Fighting Corruption in Mexico

Taking It to the People

Businessmen hold balloons forming the word that reads 'Corruption' during a protest by members of the Mexican Employers' Confederation (COPARMEX) to demand senators to approve the original proposal of the National Anticorruption System, at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Mexico, June 16, 2016. Ginnette Riquelme / Reuters

Mexicans, like many other people around the world, have little love for their politicians these days. In a September 2015 poll, the public ranked Mexico’s political parties and its two houses of Congress among the country’s least-trusted civic institutions. President Enrique Peña Nieto also scored badly—no surprise, given that he, his wife, and at least five senior government officials, including cabinet members, have been accused of corruption and conflict of interest in recent years.

Public frustration with government is nothing new in Mexico, where corruption has long undermined the country’s development. According to the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, a think tank, each year corruption costs the country between two and ten percent of its GDP, reduces investment by five percent, and eliminates 480,000 jobs from small- and medium-sized businesses. But recently, the Mexican government has begun to act on these issues. Finance Minister Luis Videgaray tackled financial reforms during the first two years of his administration, which began in 2012, and Peña Nieto’s administration established the country’s new National Anti-Corruption System, which implements stronger punishments for corrupt practices. In the last few years, the government has finally begun to acknowledge the scope of the problem and its costs, in both economic and political terms. The government proposed these changes after it came under attack owing to accusations of conflict of interest concerning Grupo Higa, a construction firm that has won major contracts from Peña Nieto’s administrations when he was governor of the State of México and during his presidency. Videgaray has pointed out that the impressive reforms undertaken by the administration during its first 24 months won’t amount to much if the government doesn’t also find a way to improve public confidence in federal institutions. “We can do ten energy reforms, but if we do not add trust, we will not seize the full potential of the Mexican economy,” Videgaray said on February 16, 2015.

Of course, Mexico’s finance minister may not be

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