The US State Department’s annual Human Rights report highlights how in Latin America deeply ingrained corruption fuelled by organized crime has gravely compromised state institutions around the region.
The 2014 Human Rights Practices report emphasizes the impact of corruption in most Latin American countries, but in particular in countries where organized crime has a strong presence such as Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia.
In Mexico, corruption can range from passing petty bribes to security forces to large-scale, sophisticated corruption networks, including the illegal sponsoring of politicians, the report notes. Local security forces are particularly vulnerable to infiltration by organized crime, with many actively participating in drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.
According to the State Department, Guatemala sees chronic corruption across its administrative, justice and security institutions. In 2103 alone, multiple high-profile government officials were prosecuted for fraud, money laundering and embezzlement.
In Colombia, the corruption of politicians, the military and government officials is closely connected to the country’s firmly established illegal drug trade. Of the 2,941 corruption cases currently under investigation or tried by the Prosecutor General’s Office, there were various high-profile cases including former senators and a former mayor of Bogota.
The report also notes how Venezuela’s government has reportedly used its judicial system to falsely prosecute political opponents, while protecting its own officials and how El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru and Honduras have seen corruption afflict their judicial systems, largely due to an inadequate implementation of anti-corruption laws.
InSight Crime Analysis
Corrupt public officials, from local police waving through a drug shipment to high-ranking politicians offering protection from the judicial system, are invaluable to any criminal operation. In all the countries highlighted by the State Department, organized crime has deeply penetrated state institutions, severely undermining the state’s credibility and resulting in a widespread loss of faith in state authority by civilians.
In many areas, such as Colombia, people have given up reporting even serious crimes such as disappearances and displacement. As well as having no faith in the ability of investigators to break through the protection enjoyed by criminals and bring justice, they often firmly believe that corrupt officials will let the criminals know who is informing on them.
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In Mexico, where 90 percent of civilians believe their police to be corrupt, according to the State Department, this collapse in faith in the state has led to the spread of vigilantism and the rapid growth of self-defense militias.