I’m sitting in a nice little mom & pop coffee shop in the historic district of Lake Charles, LA, as I write this. I’m waiting on the judges to adjudicate the Louisiana Social Studies Fair state finals, where my daughter is competing with her project (The Birth of Jazz) for a prize. (Fingers crossed!) On the obligatory flat screen Gigundo-Vision TV that provides background noise to keep you from enjoying the peace and quiet of an otherwise cozy bistro, CNBC is all a-twitter about an investigation into alleged bribes paid by Walmart to the government of Mexico. But like with virtually every other story that involved a U.S.-based corporation in the news is that there’s more to this story – and less – than meets the eye.
Now let me get this straight. Somebody (that would be CNBC) is surprised that a corporation found it necessary to pay bribes to the Mexican government in order to operate in that country? Mexico? MEXICO? Seriously? I mean, isn’t paying bribes to Mexico Standard Operating Procedures in the land of our Neighbors to the South? Is it actually possible for a business – any business – to survive in Mexico without paying bribes to the politicians, the Federales, and the rest of the Frito Banditos down Mexico way?
I don’t wanna give away the ending here, but the answer to that rhetorical question is NO. It’s not. Not in this or any other lifetime. Now I suppose if Walmart, Ford, GM, and every other one of the thousands of U.S. companies that do business in Mexico all stood up as one and told Mexico that they would not pay one penny in bribes, then maybe – MAYBE – you could curb corruption in Mexico. But the simple fact of the matter is that Mexico and corruption go together like “White” and “Rice,” “Salt” and “Pepper,” or “Peanut Butter” and “Jelly.” They are virtually inseparable. If you wanna do business in Mexico, that’s part of the “cost of doing business.”
But of course, the story doesn’t end there. The United States has laws on the books that pretend that it’s possible to do business in Mexico