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For Wal-Mart, Coveted Permits Were Just a Bribe Away

An investigation by the New York Times, following up on earlier reporting, has unveiled Wal-Mart's widespread use of bribes to circumvent democratic governance and regulatory safeguards to construct controversial projects throughout Mexico.
December 18, 2012, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Change zoning meant to protect an ancient metropolis; build a store in one of Mexico City’s most densely populated neighborhoods "without a construction license, or an environmental permit, or an urban impact assessment, or even a traffic permit"; build a distribution center in an environmentally fragile flood basin -- these are among the examples of Wal-Mart de Mexico's ability to use bribes to transform the "strictly forbidden" into the "miraculously attainable," a Times investigation has revealed. 

"Through confidential Wal-Mart documents, The Times identified 19 store sites across Mexico that were the target of Wal-Mart de Mexico’s bribes. The Times then matched information about specific bribes against permit records for each site. Clear patterns emerged. Over and over, for example, the dates of bribe payments coincided with dates when critical permits were issued. Again and again, the strictly forbidden became miraculously attainable," report David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab.

While the Times investigation revealed widespread bribery to circumvent democratic governance and regulatory safeguards to construct its facilities, Barstow and Xanic von Bertrab focus on one glaring example to illustrate the practice - the purchasing of permits and zoning changes to allow the controversial construction of a Wal-Mart in the shadow of the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacán.

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Published on Monday, December 17, 2012 in The New York Times
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