corruption or user fee?

If a person is pulled over by the transito and given the choice to pay up or get a ticket, is it corruption or a user fee? My personal view is it is a user fee. Police are paid about $250 dollars a month and work very long weeks. If they expect a small bribe where is the problem? It is a win-win for all parties involved. There is no need to retrieve your license and fight the ticket and the cop gets a little extra cash to support his family, without the need for increased taxes on everyone. We are not going to change how business is done here in Nicaragua, it will only frustrate us and sour us. A person might say this is not how things should work but, a man told me once, this is how is was done before you got here and it is how it will be done when you leave. A Nicaragua friend of mine who enjoys drinking and driving a little too much will give the transition a few Cordobas every time he sees them. He said he uses it as an insurance policy in case he gets pulled over when he is drunk. I don’t think this is correct, but it is part of life here in Nicaragua. Please don’t take this to the extreme there is a big difference between a “user fee” and true corruption. I guess it is up to each person to decide where that line lays.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

A user's fee?

More like donations to the policemen's Charity Ball where the cop's family are the only ones invited.

A user-fee is, as I understand, a rental charge paid to the owner. Clearly Nicaragua owns the lands the roads were built upon. Who paid to construct them? Reto Milenia, MCC, comes to mind. So if you want to pay back those who paid to pave these roads, send you cords to the USA. Thank you.

Progress, in Nicaragua, is imported. If free, it is welcome. The wording in the contracts doesn't really matter.

Corruption is rot.

What is the natural state of doings? There are laws and there are customs. There are institutions of governance, and then there are habits of rule. We are not robots who mechanically obey laws. Too often here corruption is judged by foreigners. By what right?

Are cops respected, viewed as part of the community, or feared, treated as 'the other'? When pulled over in the States, I confess fear, not because, going a little faster than others, I knew I did wrong, but because of the heavy fine I could expect plus points against my license that would affect my insurance rates. The actual confrontation is much more militant, armed & ritualized, than any comparable encounter in Nicaragua. Here cops are more Barney-Fife-types. One isn't chased down by a more powerful vehicle. The poor man/woman stands on the side of the road, signalling by hand for you to pull over. Nicas don't fear their cops; they're regular folk, neighbors.

My most common driving error in Nicaragua was crossing a solid line to merge into or pass traffic. That is one law that surely was written into the code for the benefit of cops' families, since gringos have no such law. The fine = 400 cords ($16 now). Still, not once did a cop tell me I could pay them directly. But they took their sweet time not writing me a ticket. The game was for me to make them a direct offer to take care of the matter for me, usually 100 cords surreptitiously passed. I paid the penalty, I'd done wrong. Bribe? OK, but why should the rabble be judged differently than the elite whose daily dealings with politicos amount to the same shenanigans. It's a shame we don't have armed morality cops, linked to full surveillance feedback systems, walking the halls of Congress.

And how is it justice that the penalty is a fixed dollar (cords) amount for all citizens regardless of their economic well-being? As if we were all equals, pues. Justin Bieber flew away from Miami's court. Democracy, my ass.

Yay, Daddy Yo. Many.many

Yay, Daddy Yo. Many.many years ago, I was a cop. We made pretty good money and as far as I knew there was no bribing on the street. The court system is a completely different animal!!!!! I quit when I found myself ousted because I would not follow the "Blue Line" (lie in unison)! I believe that a person in authority; be he a policeman, priest, or judge has a fuduciary responsibility with all those that he deals with! The "Golden Rule" rules, whether you carry a big stick or not. RWC

the 'Golden Rule'?

Would that happen to be the one currently operative: "He who has the most gold rules." . . . ?

What you say is so, when it comes down to the final summation, one must be able to live or die with him- or herself. And so it has ever been, and looks like it ever will be. Be true to yourself, eh?

Opinion in development circles

In development circles there is an apparently widespread belief that corruption and poverty are linked, that a country can't pull itself out of poverty without tackling corruption.

Ending Corruption to End Poverty

The UN Millennium Development goals were the goals set for 2015 and in evaluating their progress, and in some cases, lack of progress, corruption has been identified as a major obstacle to the point where in discussing the next goals, the current thinking is to add a measurable financial transparency goal.

It seems like a huge jump in logic to go from transito user fees to pulling countries out of poverty but the problem is always worse for the poor and it was found to extend to healthcare and education. So imagine requiring bribes to send children to publicly funded schools or to get healthcare during pregnancy.

