They didn’t have to tell me because you could see the tiredness in their eyes. But they told me. Sweating, overwhelmed, with masks, not coping, several officials of the Tax Administration Service (SAT) at the International Airport of Mexico City made it clear to me their anger at the new policy of the federal government to go through the Ray scanner- X all the suitcases of all passengers arriving from outside the country.
Since there are not enough personnel or machines, the result is an endless line of passengers. Contrary to what one might think, it is not the passengers who are complaining in anger about the wait. They are the uniformed officials with the SAT logo. ‘We are overrun,’ a supervisor told me. “This is a disaster,” a worker exploded at another time. ‘It’s madness,’ broke out another. They asked me not to say their names for fear of retaliation.
In both terminals of the airport of the capital of the country the free passage of ‘Nothing to declare’, opened a few years ago, was canceled. Nobody can walk there anymore. Everyone who lands must line up in the narrow corridor between two X-ray machines, with no healthy distance. A dozen SAT officials have to heroically deal simultaneously with all passengers arriving from anywhere in the world: the United States, Central, and South America, Europe. Two ask questions, another two see that all the suitcases are placed on the band, two or three more checks the screens, and three or four open the suitcases. “They make us open a lot more than before,” an agent explained to me, her face sweaty from work, the heat, and the mask. Sometimes they also wear a mask. They look exhausted. Do not stop.
Why did the policy change? Does it have to do with the pandemic? No. The agents do not ask any questions related to the coronavirus or inspect the luggage for any source of contagion. They open the suitcases and ask the passengers if they bring gifts if they make purchases if they are putting goods that should pay taxes …
The lines at Customs at the airport are another reflection of one of the obsessions of President López Obrador, who considers anyone who has done more or less well in life a presumed criminal. From that perspective, if you have enough to travel, then you are committing some crime, and you have to pay. With a rickety economy and declining revenue, it is good for him to raise the fines in Customs.
But contrary to the “AMLOs” dream of executing the rich, the lines for baggage checks are not fifis with Louis Vuitton suitcases trying to hide the ” shopping”. No. They are lines, above all, of countrymen who are forced to open their tight luggage, untie their boxes and convince the SAT agents about what they bring from abroad for their families. Middle-class passengers who have to face the new policy of harassment in which not even the government officials themselves agree or see any sense in it.
But hey, another obsession of the president that becomes public policy, and generates a useless disaster. It is customary.