Friday, January 09, 2009

Claiming the Prize Will Take 8 to 12 Weeks

The only reason we didn't enter the national contest to identify Mexico's most onerous bits of red tape is because we're foreigners and, as such, would have had to present a mountain of notarized documents to prove ourselves eligible.

The contest, which was organized by the government office that works to stop corruption and inefficiency, attracted 20,000 applications. Federico Reyes Heroles, the president of the contest jury and of Transparency Mexico, an anti-corruption group, said the submissions shared a common complaint: that bureaucrats treated their fellow citizens with disdain.

Here's the winner:

To get life-saving medicine for her young son, Cecilia Velázquez embarks each month on a bureaucratic odyssey. First, two government doctors have to sign off on the prescription. Next, four bureaucrats must stamp it. Last, she has to present it (in quadruplicate) to a hospital dispensary.

The process takes at least four days and sometimes as many as 15. Since her son suffers from a hereditary immune system deficiency that could make an infection fatal, she said she asked God to keep him well on the months when he had to go without his medicine for several days.

She once complained to the government agency that runs the hospital where her 7-year-old son, Diego Emilio, is treated for his illness, agammaglobulinemia. But the comptroller’s office there told her that the procedure “just is that way.”

This finalist here is particularly good, a woman trying to correct her husband's name, which had been entered incorrectly on their child's birth certificate:

[Ana Maria] Calvo's saga still drags on. She first showed up at Mexico City's civil registry office with her husband's original birth certificate, their marriage certificate and more papers — surely enough, she thought, to fix her husband's first name from Antonio to Juan Antonio on her child's birth certificate. Mexican officials refused to issue her child a passport because of the name discrepancy.

The first official said she would have to go through the courts to correct the mistake. When she expressed astonishment, the official told her he didn't like her attitude and sent her to another line. By the time she reached the front of that line, she was crying.

"The second official told me, 'You know what, I don't help crying women. Go see if my colleague will help you,'" Calvo said.

One of our friends had a similar data-entry mistake happen to her own father, who eventually gave up trying to correct it, and has gone through his entire life - in a small town in the conservative state of Guanajuato - being legally named "Joto," a slang term meaning, for lack of a better translation, "Fag."

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