More than a habit, it’s a tradition in Mexico to leave things to the last minute, particularly when they involve interaction with the bureaucracy. This means long queues for passports, visas and other documents ahead of the holidays, and long queues outside the local Treasury offices when the deadline for some overdue payment or other approaches and coercive measures against the tardy are threatened.
Government efficiency in processing permits and other documents has improved notably over the years, and even more so with the use of the Internet. But even the most efficient system is unequipped for the sudden rush of people conducting “trámites” at the 11th hour.
This year, in Mexico City, the last-minute onslaught was for driving licenses. The cause was simple. Beginning in 2008, the city government would no longer be issuing permanent licenses, but rather licenses that last for three years. The price would be about the same for a three-year license as for a permanent license.
As December drew to a close, droves of people were lining up all night to be among the relatively few who, when the doors opened the next morning, would be granted their “ficha,” or token, to process their license request. On local radio and TV, the leaders of public opinion chose to focus on the time-honored custom of leaving these things until it’s almost too late, amid much tutting and remarking that the imminent demise of the permanent license (or new ones anyway) had been announced six months ago with the implementation of new traffic regulations. Less time was spent questioning the logic of some people having permanent licenses, while others, who were apparently unlucky enough to be doing the wrong paperwork at the wrong time, would have to make do with three years.
The official, unconvincing, reason for the change was to accommodate the new traffic code, which introduced a penalty points system like those used in other countries, where after accumulating 12 points a driver’s license will be revoked for three years. It’s more logical to think that, with several million licenses at about US$40 a piece, the loss in revenue would be significant.
The permanent license, introduced in 2004, had been touted as a great milestone in administrative efficiency and a big step in the fight against corruption. But that was several years ago in a world of politics.
Be all that as it may, faced with the rush, the city transport department extended the deadline for obtaining the permanent license into the first week of January, but only for those who had paid and registered online before the cut-off Dec. 29.
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