During the colonial period, the Spanish Americas were governed under the 14th-century formula, “Obedézcase, pero no se cumpla”: obey, but do not comply. This double legal standard acknowledged the king’s authority while preventing royal law from encroaching upon local customs and guild privileges.
The affirmative command (obey) came with a built-in negation (do not comply), undermining the rule of law. For Spanish colonies like Mexico, that meant three centuries of whimsically applied justice, which allowed corruption to flourish. Historically speaking, then, institutionalised public malfiesance is pretty old news in Mexico.
And yet, by any measure, graft in Mexico has reached stunning new highs this year. Over the past five months, three state governors have been arrested abroad while trying to escape justice, and fully eleven of the country’s 32 total governors are currently under investigation or fighting prosecution for corruption.
Today, nearly 90% of Mexicans see the
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