Corruption Survey Shows Latin America Still Struggling to Tackle Graft

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A new survey says that despite some advances made in recent years, Latin America and the Caribbean continue to struggle with corruption, underscoring ongoing shortcomings with anti-graft efforts in the region.

Many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean were once again perceived as being among the world’s most corrupt, according to Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index released on February 21.

Using a scale of 0 to 100, where higher scores represent lower levels of corruption, the index ranks 180 countries around the world by their “perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople.”

The survey found that Venezuela and Haiti were again identified as having the highest levels of perceived corruption in the region, while Uruguay and Barbados were identified as having the lowest levels.

In total, perceptions of corruption worsened in 14 of the 30 countries surveyed in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017, while perceptions improved in 11 countries and stayed the same in five, according to the survey.

The survey noted that the region has made some improvements in improving laws and institutions that “promote transparency and accountability.” The report also highlighted progress in several high-profile corruption cases, including the many investigations related to the scandal at Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and the probes of corrupt politicians and business elites carried out by the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG).

However, the survey found that perceptions of corruption in the region generally had not changed drastically, emphasizing that there are still “no overarching policies in place to address the historic and structural causes of corruption throughout the region.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The latest corruption index from Transparency International serves as a reminder that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are still very much struggling to combat corruption. And as InSight Crime has reported, some of the most successful anti-graft drives in the region have sparked intense backlash from elites.

Having held the rank since 2014, it comes as no surprise that Venezuela was again perceived as having the highest levels of corruption in the region in 2017. As the country falls deeper into political, social and economic chaos, it’s likely that corruption will persist as President Nicolás Maduro turns a blind eye and surrounds himself with corrupt elites to solidify his control.

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Latin America’s Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras also ranked poorly in the latest corruption index. This is particularly worrying given the presence of anti-corruption bodies like the CICIG in Guatemala and the internationally-backed Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras – MACCIH). Elite actors in both countries have made every effort to undermine and discourage these commissions’ investigations, and the latest corruption index suggests that the public has taken note.

Still, a separate October 2017 report from Transparency International showed that citizens throughout the region are confident that they can have an impact in the fight against widespread graft in the region, despite perceptions that corruption is worsening.

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