Corruption in Mexico: trembling before the police traffic light trick

Long-distance travel corruption

Shivering before the police traffic light trick in Mexico

Our author actually thought he was relaxed about contact with police officers and border guards. But a visit to Mexico made him very unsettled. There the trap snapped shut just behind the airport.

Status: 05:07 a.m. | Reading time: 3 minutes

Police control in Mexico: Vacationers in Mexico City are asked to checkout quickly

Police control: In Mexico City, vacationers are asked to checkout quickly

Credit: picture alliance / AP Photo / Rebecca Blackwel

MNobody wants to get into conflict with the law. Especially not abroad. But how do you react when the worst comes to the worst? As a traveler, I look back on some encounters with the police – like back then in Mexico.

The trap snapped shut just behind Mexico City Airport. Still tired from the long haul, I drove the newly taken rental car through the traffic.

An eight-lane avenue, stop-and-go, wild honking, thick air, police officers with shrill whistles. I just wanted to get out of the juggernaut as quickly as possible, over a lonely country road towards the Mexican evening sky.

Corrupt police officers in Mexico

The traffic light turned red, but a policeman waved the traffic anyway. His colleague stopped me 50 meters away. “ID card! Driving license! ”He barked. “You ran a red light!”

What is the best tactic now, it shot through my head: Stupid and only speak German? Demand his superior in the same command tone? Or do it incredibly friendly and hope for mercy?

In short: tactic number three has failed. “But your colleague has …” I tried to justify myself. But the summoned policeman absolutely didn’t want to remember anything. My travel budget shrunk considerably.

They call it “Mordida” in Mexico: the “bite”. A cute paraphrase for the institutionalized corruption system. If you look for rules of conduct on the website of the Federal Foreign Office, it only means diplomatically: “Do not contest the requested travel allowances or discuss their legality.”

Fear of returning to Mexico City

I actually thought I was relaxed about the contact with police officers, customs officers and border guards. I know that one should swallow the barracks yard tone on US immigration as contradictively as possible. Or that Cuban police officers can be pretty cool – for example, if you ignore the speed limit on the empty highways.

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In addition, funny police anecdotes always come out well at a dinner with friends, especially when you have felt quite queasy in the respective situation.

In Bolivia, for example, when a young police officer arrested me and presented me at the station because I had overlooked a weathered one-way street sign. I won’t forget his face when he was folded up by his superior.

But the Mexican traffic light trick unsettled me profoundly: from then on I sensed a policeman around every corner. And trembled even before returning to Mexico City.

In fact, the next challenge was already waiting there: “Our parking lot is just around the corner, you only have to drive ten meters back into the one-way street,” said the hotelier. “But if there is a police officer, you drive around the block once.”

Of course there was one! And the trip around the block turned into an one-hour odyssey through one-way streets, markets and poor areas – and that even without a navigation system or city map.

“You should actually be in the Tegel prison”

At least in Germany I’m sure. I thought so far. “Almost done, right at home,” I was always happy when I passed the passport control in Frankfurt. But the other day I was stopped: “Please follow me,” said one inspector and I found myself on the guard.

“You shouldn’t be here at all,” said the official, while his colleague posted himself broadly in front of the door. “You should actually be in the Tegel prison. Or at least someone with your name. ”

I wavered between horror and laughter. A call to Tegel clarified: my alter ego was not exhausted. I’ll meet him at some point – we definitely have a lot to tell each other.

Oliver Gerhard from Berlin blogs on

Border guards discover the longest smuggler tunnel to date

The longest smuggler tunnel between Mexico and the USA, according to US border guards, has now been discovered. This is supposed to be luxuriously equipped with a rail system and elevator.

Source: WELT / Sebastian Struwe


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