A new report from Transparency International reveals that more than half of all citizens in 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries think corruption is getting worse in their country and governments aren’t doing enough to tackle it.
Corruption is a major concern for ordinary people, 85 percent of those surveyed believe government corruption is “a big problem”. Transparency International has been working to fight corruption for the past 25 years.
The report, entitled, Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) — Latin America and the Caribbean, for the first time, shows one in five people experiences sexual extortion when accessing a government service, like health care or education, or knows someone who has.
Data also shows that 71 percent of people think that sextortion happens at least occasionally. Equally troubling, one in four people was offered a bribe in exchange for votes at national, regional or local elections in the past five years. In a damning indictment of low trust in government, 65 percent think their government is run by and for a few private interests.
These alarming statistics underscore the disproportionate effect that corruption has on women and suggests a significant lack of political integrity among government leaders. The office of the president and prime minister, as well as members of parliament, are seen as the most corrupt group or institution by 53 and 52 percent of people respectively.
“Too often, presidents, parliamentarians and other political leaders act in their own self-interest, at the expense of the citizens they serve,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International. “In a region where anti-corruption efforts are building momentum despite recent setbacks, citizens continue to demand more and better from their governments.”
People’s actual experience with bribery is similarly concerning. More than one in five people who access public services, have to pay a bribe. This is equivalent to approximately 56 million citizens.
Across the region, police earn the highest bribery rate (24 percent), while other services like utilities, including electricity and water, are close behind (19 percent).
Despite these challenges, an overwhelming majority of people remain hopeful. Seventy-seven percent believe ordinary citizens can make a difference in the fight against corruption.
“Citizens have the right to report corruption and expect that politicians act with integrity,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International. “Corruption eats away at society and undermines institutions. Political leaders need to listen to the clear demands of citizens to tackle corruption and strengthen democracy.”
Transparency International recommends political leaders take the following actions:
- Recognise and address specific gendered forms of corruption, including gender-sensitive reporting mechanisms.
- Strengthen the integrity of elections and enforce sanctions against vote-buying, with transparent campaign finance and support for fact-based journalism.
- Empower individuals, civil society and media to report corruption, including with comprehensive legislation to protect whistleblowers.
- Implement the Lima Commitment, including publicly reporting on progress since the VIII Summit of the Americas.