For Transparency International (TI), the civil society organization leading the fight against corruption, combating corruption and impunity are key elements to defeating drug trafficking. Transparency International calls upon the Organization of American States (OAS) and its member states to set out, during the General Assembly held between 4 and 6 June in Antigua (Guatemala), specific actions to stop the corruption and impunity that have worsened the drug and crime problems in the hemisphere.
“The fight against corruption must be part of any strategy that aims for the structural elimination of the problems of crime and drugs. One cannot continue to ignore the fact that corruption is one of the main drivers fuelling organized crime and violence in the Americas,” said Alejandro Salas, Transparency International’s Regional Director for the Americas.
There is a direct relation between corruption, impunity and drug trafficking. On one hand, the institutions responsible for public safety and the administration of justice have become corrupted and co-opted by criminal organizations, preventing them from effectively, autonomously and transparently carrying out the role for which they were created. This amounts to a direct breach of democracy and the rule of law. By protecting the interests of a minority, in this case the drug traffickers, corruption weakens an essential public service provided for every man and woman in the region: public safety.
On the other hand, drug trafficking encourages corruption by offering “resources” to public officials, weakening already vulnerable institutions.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, illegal drug trafficking, fuelled by high levels of corruption and the lack of punishment for those involved in related criminal activities, has claimed the lives of many innocent people. In Mexico alone, over the last six years the fight against drug trafficking has resulted in the death of 60,000 people, with a further 20,000 missing. In the region, citizens, activists and journalists live in a constant state of fear, and are obliged to vary their daily routines due to fear of becoming the latest victims of violence, robbery, kidnapping, homicide and extortion. In Costa Rica and Guatemala, 50 per cent and 45 per cent of the population, respectively, live in almost constant fear of falling victim to a violent crime.
Transparency International recognizes the efforts made by the OAS and its member states to stimulate a wide-ranging debate and develop a holistic approach to the drug problem in the Americas. However, the fight against drugs and the lack of security should not be limited to political declarations and documents. Transparency International says member states should urgently:
- Incorporate criteria for transparency, accountability and citizen participation when defining and implementing policies on security and in the fight against drugs.
- Effectively implement whistleblower protection mechanisms to improve the investigative and criminal prosecution processes of those responsible for the operation of illegal drug businesses.
- Build clear information systems that are easily accessible and provide data on policies, criminality, drug seizures, financial flows and the management of public safety budgets.
- Improve internal controls and social auditing of all international and national resources invested in security and anti-drug programs. Make transparent the procurement and purchasing processes for goods and services related to public safety.
- Strengthen the capacity for criminal prosecutions and the administration of justice. A condition of the effectiveness of the fight against drug trafficking is transparency in the selection of judges and magistrates, and the strengthening of the financial and administrative autonomy of judicial powers.
From the perspective of strengthening the state, the National Chapters of Transparency International have observed that weak institutions and regulations have increased drug trafficking and other organized crime in certain countries. The drug problem requires a multidimensional and an inter-institutional approach which incorporates the participation of the civil society.
Note to editors: In 2012, the twenty National Chapters and contacts of Transparency International in the Americas, in collaboration with the Transparency International-Secretariat Americas Department, agreed, in the “Runaway Bay Declaration: Towards Curbing Corruption in the Americas”, to join forces on a regional basis to work with citizens and other stakeholders and networks to ensure that national and regional strategies and security institutions incorporate transparency and the fight against corruption in order to increase their effectiveness.
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Manfredo Marroquín, Coordinator for Transparency International’s Central America and the Dominican Republic Network
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