Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are faltering in their fight against corruption, with most unable or unwilling to challenge robust criminal networks that benefit from long-standing corruption, a major new report shows.
International transparencyCorruption Perceptions Index2022 (CPI), which ranks 180 countries based on perceptions of corruption in their public institutions, showed a generally static picture in Latin America. Uruguay remained the frontrunner, ranking ahead of many developed economies. The Dominican Republic's anti-corruption campaign has shown some positive results, but Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua remain dark spots.
Latin America's "corruption score" was flat from 2021, but 163 places in the ranking separate the best, Uruguay, from the worst, Venezuela.
According to Transparency International, stagnation is a recurring theme in this year's report.
“In America, 27 of the 32 countries have been stuck in the fight against corruption for several years. Luciana Torchiaro, Transparency International's regional adviser for the Americas, told InSight Crime.
InSight Crime examines some of the key findings of the CPI results as they relate to criminal dynamics.
Haiti — Corruption runs rampant amid security collapse
Haiti mired in post-political unrest and institutional collapseMurderfrom its President in 2021, has dropped six places this year, ranking 171st out of 180 nations worldwide.
Corruption was the country's top source of illicit revenue as of 2021, ahead of crimes such as drug trafficking, human trafficking and people smugglingMessagePublished by Global Financial Integrity, a US-based think tank focused on financial crime.
do HaitiPoliticianand the police have long claimedt close connectionso Armed gangs, including their funding to suppress political opposition. But international sanctions against some of Haiti's most prominent leaders allowed more insight into these networks in 2022. Former President Michel Martelly was the most prominent figure sanctioned by Canada for allegedly funding the gangs. Other US and Canadian targets included two former prime ministers and senior figures in both houses of the Haitian National Assembly.
"These people benefit directly from gang work and are associated with a corrupt system," Canadian Chancellor Mélanie Joly said last November.
While much of Haiti's traditional political leadership has resigned, attempts to capitalize on the current deterioration continue. Haiti's richest man, Gilbert Bigio, is suspected of funding gang operations and facilitating the illegal importation of heavy weapons for armed groups.
Rampant corruption in Haiti has greatly contributed to its current situationtens of thousandstry to flee the country.
Domestic and global perceptions of the country may be at an all-time low, making it all the more worrying that it is not the worst-performing country on the Latin America and Caribbean list.
SEE ALSO: What are the most corrupt countries in Latin America?
Venezuela - Criminal feuds contribute to the spread of corruption
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has reinvented himself. He has survived attempts to overthrow him, debunked allegations of political weakness and survived international sanctions. He is now positioning himself as that of Venezuela"king of crime', as InSight Crime called it in 2022.
Maduro gave a show ofwalk persistentlyafter corrupt officials, military and police and members of the judiciary through theiriron hand(Iron Fist) Operations. But these were very selective operations that avoided his followers and were carried out even when he offered togovernment and military positionsto allies and political opponents to better secure their power.
Gold mining and cocaine trafficking, in particular, were useful for Maduro to buy loyalty, allowing the military to cut down these criminal economies to bolster their low salaries, or allowing governors to earn rewards to keep supplies running hold. On a smaller scale, these governors behave like Maduro in their regions, overseeing and profiting from lucrative criminal economies. These criminal feuds have undoubtedly worsened Venezuelans' perception of corruption in their country.
And now Venezuela is becoming a growing cocaine producer, a trend that could give Maduro and his cronies even more opportunities for corruption. Venezuela's economy is also beginning to improve. Oil production is coming back to life, but diplomatic and trade relations arerestoredwith Colombia.While the kleptocracy that once characterized Hugo Chávez's regime has all but disappeared amidst a failed state, new opportunities could arise as oil profits soar.
COstarica - Mittelamericaonce starstudent stumbles
Costa Rica, which received its second-lowest ranking ever, had the largest decline of any country in the region. Compared to 2021, it lost four points and nine places. It is now believed to have "serious corruption problems".
Torchiaro explained that allegations of illegal political financing influenced President Rodrigo Chaves' campaign ouster and the exposure of corruption scandals like this oneAsselCase involving alleged misappropriation of US$125 million in public funds and a bribery scheme involving government officials and construction managers.
“The CPI score should be seen as a wake-up call by the authorities. The country needs to redouble its anti-corruption efforts, particularly to prevent the possible infiltration of drug trafficking into politics,” Torchiaro told InSight Crime.
There are also concerns about criminal penetration of police forces. officers wereconnectedto cocaine thefts, which are becoming increasingly commonlarger amountsDrug flow through Costa Rica. In an unusual move, the governmentannouncedin October that it would begin using lie detector tests to weed out rogue cops.
The ranking also confirmed other news that showed Costa Rica had a bad year in 2022 in which it saw a yearRecord high for homicides, which the government attributed to settling scores between drug gangs.
Costa Rica remains among the least corrupt countries in Latin America, but a decline in the strength and transparency of its public institutions is a worrying sign.
SEE ALSO: GameChangers 2022: Maduro wants to become the king of crime in Venezuela
Uruguay - Improvement despite corruption scandals
Uruguay tested its position at the top of the Latin American rankings on the 2022 CPI list. President Luis Lacalle Pou has been heavily criticized for suing the former head of his bodyguard, Alejandro Astesiano. The latter was firstout of stockfor selling fake Uruguayan passports to foreigners, mostly Russians. But the investigations against him grew, including a serious oneclaimthat he sold government software to business leaders who used it to keep control of political opponents.
At the same time Lacalle Pouclaims foughtForeign and Interior Ministry officials helped Uruguay's most notorious drug dealer Sebastián Marset obtain a new passport when he was arrested abroad.
Despite these cases, Uruguay maintained their regional lead in the rankings and even improved their performance. As the fourteenth most corrupt country in the world, it now ranks on par with countries like Canada, Iceland and Japan.
The reason for its performance likely lies in the fact that its security and judicial institutions appear to have responded strongly to these challenges. the caseagainst the Astesiandeveloped quickly and publicly, with a parliamentary committeeset upto investigate whether other misdeeds were being committed at the Presidential Palace. Opposition senators also proposed aAccountthat would result in corrupt politicians facing 10 years in prison if caught.
However, its elevated position comes with a caveat, as the index only ranks countries by perceived levels of public sector visibility and does not include analysis of issues such as organized crime, tax evasion or money laundering.
The future of those cases could greatly affect Uruguay's position at the head of the peloton.
*Gavin Voss contributed coverage to this article.
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