Bribes, or “mordidads” – literally, bites – as they are called in Mexico, are part of daily life: A way to get out of a traffic ticket, or even a way to be treated more quickly at a hospital.

But each little bite adds up, especially when it comes to negotiating government services and bureaucracy.

According to a recently released study by the Mexican chapter of Transparency International, Mexicans spent $2.75 billion in bribes last year. That represents an 18 percent jump from 2009.

For the study, released Tuesday under the title “National Index of Corruption and Good Government 2010,” Transparency International interviewed more than 15 thousand households. It also analyzed the costs of 35 different governmental services – ranging from the process of applying for, and obtaining, a government job, to resolving a traffic ticket.

The study estimates that the price of an average bribe in Mexico rose to $14 (165 pesos) from an average of $11.80 (138 pesos) in 2009.

At these prices, Mexican households with an average income budgeted 14 percent of their income to “mordidas.” For households earning the minimum wage, nearly 33 percent were lost to bribes.

The Mexican government, under Felipe Calderón, has greatly increased the prosecution of corruption in the state sector. Nearly 1,800 criminal charges for corruption were prosecuted last year. 

In prior years, the average was 30.

Still, the Transparency International study lays out a daunting challenge ahead. Its authors calculate that 200 million “acts of corruption” took place in Mexico last year.

For the average Mexican wage earner, this represents death by 200 million bites.

Contact Angela M. Santos at or on Twitter@angelamsantos

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