By Rob Janicki
Recently it came to light through a New York Times story, that Wal-Mart has been involved in a bribery scandal in its Mexico operations.
What a shock! Bribery in Mexico? Who would have thought?
Bribery in Mexico is more than just a cottage industry. It's a tangible part of their economy. If all bribery in Mexico were to come to a halt today, Mexico's economy would slip into an economic depression tomorrow. Bribery in Mexico from foreign business operations like Wal-Mart, helps support Mexico much like money returned to Mexico by Mexican expatriates living in foreign countries like America.
Bribery in Mexico is like a social welfare program for the wealthy and politically connected and those who want to be. If either of the above stated sources of revenue were to dry up, it would be problematical, not withstanding the wealth of Carlos Slim, if Mexico could survive at its present level, such that it is, or would slip back into some third world banana republic authoritarian state.
The question that should be asked and answered is who was being bribed to allow Wal-Mart to expand their operations in Mexico, because that is what is at the heart of the bribery scandal. How did this bribery scheme and scandal come to light? It certainly wasn't because Wal-Mart was bribing too many officials or handing out too much bribery money. Or was it?
Or, did Wal-Mart not bribe enough government officials who became aware of what was going on? Did demands for increased bribery by government officials play a part in exposing this bribery scandal or was some government official ignored and felt jilted enough to expose the entire bribery scheme? Will we ever know? Probably not.
Considering bribery is endemic in Mexico at all levels of government and actually a long standing part of their culture and economy, it really begs the question of what went wrong in this situation with Wal-Mart? It certainly has not negatively affected Mexican consumers who have regular shopping experiences at Wal-Mart and continue to do so.
The LATimes reported here on the trials and tribulations of Wal-Mart at present and into the future.