Wal-Mart Bulldozes Mexican Ruins, Bribes Officials To Build Market

Published: December 18, 2012

Wal-Mart Bulldozes Mexican Ruins, Bribes Officials To Build Market, Cheap toothpaste and flat-screen TVs are fab, but a New York Times investigation of how Wal-Mart greased the palms of officials to build a supermarket in Mexico will make you cringe. The company reportedly issued four bribes worth more than $200,000 to erect a Bodega Aurrera supermarket in the shadows of the Teotihuacán temple complex and pyramids, likely destroying ancient ruins along the way.

For the mounds of cash, officials altered zoning maps, issued permits and allowed massive backhoes and bulldozers (delicate archaeological remains require shovels and picks). Intrepid reporters say Wal-Mart has bribed its way into numerous Mexican locations, and the Twitter backlash has begun, including comments like @MariLynch’s “Yet another reason I’m glad not to have shopped #WalMart.”

Wal-Mart longed to build in Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field. It was an ideal location, just off this town’s bustling main entrance and barely a mile from its ancient pyramids, which draw tourists from around the world. With its usual precision, Wal-Mart calculated it would attract 250 customers an hour if only it could put a store in Mrs. Pineda’s field.

One major obstacle stood in Wal-Mart’s way.

After years of study, the town’s elected leaders had just approved a new zoning map. The leaders wanted to limit growth near the pyramids, and they considered the town’s main entrance too congested already. As a result, the 2003 zoning map prohibited commercial development on Mrs. Pineda’s field, seemingly dooming Wal-Mart’s hopes.

But 30 miles away in Mexico City, at the headquarters of Wal-Mart de Mexico, executives were not about to be thwarted by an unfavorable zoning decision. Instead, records and interviews show, they decided to undo the damage with one well-placed $52,000 bribe.

The plan was simple. The zoning map would not become law until it was published in a government newspaper. So Wal-Mart de Mexico arranged to bribe an official to change the map before it was sent to the newspaper, records and interviews show. Sure enough, when the map was published, the zoning for Mrs. Pineda’s field was redrawn to allow Wal-Mart’s store.

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