NYT: Walmart Used Bribes In Mexico

Wal-Mart longed to build in Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field. It was an ideal location, just off this town’s bustling main entrance and barely a mile from its ancient pyramids, which draw tourists from around the world. With its usual precision, Wal-Mart calculated it would attract 250 customers an hour if only it could put a store in Mrs. Pineda’s field.

Wasting no time at all, here's Walmart's statement issued in response to Monday evening's New York Times article about allegations of corruption in Mexico: The above video statement can be attributed to David Tovar, Vice President, Walmart Corporate Communications.

If Mr. Tovar looks a little...well, frazzled, it's probably because Wal-Mart ended their internal investigation in Mexico back in 2006. Why? Well, because they found out "things" according to the NYT report, and they never bothered to notify Mexican authorities, or anyone else for that matter. The NYT picked up where Wal-Mart left off in 2006.

NYT:

Wal-Mart longed to build in Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field. It was an ideal location, just off this town’s bustling main entrance and barely a mile from its ancient pyramids, which draw tourists from around the world. With its usual precision, Wal-Mart calculated it would attract 250 customers an hour if only it could put a store in Mrs. Pineda’s field.

One major obstacle stood in Wal-Mart’s way.

After years of study, the town’s elected leaders had just approved a new zoning map. The leaders wanted to limit growth near the pyramids, and they considered the town’s main entrance too congested already. As a result, the 2003 zoning map prohibited commercial development on Mrs. Pineda’s field, seemingly dooming Wal-Mart’s hopes.

But 30 miles away in Mexico City, at the headquarters of Wal-Mart de Mexico, executives were not about to be thwarted by an unfavorable zoning decision. Instead, records and interviews show, they decided to undo the damage with one well-placed $52,000 bribe.

The plan was simple. The zoning map would not become law until it was published in a government newspaper. So Wal-Mart de Mexico arranged to bribe an official to change the map before it was sent to the newspaper, records and interviews show. Sure enough, when the map was published, the zoning for Mrs. Pineda’s field was redrawn to allow Wal-Mart’s store.

Problem solved.

But it doesn't end there. Documents obtained by the NYT identified 19 store sites across Mexico were targeted with bribes; bribe payments with dates that coincide with critical permits being issued. The locations and conditions themselves are an abomination.

"Thanks to eight bribe payments totaling $341,000, for example, Wal-Mart built a Sam’s Club in one of Mexico City’s most densely populated neighborhoods, near the Basílica de Guadalupe, without a construction license, or an environmental permit, or an urban impact assessment, or even a traffic permit."

"A vast refrigerated distribution center in an environmentally fragile flood basin north of Mexico City, in an area where electricity was so scarce that many smaller developers were turned away."

Here in the U.S., Wal-Mart leaves a legacy of employees who are forced to live below the poverty level, and depend on Food Stamps and government healthcare programs, along with the eyesore big box stores cluttering up cities and countryside alike.

In Mexico, the legacy impacts the nation's very history and environment, even the safety of its' citizens, just as other countries suffer the deadly sweatshops.

And yes,the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the federal law that makes it a crime for American corporations or their subsidiaries to bribe foreign officials. Mexican authorities and Congressional Democrats have also begun investigations.

But do read the entire piece, the corruption is stunning.

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The following video features the pyramids in Mexico. A sight to behold, now with a nearby Wal-Mart store. The pyramids of Teotihuacan were the crowning achievement of the Toltecs. Even now, they still attract worshipers on special days. On the eve of the equinox, over a million people make the pilgrimage to Teotihuacan. They come from all over to celebrate the arrival of Spring, honour their ancestors and enjoy the big party. "It's a beautiful moment, taking the energy from the beginning of Spring," enthuses one pilgrim.

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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