Gone at last is the nemesis of lakeside’s immigrant motorists. News is out that the reviled traffic cop widely known as El Gordo has been transferred from the regional branch of Movilidad Jalisco to a new post in Guadalajara.
The reassignment of the infamous officer whose real name is Carlos Camarena stems from the appointment of Anayd Fiorella Estrada López as the new commandant at the state traffic department’s Chapala office two weeks ago.
But the story really traces back to a town hall meeting held last November at the Lake Chapala Society where municipal Transito director Gerardo Bautista and City Hall’s foreign community liaison Héctor España pleaded with victims of El Gordo extortions to register formal complaints. About 20 people in the audience indicated by a show of hands that they had been subjected to harassment by this man in uniform.
According to España, seven valiant people stepped forward, detailing their experiences in being brow beaten into shelling out mordida bribes to the corpulent cop for real or fictitious traffic violations. Payoffs reportedly ranged from 500 to 5,000 pesos. Some of the complaints were backed up with photographs of Camarena in action.
There are multiple lessons to be learned from El Gordo’s fall. The first, and in my view most important, is that the naysayers who claim that denouncing corrupt officials is a fruitless and potentially perilous pursuit are dead wrong. People who have the courage to stand up for their rights can actually effect changes for the better.
Lesson number two: Folks who pay bribes collude in corruption and if caught could be subject to prosecution. I’ve never heard of a case of that actually happening, except for one elderly expat who was close to be busted for forgery when he presented a color photocopy of his driver’s permit, a legal no-no.
Lesson three: Mexican laws are written in Spanish, the national language. Foreigners are not exempt from the country’s legal codes because of their ignorance of the content. Traffic regulations are pretty similar to those of other countries and they apply to one and all. So buff up on the rules and mind them, por favor. It’s the best way to avoid unnecessary hassles.
Lesson four: Traffic officers are not legally permitted to stop motorists unless they observe them committing a violation. They are required to explain the broken rule(s) and display an official ID with their names and photographs.
Lession five: The Jalisco government has an on-line procedure for filing complaints against officials who engage in bad acts. The form for beefs about traffic officers is posted at https://setrans.jalisco.gob.mx/denuncias/policias-viales. Get help from a bilingual friend if needed to complete the blanks for requisite personal information and pertinent details of the incident. You need to specify the date, time, location and number of the police unit, clearly visible on all vehicles. If the task is too daunting, seek España’s assistance.
Final lesson: Both Movildad Jalisco and municipal traffic departments have jurisdiction here. Learn the distinction of their respective vehicles and uniforms. As far as I have ascertained, Chapala’s force has so far performed with honesty. A deserved salute to the Good Guys.