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The week in corruption, 16 August

Trouble with the ex

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Transparency Int'l

This week we’re looking at Latin America, where several ex-presidents have been making headlines.

In Panama, a recent court decision raised serious concerns about judicial independence, after ex-president Ricardo Martinelli was cleared of wire-tapping and embezzlement charges. The court disallowed the evidence presented by prosecutors on a technicality.

Meanwhile, Argentina suffered a historic market crash after president Mauricio Macri lost Sunday’s primary elections to the opposition party of ex-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Ms Kirchner, currently a senator, is running for vice-president in October’s general election while facing corruption charges in four cases. She cannot be prosecuted unless the Senate votes to remove her immunity, which is unlikely to happen.

Speaking of immunity — almost exactly two years ago, the President of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, started his crusade against the UN-backed anti-corruption body, CICIG, after it looked into his campaign finances and asked for his immunity to be lifted. In a decision met with public protests, Morales finally revoked the agreement with the UN, dealing a huge blow to the fight against corruption in the country and the region. Morales couldn’t run in elections this weekend, but sadly his successor has made it clear that he will not renew the commission’s mandate, which expires in September.

On the plus side, CICIG’s success has inspired other countries anti-corruption efforts. El Salvadorian president Nayib Bukele has announced the creation of an anti-corruption commission, similar to CICIG. Details of precisely how it will work remain to be seen, but we commend the intention to build strong, independent institutions for combatting corruption.

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