Like a fully stuffed Chipotle chalupa, Mexico is crammed with all kinds of corruption; from its national political scene to its junta-in-all-but-name military, Mexico has come to epitomize the Latin flair for drug-fueled criminal expertise in the highest levels of civic and commercial enterprises. No scheme is too big, no fraud too exquisite, no intimidation tactic too outlandish for our southern narc-atholic friends. They are leaders in mustachioed villainy.
So it is with great surprise that we learn about 3,200 Mexican federal police--nearly 9% of the total police workforce--have been fired since May 2010. Ay carumba! This represents a sea change, or at least a tidal basin change, for a government known more for knuckling under to influential cartels than to agents of positive change.
Many other governments have made a show of cracking down on their beloved internal legal incubi--men whose gift for deception, bribery, and criminal ventures seem almost genetic. From Kabul to Beijing to Moscow to Bogota to, well, nearly all of Africa, corruption is practically a way of life. But just as the British and Dutch knew, to create financial success, one must stamp the rule of law upon one's subjects; even despots must realize that the rackets can only inflate the balloon of success for so long.
Placing conquered tribes under the happy, if unsatisfying rule of law is a fine tradition for cultural imperialists--successful ones, at least--Rome implemented Pax Romana across its empire, providing its citizens with peace, military protection, and citizenship, as long as they paid their taxes, didn't cheat the government, and didn't attempt insurrection. Babylon too gave its conquered basic rights under the aegis of a serialized code of conduct.
The essential part of the mathematics of successful rule is the mutual agreement between the governed and governers: I won't fail to provide for you, as long as you obey me. Corruption always diminishes the caregiving ability of its perpetrators, eventually eliminating it altogether in order to enforce its rapidly decreased base of support and prevent the breakdown of essential societal structures--things that would have been avoidable had it not stooped to such venal injustices in the first place.
Mexico has the distinction of being the most apt illustration of a nation under complete control of corrupt officials. And like General Salazar's character from the movie Traffic, or Two-Face in The Dark Knight, crackdowns are often engineered by those opportunistic officials who have the most to gain by promoting sweeping reforms... of their criminal rivals' organizations and personnel, that is. And often such crackdowns have their own negative consequences, such as the creation of power vacuums, which quickly absorb the next set of cartel leaders trying to make their mark. The only way to tell if an official is clean or not is to wait and see; if he ends up maimed and dead, he was either clean and getting under someone's skin or he was a rival standing in the way of a power grab. While this implicates pretty much every living official in Mexico, it stands to reason; Mexicorruption is synonymous with "doing business."
Nevertheless, the eradication of such a large swath of Mexico's narco-traffickers and Zeta enforcers shows that someone has the cajones to push for the right kind of change, chomping hard on the tortilla of trafficking and the chalupa of corruption. We're not really sure who is responsible--really responsible--for these firings; it is probably best they remain nameless, lest they end up without a head and buried in the Sonora desert. But whoever you are, Caballero Blanco, you've earned our Imperialist of the Week award.