June 20, 2016Michael Sutherland-Shaw
“Something different is happening right now; something has clearly changed.”
That was the message delivered by Brazil-based Brian Winter, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly in the U.S. during a discussion on corruption at the World Economic Forum on Latin America last week.
For countries like Brazil, Guatemala and Colombia, anti-corruption initiatives are driving a wave of change.
In Brazil, investigations into corruption scandals have led to the suspension of its president on charges of fiscal irresponsibly. In Guatemala, a former president and vice-president are facing charges of corruption and money laundering, according to a WEF release.
“We are taking to court those who, according to object and transparent investigations, are guilty of corruption,” said Thelma Esperanza Aldana Hernández, Attorney General of Guatemala.
While some surveys indicate the level of corruption in Latin America is rising, others believe that perception is due to widespread reporting and the popularity of social media.
“Fifteen years ago, people had very little access to information, but now everybody has it,” explained Juan Carlos Botero, Executive Director of The World Justice Project in the U.S.
On the hand, Elizabeth Ungar Bleier, Executive Director of Transparencia por Colombia and member of the international board of Berlin-based Transparency International, the problem of corruption is mounting.
“The [negative] effects of corruption on the most vulnerable sectors continues. There is no declining trend.”
Ungar added increased concern about corruption in post-conflict Colombia. While the South American nation moves closer to signing a peace agreement with revolutionaries, “struggling against corruption in the post-conflict era is not something we can postpone.”
With that being said, Winter believes there has been a “secular change” in people’s tolerance of corruption. He added with a growing middle class, more citizens are now interested in quality of life and issues like good governance and strengthening democracy across Latin America.
To bolster this shift, Winter believes the region needs new voices, and more importantly, the youth to step and get involved.
“These people need to get off the sidelines and into politics,” he said.
For Sergio Romani, Chief Executive Officer, South America Region of EY in Brazil, anti-corruption investigations like the one in Brazil will bring major benefits to the region.
“We (Brazil) are in a bad place, but we have got to get through it to have a better country. I hope that this will ripple through Latin America.”