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Corruption On The Rise in Latin America and the Caribbean

Corruption is a scourge that hurts ordinary people every day across the Americas. And when they speak out about it, far too often they face retaliation, according to a report released by Transparency International (TI) on Monday October 9.

Almost two thirds of people surveyed for the latest Global Corruption Barometer, People and Corruption: Latin America and the Caribbean, said that corruption had risen in the 12 months prior to when they were questioned (62%).

More than half said that their government is failing to address corruption (53%). And one in three people who had used a public service in the last 12 months said they had to pay a bribe (29%). We talked to more than 22,000 people in 20 countries.

The people of Latin America and the Caribbean are being let down by their governments and the private sector. Bribery represents a significant barrier to accessing key public services, particularly for the most vulnerable in society. IT president José Ugaz

Based on the estimated population size of these countries, this means that around 90 million people paid bribes.

It’s no surprise then that across the region people regularly take to the streets to protest corruption. We’ve seen it in Brazil, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. We’ve seen it in Mexico and Honduras. In fact seven in ten citizens stand ready and willing to get involved in the fight against corruption (70%).

Yet despite this, few bribe payers said that they had actually reported this to the authorities (9%), and of those who do, almost one third said that they suffered negative retaliation as a result (28%).

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Mexico is the country where the most respondents affirmed having paid bribes in the study period, with 51% of respondents, followed by Dominican Republic (46%), Peru (39%), Venezuela and Panama(38%).

At the other extreme of the region are Trinidad and Tobago (6%), Brazil (11%), Argentina (16%), Jamaica (21%) Chile ) and Costa Rica (24%).

Near the top are Honduras (33%), El Salvador (31%), Nicaragua (30%), Colombia (30%) Guatemala (28%), and Ecuador (28%).

The differences between this IT survey and its popular Corruption Perceptions Index are mainly because it asks about the “personal experience” of ordinary people, while the latter questions experts.

“This report shows that citizens’ demands for accountability and transparency are not being met by their leaders. Governments must do more to root out corruption at all levels,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.

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Transparency International makes four key recommendations to strengthen the judicial system and help people speak up without fear of retaliation. Governments across Latin America and the Caribbean should:

  • Strengthen the institutions involved in the detection, investigation and prosecution of corruption-related crimes
  • Lift political immunity for corruption-related cases
  • Strengthen police investigative capacity, reinforce internal disciplinary measures and establish permanent accountability mechanisms for the police
  • Create accessible, anonymous, reporting channels for whistleblowers, which meaningfully protect them from all forms of retaliation.

Access the full report, People and Corruption: Latin America and the Caribbean.