Imagine this

Most kids here in Leon go to church schools. What parents must pay varies in proportion to the quality of the education. Public schools here are disasters of delinquency. Parents that pay are more involved in their kids' education, to put it simply. It ain't a bribe, per se, unless you take the larger view of the educational system in this developing country. The church is a critical part of civil governance in ways that 'developed' overseers fail to appreciate.

For my pregnant sis'n-law her 'healthcare' was fully covered by INSS. But had she not paid an outside doctor for help, her delivery would have surely been a tragedy.

No, it's technically not a bribe to pay to go outside an ineffectual system. But sometimes common sense helps.

To speak of 'ending poverty' is to ignore mathematical statistics and the natural law of distributions in complex systems.

Interesting point to bring up

In a country where the post-earthquake corruption was a significant contributing factor to the revolution.

I wonder what holds Nicaragua back today? Corruption still exists within Nicaragua, and I would even say it's spreading, but the majority of Nicaraguans seem to be uninterested in bribes. At least, that's been my experience. It feels almost cultural.

My impression is that the younger people are more honest

The older people more expect needing pull and personal influence and helping someone out to help you.

Rebecca Brown

Why not?

the logic is solid--cops are poor and therefore should solicit bribes. Well, teachers and nurses are poorer, so they should solicit more bribes.

Amazing how the historical baggage of the Enlightenment and western democracy fails to impress some people.

``Socialism works fine until you run out of other peoples` money``

Margaret Thatcher


``Socialism works fine until you run out of other peoples` money``

Margaret Thatcher


I've had this discussion with others before. Basically, as a "user fee" applied by the policeperson, it is almost certainly prejudiced in some way. Being prejudiced, it is unfair. If it were truly a governmental fee of some kind, there would be an inherent fairness to it, at least in the US.

In Nicaragua, where *everything* is done by people and few are accountable, I've found that even governmental decisions tend to be unfair in some way. Sometimes it's because the person at the desk doesn't want to help gringos, sometimes you just get unlucky and the person isn't feeling helpful, sometimes things change and aren't communicated to those who need the information ahead of time. (Sometimes, of course, you do get lucky and someone really comes through for you! The point is, though, that it is *NOT* a fair system, but a chaotic and highly personal one.)

Like fyl, though, I work with computers. I really like to walk into a situation with the right expectations. So, I'm biased, I suppose, toward my own definition of fairness.


Well if it is accepted, why did the police officer get so upset when I started flashing my $10 out the window at him back in 2011 when I first arrived here!! lol


It was too low, too high, you were too obvious or he's supposed to lead. That should cover everything. LOL

Reminds me of Charlie's story

Charlie was an ex-pat in Costa Rica with a Tica girlfriend. His Spanish was, well, not that good at the time. His girlfriend's English was excellent.

They had gone to Panama and got pulled over by the traffic police. The cop handed Charlie a little photo album with pictures of his kids. Charlie, very confused, asked his girlfriend what was going on. This is, more or less, the conversation:

C: Why did he hand this to me?

I: Just put a $20 bill in it and hand it back to him.

C: $20? That's a lot of money for him.

I: Yes but he knows it is not a lot of money for you.

Data point

See which may explain why more Gringos seem to have a problem with the system than non-Gringos.

Time or money?

Personally I don't like the way it works and tend to be vocal about it. I am a computer guy and always prefer well-defined things. I would not have a problem if it was well-defined such that there were standard payments for various infractions.

I have a lot less of a problem with the enforcement of traffic regulations (note that I have never paid a bribe or received a ticket even though I have been pulled over many times). Where I have the problem is dealing with the una cosa mas situation with La Renta, Immigration, ... It is a total PITA and if you don't happen to live near the office, it can cost you days.

The bottom line is that in virtually every case you have a choice: more time or more money. I don't like it but I know that is how it works and I know I am not going to be able to change it.

good post..

some of us have to remember..were guests here..this is the way the game is played..were not here to try and change for the nicas..who post here..u guys got all the rights to yell,, scream..or praise the system..for works pretty good..i like the user fee idea

By definition its Corruption

And you guys can dress it up how you like and take it to the dance but Mutton ain't Lamb and a Pigs Ear is not a Silk Purse but in a pinch, they would both work.

Same as here it works...but please, stop re-naming it.

A police user fee would be giving them 500 cords for gas to attend your B & E and do some inquiries, Corruption would be another 500 cords to lock up the neighbors kid for the weekend cos he's an ass.

wait a minute

I can lock up the neighbors kid for only 500 Cordobas? ha-ha

1st Capt. Ron

(Title by Miskito Alan)

" . . .why did the police officer

get so upset . .?"


Who was that guy who gave some transito $50 a few months ago on the way to Matagalpa (probably in Tipitapa) ?