Latin America: Region one of worst for corruption

Despite economic strides, two-thirds of Latin America averaged in the bottom half of the 2012 Transparency International corruption rankings. Countries like Brazil, however, offer some hope.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor
A street scene in the city center, in September, in Rio de Janeiro. Most of the Latin America region is one of the worst for corruption, Brazil however, offers a bright spot this year for the region.

Latin American economies may have weathered the global recession better than most, reduced poverty, and grown the middle class, but across most of the region corruption remains as entrenched as ever.
That’s the message of Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index. This year, two-thirds of the region’s 32 countries fall in the bottom half of the list, among the world’s most corrupt nations.

“What caught my attention the most was how in Latin America, the good economic news has not translated into an improved quality of life for the majority of Latin Americans,” says Alejandro Salas, Americas director with Transparency International. “Corruption is a central element that continues to affect us.”
Venezuela and Haiti ranked lowest in the region: tying for No. 165 out of 176 countries total. Chile ranked highest at No. 20, one slot below the United States (The index assigns a score to each country on a scale from 0 to 100, or from highly corrupt to very clean. Venezuela earned a score of 19, for example, versus Chile’s 72.)

Mexico – Latin America’s second-largest economy behind Brazil – tied for the No. 105 spot with a score of 34, along with Bolivia, Algeria, Gambia, the Philippines, Mali, Kosovo, and Armenia.

Brazil a bright spot

Brazil, ranked at No. 69 with a score of 43, offers a bright spot this year for the region—and a potential example to follow, Mr. Salas says.
The country has recently given corruption a one-two punch by punishing corrupt officials and instituting numerous reforms to increase transparency and reduce graft.
A series of trials dealing with the mensalao scandal – a vote-buying scheme using public funds – has resulted in a judge sentencing more than 20 high-ranking public officials, many with jail time. This is a major success in a country where a former president could be booted for corruption only to enjoy political reincarnation as a senator a decade later.
At the same time, Brazil has advanced reforms including a freedom of information law and a law known as the Clean Bill of Record, which prohibits people who have pending legal cases from running for office. When the clean bill law went into effect, several dozen officials were barred from competing again in elections.
Mexico has instituted numerous transparency and anti-corruption reforms over the past decade, while Peru managed to put a corrupt former president, Alberto Fujimori, behind bars.

Yet both Mexico and Peru remain troubled by high levels of corruption.
What is needed is simultaneous actions of increasing transparency and punishing wrongdoing , says Salas.
“Brazil is doing both,” Salas says. “It may be early to celebrate but the country is creating hope.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Latin America: Region one of worst for corruption
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today