Pursuit of Ethics

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 9, 2004 | Go to article overview

Pursuit of Ethics


Byline: Carolina R. de Bolivar, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

QUERETARO, Mexico - From the perspective of a political scientist, nothing is perhaps as genuinely Mexican as the long-term institutionalized corruption of our police and bureaucracy. This is so longstanding and deeply embedded in daily routine that the concept of "ethical government" is a true oxymoron.

So don't be surprised that Vicente Fox, who campaigned as a reformer, has been unable to completely eradicate corruption in the three years he has been president. Change of this magnitude takes time.

Despite our continuing problems, Mexico is clearly a different country than during our 71 years of one-party rule, when the government was all too willing to play fast and loose with the law at the expense of the people. There has been a shift in priorities. There's a new sense of public integrity. And President Fox deserves credit for this.

"Honesty, responsibility, accountability and care for the common good are absolutely essential [in] ... Public life," he recently told the National Chamber of Commerce. "Ethics in politics is demonstrated with deeds and not with words."

Instilling government employees, from the top ministers to the junior-most clerks, with an ethical sense is like performing a cultural transplant. That's why it's important efforts continue to end bribery and extortion and extinguish corruption.

President Fox has taken the lead. Today, for example, all government ministries in my country have accountability officers, responsible for enforcing ethical standards, as well as improving the efficiency and accountability.

As part of President Fox's effort, the government has started a virtual university, called @campus Mexico. The goal is to train 45,000 government officials over the next two years. But the government can't do it alone, so Mr. Fox has invited universities and private sector organizations such as ours to join the effort.

Our contribution was developing a course in ethics and "character formation" for public officials. …

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