Friday, September 02, 2011

Mexican Shakedown

I've been living for almost 20 years in the US, so my innate skills at detecting corrupt Mexican bullshit tend to lie dormant way under the surface, because I don't need them here. However, when the occasion arises, I have no choice but to retrieve them from a remote and cobwebbed recess of my brain and dust them off as best I can. I am sad to report that said skills are currently rather rusty, which is why I had to part with $50 USD as we alit in Cancún's airport for a week of fun in the sun with my dog Petra. We had all her papers, but there was a little glitch and it is in those little glitches, where the seasoned bureaucrats can rear their ugly, yet unfailingly polite heads. The politeness is a major improvement. At least nowadays you get shaken down with graciousness. In the olden days, the humiliation was double. You were ripped off and treated like shit. Now you are ripped off and treated like a dignitary. I guess these are the great results the government boasts about in their fight against bureaucratic corruption. They call it, in a brilliantly cynical euphemism, "administrative transparency". But more about the opacity of the Mexican way with words, let alone the law, later.
In this case, we were partially to blame. Had our papers been 100% pristine, the custom agents would not have seized the opportunity. We had one document that was not signed and sealed by the veterinarian that is authorized by the USDA, because she was on vacation. But the other vet provided a second certificate, just in case. I could have understood if they demanded the seal by the USDA-approved doctor or else. But that was not the reason why Petra was detained at the airport. The other document was to blame, because of how it was written. I had taken it upon myself to faithfully translate it into Spanish (knowing a translation would be requested). But according to our gracious hostess, the language was "vague". Although the document stated that the dog was currently free of infections, fleas etc, it did not unequivocally state that she had been treated for such. I found it so rich that a Mexican complained of ambiguity in the language, I thought I was going to get a crise de foie.
What followed was the richly absurd, Twilight Zone-grade pantomime that always happens in Mexican bureaucratic shakedowns. We parsed the text like Talmudic scholars, to no avail. In Mexico, the law, as august as it is invoked when it is convenient for those on the other side of the desk, is amazingly limber and can be stretched in the interest of a happy ending for everyone involved. It only needs a little grease, which nowadays, thanks to "administrative transparency", needs to be coaxed with utmost delicacy, like a gourmand gingerly prying the tasty meat of an escargot from its conch. This is the law: A vet needs to come to the airport, examine the dog and certify she is healthy. This of course, could take six hours. But the always helpful Mexican bureaucrat intimates discreetly, through verbal pyrotechnics so Churrigueresque, it makes you think you lost your head at the luggage carrousel, that there is a vet that charges about $80 USD and can be there in 15 minutes and one that charges $50 and can be there within an hour. They insist that they are NOT ALLOWED BY LAW to recommend us to use this guy, and they provide us with the yellow pages in case we want to search for our own. We say that we are not paying $80 even if Dr. Doolittle himself shows up. So we settle for the $50 vet. Sure enough, the doctor arrives within the hour, a flaming queen with a bad rug (is there any other kind of rug in Mexico?) carrying a little kit that makes him look official. He has already filled out the health certificate, sight unseen. He does not even look at the dog (mind you, Petra, who has the entire bureaucratic corps at the airport at her feet, is a looker). He gives us the paper and we give him the cash. It takes less than a minute. He never opens the kit.
The Magnificent Arepa, no stranger to Latin American carnivals of corruption, looks like she's tripping in Wonderland. Apparently, Venezuelan officials tend to be much more direct. She wonders what happened to my famed (and absent) temper, to my fabled righteous indignation. It's a split-second decision, I think. I realize how rusty I am and how not au courant with the current ways of the mordida. My instinct is to play innocent and be polite, because if you get uppity they can really fuck you over, and Petra spends a week in the airport or we spend far more than $50. 
I don't want to downright offer money because I refuse to participate in corruption (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, the sheer naiveté). On the other hand, I'm not going to spend all day searching for a Cancún vet. Luckily for us, the Mexican bureaucrat is always there to help.
After the vet takes his hard earned cash, he says "Welcome", I kid you not, "to Mexico."


  1. Ha! And I'm sure they took USD, too... for your convenience ;)

    1. Anonymous3:43 AM

      well canadian would be lucrative butt (you didnt get that, i know) mexicans, in spite of popular belief need to wipe their ass too (no not there, they're, or thurr even!) ... no bandaid would fit on that ugly mug of america. god save america indeed, because it would seem you are incapable on your (nope not you're ... that means 'you are') own. E.I. Please just go be on your own...

  2. Anonymous3:33 AM

    note to self. find an actual person to vacation with. bucket list that one!