Glossary of graft lays bare Mexico’s lexicon of corruption
MEXICO - The word chayote is a term originally from the Nahuatl language which denotes a greenish edible gourd. In Mexico, it also means a payment made by a politician to a journalist in exchange for favorable coverage.
Chapulín signifies “grasshopper” – but can also mean a politician who changes party affiliation in search of financial benefit. Gallo means “rooster” but in a political context it stands for a political fixer or bagman. So wellentrenched is corruption in Mexico’s political life, that an entire lexicon has evolved to describe its intricacies. Now a group of activists has published a compendium of corruption terms in an effort to highlight the country’s graft problem. Those behind the Corrupcionario Mexicano – or “Mexican Corruptionary” – argue that curbing corruption starts with changing the way criminal behaviour is described. “One of the ways of denormalising these actions is to call them by name and put them on paper as we’ve done so that people stop seeing as normal something that isn’t,” says Alejandro Legorreta, an investor and president of the NGO Opciona. The new glossary includes dozens of terms for malfeasance, but also a few other terms. “Justice”, for example is defined as “a nonexistent social construct in Mexico. Period.” “Chayote” – the payment for a shill – is described as “the main source of nourishment for the ‘journalists’ closest to power. Rich in vitamins for its authors – but full of junk for readers.” An “aviator” is “a state worker who is maintained in their position thanks to their friendship or familial relations with some heavyweight politician … Their work consists of appearing to work, without appearing at work.” The Corruptionary’s publication comes as Mexican society shows an increasing intolerance for wrongdoing in its political class – a mood which was crystallized in elections this summer in which voters threw out the incumbent parties in eight of the 12 states electing governors and candidates successfully campaigned on promises of throwing their predecessors into prison. One of those former governors, Javier Duarte, fled Veracruz state and is still on the run after being accused to funneling millions of dollars of public money into shell companies.
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