Sunday Spotlight: Corruption In Latin America

Corruption Crippling Latin America’s Hopes

The Panama Papers may have exposed the breadth and depth of global corruption but the scandals of political payoffs and bureaucratic buyoffs is nothing new. What is new, particularly in Latin America, is that those who have lived under the corrupt thumbs of dictators and autocrats appear unwilling to tolerate the status quo any longer.

In Brazil, the Congress recently voted to proceed with impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff following allegations that members of her ruling Workers’ Party had siphoned cash from the state oil company, Petrobas. In an ironic twist, many of those accusing the president are themselves being investigated for embezzlement and money laundering.

It might be a tipping point.

“Corrupt politics, ineffective governance and boom-and-bust economics in Brazil are nothing new. But this time the mixture of risks is volatile. Brazilians are saying ‘we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.’ Polls indicate strong support across society for legally removing Rousseff from office. But what would come next to rebuild public confidence is unclear, especially given the extensiveness of the ongoing corruption investigations,” reports US News & World Report.

Meanwhile, in El Salvador, several mayors and other government officials have been arrested in connection with alleged payback and government contract kickback schemes.

According to InsideCrime, the mayors of Monte San Juan and El Congo were arrested in recent weeks, just two of three mayors and 14 other government officials detained in recent weeks.

Sadly, the cases in Brazil and El Salvador are emblematic of the recurrent theme seen in corruption networks across Latin America.

“More Latin American leaders and governments are engulfed in scandals right now than at perhaps any other time in recent memory. In countries where democratic institutions have grown stronger, a more independent judiciary and the political activism of an Internet-powered citizenry are challenging the old way of doing business by graft,” writes The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff.

What might be different today is that social media, new legal tools and a fed-up middle class has the power to actually affect reform. Some of those new tools were released at the 2016 OECD Integrity Forum held in Paris last week.

“We’ve always had corruption, but there has been a fundamental shift in its exposure and the ability to take it on,” said Shannon O’Neil, an expert on the region at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells The Washington Post.

 

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