Mexico’s Social Security (IMSS) wins useless bureaucracy award

MEXICO CITY — Here was a contest no Mexican bureaucrat wanted to win.

A months-long quest to identify the most nightmarish examples of Mexico’s famously nightmarish red tape ended Thursday with a verdict: The nation’s Social Security agency reigns supreme among government bureaucracies that drive Mexicans nuts.

President Felipe Calderon bestowed the dubious honor on the federal agency as part of a contest to find the country’s “most useless tramite,” or bureaucratic process.

The contest drew more than 20,000 nominations from Mexicans who endure long lines and lug reams of required paperwork to accomplish seemingly straightforward chores, such as acquiring a passport or a building permit.

The winning entry came from a resident named Cecilia Deyanira Velazquez, 34, who complained about the rigors of getting her son’s medication through the Mexican Social Security Institute.

Millions of Mexicans have regular dealings with the sprawling institute, which is notorious for long lines and merciless red tape.

Velazquez, a Mexico City resident, said that for four days each month she must stand in line after line to gather the stamps from government clerks required to receive gamma globulin for her 7-year-old son’s immune-system disorder.

“They say it has to be done this way, that there is no other option. Well, I believe there are other possibilities.” Velazquez said.

The Social Security institute’s director, Juan Molinar Horcacitas, was in the audience as his agency was singled out, according to Mexican news reports. He was quoted as saying in brief remarks that improvements were “achievable.”