Literally, mordida means “to bite” in Spanish. But in common Mexican slang, it can also refer to bribery. To give money in order to influence the behaviour of the recipient who abuses his/her power. By these means people avoid long tramits or do not pay the penalty of their wrong behaviour. In Mexico, many citizens have been involved in the cycle of corruption just by “giving a bite” to people who accept corruption as a part of their routine.
Usually, these mordidas are given to the transit police – when drivers are going to get a fine, they often prefer to pay a few pesos to make the police look the other way, and by this avoid a series of paperwork, visits to the police station and more money to pay for their acts.
Another common mordida would be given to corrupt school directors, offered by students or by their parents, who pay those teachers and/or directives to accept misusing their position and getting fake grades to students, in order to pass the school year.
Some other known “bites” are those given to any public official who can make paperwork processes that take days, in minutes, all under a bill with more than one zero. Journalists with unethical backgrounds get mordidas, and as an exchange they write biassed stories that bring out only some facts and hide others. A common practice where democracy becomes just a fantasy in developing countries.
In Mexico it is common that citizens criticize the government, criticize the companies, executives and journalists. We criticize the police and public officials for taking bribes, but in reality, common people are the ones who also allow this endless cycle keep on going. Common people are the ones who offer these mordidas as well. Us, the ones who accept this behaviour as a normal part of our lives are allowing the corruption wheel to continue moving forward. Us, who witness corrupt acts on the streets and continue walking as if nothing had happened.
Discussing this issue, a few days ago a friend told me: “well, the system works this way and it benefits everyone.” I refused to accept his argument. This is what happens today, but it is our duty to inform others and show them that the system should work with transparency. That it is possible. These mordidas make us realize that something is failing in our system, and it is our generation who can change it by understanding the real means of bribery and standing against it.
Because in the end the one who asks for a bribe is as corrupt as the one who tolerates it and remains silent.
Post writtenand published for the 15th IACC – Transparency International
(Andrea Arzaba, August 2012 )