for the poor, they are constrained to give up the brand products and settle for more affordable and sometimes less safe products.

In addition, the government has found ways to exploit impoverished children and have them working for an insignificant amount in pay rate. Statistics shows that in Mexico, there is currently 3.5 million children being exploited that fall between the ages of 5 to 17. By avoiding the cost of higher wages, employers are hiring poor children to do the work and violating federal labor laws. The economic crisis, as the government may call it, only increases the chances of a child falling into the hands of an employer who will only exploit them.[6]

Moreover, the education system in Mexico remains inadequate. The government has found a way to make children of a lower class have a minimal reach to education.[7] The employment of children has been a priority and with the government looking the other way, it only makes it easier for exploitation to go around. As the International Labour Organization states that, “there are currently 218 million children working worldwide, and one in 12 are being exposed to the worst forms of child labour, among which six: agriculture, soldiers, sexual networks, domestic service, mining and quarrying, and trafficking of children.” Furthermore, exploitation in children has been around for years however, the toleration level has increased all while companies generate more profit and families become poorer.[6]

The government has not made those living in poverty a priority. Living conditions have a huge impact on how poor a country really is. The political economy will only make it easy for the rich but will always keep the poor living in conditions that are not suitable for everyday living.[8] The government refuses to address the problems associated with poverty and acquiring pro-poor adaptation strategies would lend great assistance and support to the poor. Being poor has a couple of components, however, corruption is one of the main issues.

Correlation Between Corruption and Poverty

Poverty and corruption are two anomalies that run parallel together. As previously mentioned, corruption directly affects the ability of the country to prosper and develop economically, therefore, leading to poverty. Corruption undermines the prosperity of wealth and always ends up hurting those in poverty the most. Poverty is an invitation to corruption but corruption occurs because of the weaknesses that exist in the economic, political, and social institutions. Corruption limits the economic alternatives and prevents those in poverty from moving up to a higher economic social status. Being poor is characterized by different circumstances and human rights. Moreover, corruption gets passed the legal framework and the money that is gained through corruption is never to improve the poor living standards. "In a corrupt environment wealth is captured, income inequality is increased and state's government capacity is reduced, particularly when it comes to attending to the needs of the poor."[8] For example, health inspectors in Mexico make false accusations that a vendor is in violation and the individual is forced to pay them as a bribe in order to avoid paying a higher fine. As a result, the money that could have gone to pay for other daily necessities is now being used to pay for a false claim. Circumstances like these plague Mexican society and continue to be a major problem. Mexican police and other officials continue to follow this corrupted form of living. They are supposed to be government employed and are meant to serve and help the community, however they are looking away and making a profit out of the horrific situations that are arising.[8][9]


  1. Asch, Beth J., Nicholas Burger, and Mary Manqing Fu. Mitigating Corruption in Government Security Forces: The Role of Institutions, Incentives, and Personnel Management in Mexico. N.p.: RAND Corporation, 2011. 2011. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.
  2. Pickrell, Emily. "Mexico Protesters Incensed by Government Corruption, Criminal Ties." Al Jazeera America. Al Jazeera America, 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Archibold, Randal C. "Even as It Hurts Mexican Economy, Bribery Is Taken in Stride." The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Apr. 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.
  4. Transparency International. “Corruption by Country: Mexico.” <http://www.transparency.org/country#MEX_DataResearch>
  5. 5.0 5.1 “A Few More Pesos, A Lot More Stress.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper Limited, 2014. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gtz, Denise. “Exploitation of Children in Mexico.” Voices of Youth. Voices of Youth, 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
  7. “The Causes of Poverty in Mexico.” Advanced Composition for Non-Native Speakers of English. Eslbee.com, 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 “Poverty and Corruption.” Transparency International the Global Coalition Against Corruption. Transparency International,, 2008. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
  9. Johnston, Michael. "Poverty And Corruption." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 22 Jan. 2009. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

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