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2 policemen disgraced after targeting foreign motorists for bribes

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Hunucmá police station. Photo: Courtesy

Two motorcycle cops, who were apparently stopping motorists between Hunucma and Sisal, have been fired and charged with extortion, local media reports confirm.

Former officers Jorge Iván Cool Balam, 33, and José Samuel Cab Dzib, 26, are now banned from working in security or law enforcement anywhere in Mexico, according to Reporteros Hoy.

They had been routinely pulling over drivers and extracting 4,000-peso bribes. Two foreigners who had pressed charges against the policemen also received refunds, said a friend of the drivers.

Not only have they lost their jobs, they are being forced to go through a ritual in which they are stripped of their badges in front of their former colleagues. The ceremony, resembling a scene from an old movie about the French Foreign Legion, is in lieu of prison time up to two years.

The Municipal Public Security Directorate corroborated the charges.

“They have ruined their lives and we think that is enough punishment. Everyone at the Hunucma police station were very helpful and fantastic!! They were very happy to have these bad cops caught!” a friend wrote on Facebook.

The head of local police, Jose de Jesus Escalante Basto, said he will not tolerate acts that stain the image of the police. He said that tourists and citizens should have confidence in the police force.

This is the second such charge against police officers since Esclante Basto took office, Reporteros Hoy reports.

“My friends who this happened to were able to identify the bad cops in a line up and identify their motorcycles,” said the U.S. member of a Facebook group for foreigners living in Yucatan. “They took the captain, lawyer and several officers to the scene of the incident and they were able to get tire tracks and boot prints that they matched to the bad cops. The bad guys eventually confessed and returned most of the money.”

Any comprehensive guide book to exploring Yucatan addresses the topic of police bribes. Stories of foreigners either giving in or standing firm against a corrupt police officer are common on social media.

But a more typical “mordida” is closer to 200 pesos, not 4,000.

Stories of foreigners complaining to authorities and seeing rogue officers punished have been all but unheard of until now.

“It’s comforting to know that something can be done,” wrote another commenter on the Mexico Amigos group.

“I’ve been worried to drive in Mexico after hearing about these types of traffic stops, for bribes,” remarked one group member. “I commend the proactive approach of all involved to stop the corruption.”

Sources: Facebook, Reporteros Hoy

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