Americas: Sometimes bad news is good news

Americas: Sometimes bad news is good news

Regional analysis by Jessica Ebrard, Transparency International

It is not always bad to have headlines about corruption. From the Panama Papers in April to the record US$3.5 billion Odebrecht settlement in Brazil in December, 2016 was a good year in the fight against corruption in the Americas

The Panama Papers revealed that a Panamanian law firm helped set up thousands of secret shell companies, many of them used by corrupt politicians, criminals and tax abusers around the world. The Odebrecht settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice shed light on a company spending millions of dollars on bribing politicians and political parties across Latin America, as well as in two African countries in order to win business contracts.

The wealthy and powerful were also increasingly placed under the spotlight. The Chilean President’s daughter-in-law was charged in a corruption case, and former Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is now under investigation on corruption charges, among several other examples.

2016 was also notable in that large corruption investigations continued to jump across national borders. On cases from Odebrecht to Petrobras and FIFA, we see increasing communication and cooperation among regulators and law enforcement throughout the region and also with their counterparts in Europe and the United States.

The fight against corruption has dominated discussion in the Americas for years now, from online and traditional media to mass protests.

One thing is clear though: even if 2016 marks the start of a shift towards more active enforcement by authorities in response to these public demands, there is still a long way to go.

The average score on the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index was 44 out of 100 for the Americas. Anything below 50 indicates governments are failing to tackle corruption.

In many parts of the region, impunity continues to be a major problem. Even in countries where cases of large-scale corruption are being tackled, the risk remains that this is the result of the efforts of a small group of brave individuals rather than a long-term plan.

Venezuela, with a score of 17, is the lowest scorer in the region. Last year saw hundreds of thousands of citizens protesting against the government. In Mexico, while the government tries to clean the country’s image through a series of reforms, corruption scandals continue to escalate and the President’s approval rating is at its lowest ever.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

Perhaps as a consequence of the Panama Papers revealing the offshore holdings of many public officials, commitments to continue anti-corruption efforts were on display throughout the year. For instance, at the London Anti-Corruption Summit in May 2016, commitments to increase transparency around the real owners of anonymous shell companies were made by Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

Citizens must keep up pressure on leaders and continue to demand the transparent, accountable and functioning institutions the region needs to make sure these and similar commitments are delivered on. Authorities in every country should ramp up their efforts to stop powerful corporate leaders and public officials from getting away with acts of Grand Corruption with impunity. This includes enhancing regional cooperation between law enforcement.

As the Panama Papers showed, the combination of whistleblowers, big data and networked journalism is proving to be a powerful force for change. In coming years, governments in the Americas will have to become more transparent, or increasingly they will find transparency forced upon them

Image: Transparency International / Mauro Pimentel

Correction 13 September 2017: This post has been amended in order to reflect revised 2015 CPI scores. Mexico's score decreased by 5 points in the 2015 CPI and remained static in 2016. 

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

Antoine Deltour: LuxLeaks whistleblower’s long legal battle continues

On Thursday 23 November, the High Court of Luxembourg will announce its verdict in the case of Antoine Deltour, the whistleblower who revealed aggressive tax avoidance schemes in Luxembourg by sharing the 'LuxLeaks' documents with journalists in 2014.

Open letter to the President of Equatorial Guinea: Ramon Esono Ebalé must be released

It has been two months since the artist and satirist Ramon Esono Ebalé was detained without charge in Equatorial Guinea. Transparency International joined with 17 organisations and individuals to write to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. We are calling for his immediate release.

Global Corruption Barometer: citizens’ voices from around the world

Transparency International believes that people’s experience and perceptions of corruption are key for understanding corruption risks around the world. Our Global Corruption Barometer is the world's largest survey asking citizens about their direct personal experience of corruption in their daily lives - check it out here!

How the Honduran military and police profit from the illegal arms trade

An investigation by InSight Crime and Transparency International Honduras has found that many of the guns used in homicides in Honduras come from Honduran military and police stockpiles.

#ParadisePapers: time to clean up the offshore financial havens

The ‘Paradise Papers’ show how the rich and powerful around the world are able to avoid paying tax and keep their business dealings secret. The mechanisms they use can also benefit the corrupt, and must be made more transparent.

Uzbekistan: How to support the real victims of grand corruption

What do you do when assets stolen from a country’s state coffers by corrupt individuals have been recovered and can now be returned to the country - but the government is still controlled by corrupt people? That’s the case of Uzbekistan, one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Entrevista con testigo clave en el Caso Obiang: Delfin Mocache Massoko

En el 27 de octubre 2017, la justicia francesa ha condenado a Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, vicepresidente de Guinea Ecuatorial, a tres años de cárcel extentos de cumplimiento, una multa de 30 millones de euros (US$35 millones) y confiscó todos sus activos en Francia. Antes de que se anunciara el veredicto, entrevistamos a Delfin Mocache Massoko, un testigo clave en el caso, para descubrir qué significa el juicio para él y los ciudadanos de Guinea Ecuatorial.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media

Would you like to know more?

Sign up to stay informed about corruption news and our work around the world