I have travelled a lot in south/central america on land and sea and while I understand the points about corruption/getting by, I think many on this forum are looking at it through rose tinted spectacles.
Being a customs
officer/policeman/soldier in a developing nation is a good job in it's own right, it provides money
, status and protection to the family
- they do not need
to supplement it via bribes/tips, they choose
to do so, after all who doesn't want some extra money
right, what harm can it do?
When officials start taking bribes/tips they are taking advantage of their very important role, it starts off inocuous, but it can easily escalate into expecting tips/bribes from everyone including the locals. That tip from the cruiser, escalates to tips from businesses that serve them, then full scale protection money.
It used to be frequent in Peru
in late 80's early 90's to be arrested by the police for drug offenses, they didn't even bother to plant the drugs on you, just took you to the station, showed you what you had on you then offered to release you for a very large "tip" (US$5000 in my case) so you don't have to face the corrupt judge, with the planted drugs the police supplied and receive a prison sentence. Hmm 5k or 10 years in prison, fun choice. It didn't die out because we understood the cultural issues, it died out because tourism dried up, and a less corrupt government
came to power.
It all sounds reasonable, it's just a tip, it's part of the culture etc etc, however the locals who aren't cops don't appreciate it when they have to pay bribes too, how many developing nations are there where the population don't fear and hate the corrupt police? Not many in my opinion.
We are targets as cruisers and westerners and while rolling over is a great short term solution, don't fool yourself that the only issue is understanding the culture, that doesn't do the vast majority of the people that live in the country a favour long term.
If you want another obvious example look at aid to Africa
corruption, it's cultural, it's been going on for years and it kills hundreds of thousands of people every year - the west has an obligation to stamp out developing world corruption and it starts by putting up some resistance at a personal level.
Totally off topic, but hey we all need a Friday rant!