The Fraud Examiner

Rising Wave: Anti-Corruption Efforts in Central and South America

A Rising Wave: Anti-Corruption Efforts in Central and South America

By Jaime deBlanc, CFE

October 2015

For months on end, Guatemalans had been protesting in the streets, waving signs condemning the widespread corruption and abuse of power in their government. In particular, citizens were outraged over evidence that implicated their president, Otto Pérez Molina, in a massive customs fraud scheme that allegedly netted him and other government officials millions of dollars.

Pérez Molina had repeatedly denied the accusations and refused to step down from his post. And then, in early September, the president did what many in the country had thought improbable: He resigned from the presidency.

The series of events has come as a surprise in a country where corruption has long been endemic. Transparency International, which publishes the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) — assigning each country a score ranging from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) — gave Guatemala a score of 32/100 last year. The country currently ranks 115 out of the 175 countries measured by the CPI.

And it’s not the only country in the region to receive such low ratings. Venezuela, Paraguay, Nicaragua and Honduras all scored lower than Guatemala, while Bolivia, Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic each earned scores of less than 35/100. Transparency International notes that, in Latin America, “[C]orruption is part of the everyday life of citizens. Both bribery and political influence in the justice system — which includes the police, the judiciary and the penitentiary system — lead to widespread impunity and diminished trust in some of the key pillars of democratic political systems.”

So when Guatemalans took to the streets to lobby for the ouster of their president, they were pushing back against a “business as usual” attitude toward corruption not only in their own country, but in Latin America as a whole.

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