Corruption in Latin America and the Caribbean

Camila Ramírez Tejada
American University

A report published by Transparency International (TI) analyzed the levels of corruption in 20 different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 17 of the 20 countries, a majority of the individuals surveyed stated that corruption had increased. The study also found that citizens attribute the rise in corruption to the police and politicians (members of parliament or senators), who they viewed as the most corrupt. What influences this perception is that just under a third of citizens who had come into contact with a public service in the previous 12 months had paid a bribe, which TI found was the equivalent of over 90 million people. The services with the highest bribery rates were public health care services and public education. Bribery rates were lowest for the courts. However, the numbers of each vary from country to country. Additionally, the bribes were paid by both the richest and poorest individuals. While the study found that people find it socially acceptable to report corruption, few practice it due to fear of repercussions.

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Retrieved from: Transparency International (TI)

A notable point in the study is that Guatemala was one of the few countries in which the citizens surveyed found corruption to have decreased, this is contrary to increasing poverty levels the past 8 years and lack of well implemented social programs such as Conditional Cash Transfer that has been funded since 2008 but has very seldom paid out. It is also remarcable that many  older people had to pay for healthcare. Transparency international also makes several recommendations on how to reduce the levels of corruption in these countries. However, the recommendations made solely rely upon the corrupt governments to take action to combat against this. Some examples to combat public bribery suggested by TI include:

  • Governments should ensure that official fees for public services are clearly and publicly displayed,
  • Governments should streamline bureaucratic procedures to avoid lengthy and discretionary decision-making processes
  • Governments should invest in e-government platforms to enable applications for services without face-to-face interactions with public officials.
  • Governments should ensure that confidential channels are available for citizens to report crimes.

When creating solutions to problems in communities it is important to determine whether or not the government can implement the change or will it require the help of some sort of outside organization, partnerships with schools or the creation of community based initiatives.  It is also imperative to consider every country institutions and how to strenght them throughout inicitiatives that promote a higher population participation in political incidence activities.

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