What Happened to Latin America's Anti-Corruption Push?
The pandemic distracts from anti-graft battles even as it proves their urgency, explains AS/COA’s Brian Winter in this deep dive into the 2021 Capacity to Combat Corruption Index.
A few years ago, Latin America’s anti-graft battles were paying off. Independent courts, prosecutors’ offices, and attorney generals opened investigations against corrupt politicians as leaders’ misdeeds were met with punishment. Dozens of Brazilian congressmen faced investigations in the largest anti-graft operation in the history of the region. The president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, resigned and was arrested amid scandal.
But, more recently, the fight against corruption appears to be losing steam. Mechanisms such as Lava Jato in Brazil and CICIG in Guatemala came to a close and institutions saw their efforts checked. “We’re seeing the pendulum, not just Latin America but in much of the world, swing away from valuing institutions and back toward this belief in strong leaders,” says Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly and AS/COA vice president of policy. “We just know that over time that never works.”
Moreover, the backsliding has happened while Covid batters the region. “It's understandable that things like anti-corruption get relegated somewhat to the backburner in name of saving people's lives,” says Winter, adding that, on the other hand, pandemic-related scandals and the need for economic recovery only highlight the need to keep the graft in check. “People don't invest when they don't know the rules of the game and when they're worried about being shaken down for a bribe,” he says.
In this episode, Winter speaks with AS/COA Online’s Luisa Leme about why anti-corruption efforts in Latin America slowed or even stalled, and dives into the findings of AS/COA’s Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index, now in its third edition.
By Luisa Leme