News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Dec. 18, 2015: On the heels of the International Anti-Corruption Day and as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) urged governments to jointly tackle the issue of corruption by changing their attitudes towards the problem, News Americas Now decided to look at some of the most corrupt countries in the Americas – both the Caribbean and Latin America.
Here are the Top 10 as complied by News Americas Now based on the public perception of corruption among public and private sector officials, with 1 being the most corrupt according to data compiled from the latest Transparency International Corruption Index and the Heritage Foundations’ 2015 Index of Economic Freedom.
Corruption is defined as comprising illegal activities, which are deliberately hidden and only come to light through scandals, investigations or prosecutions.
1: Venezuela and Haiti: Venezuela and Haiti took the top place for most corrupt in the Americas according to Transparency International. Both nations have ranked at a low 19 on the TI Index for the past three years – between 2012 and 2014. Overall, on the global ranking, out of a total of 175 nations, the two scored 161. A higher score signifies the least corrupt nations where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 very clean.
In Venezuela corruption is rampant in the main oil industry. Large-scale corruption is alleged to have taken place at the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), and other state entities. Political power is concentrated in the executive, with many opportunities for corruption. Capital controls, for example, allow officials to purchase U.S. dollars at a fixed peg and then sell them on the black market for as much as a 1,100 percent profit which has led to widespread smuggling and other illegal activities.
In Haiti corruption is rampant, the judicial system is ineffective and inefficient and smuggling remains a huge problem that is exacerbated by poor trade freedom. Haiti is also a major narco-trafficking transshipment point and the dysfunctional judicial system is underfunded making it open to corruption.
2: Paraguay: Listed at number 24 on the Americas TI ranking, Paraguay takes the place for the second most corrupt nation in the Americas. Globally, it ranked 150 and has seen various high-profile corruption cases in recent years. Among them is the stripping of immunity of staff at the headquarters of Conmebol (the South American football association), in Asunción in June of this year, in order to assist the international investigations of FIFA (the international football governing body).
More recently, the country’s attorney-general has moved to investigate the former president, Federico Franco (2012-13), for allegations of illicit enrichment and money-laundering.
3: Nicaragua: Coming in at third most corrupt in the Americas is Nicaragua, which secured only 28 on the Transparency International Corruption Americas index and 133 globally. Corruption remains pervasive, and attempts to target corrupt officials have turned into political battles.
4: Honduras: At 29 on the Transparency International Corruption Americas Index and 126 globally, Honduras took the fourth spot on our list for most corrupt in the Americas. As in many other Latin American countries, political and social instability related to the drug trade destabilizes the rule of law and encourages corruption. Rampant corruption and weak state institutions make it almost impossible to combat threats posed by transnational gangs and organized criminal groups.
One of the most high profile cases of corruption there recently includes the charging of three members of the powerful Honduran family – the Rosenthal’s – with using the bank they owned, Banco Continental S.A., to launder money for drug dealers and stolen public funds. The Rosenthal family – which includes among its members a former vice president of Honduras, a former government minister, a bank president and an adviser to the country’s current President Juan Orlando Hernández – owns a major Honduran industrial company, a group of businesses that includes media, financial services, real estate and construction firms and the country’s eighth largest bank and includes among its members a former vice president of Honduras, a former government minister, a bank president and an adviser to the country’s current President Juan Orlando Hernández.
5: Guyana: Taking the number five spot on our list is the only English-speaking nation of Guyana. The CARICOM member country ranked at 124 globally and 33 on the Americas ranking. The cocaine trade here has generated corruption and violence. In November 2013, Guyana was blacklisted by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force after the government failed to strengthen anti–money laundering legislation. Organized criminal activity and narco-trafficking have increased, and violent crime is a major problem.
6: Guatemala and Dominican Republic: Ranking at number 6 on our list are Dominican Republic and Guatemala which both came in at 32 on the Americas’ TI ranks.
Guatemala did not even match its 2012 score and scored 115 globally. Corruption is endemic. In 2014, former President Alfonso Portillo pleaded guilty to taking $2.5 million in Taiwanese government bribes and attempting to launder the money through U.S. banks. A government study reports that corruption in customs offices costs $1.5 billion annually. Organized crime has infiltrated key state institutions. The judiciary is characterized by corruption, inefficiency, capacity shortages, and intimidation of judges, prosecutors, and witnesses.
Jimmy Morales, a political newcomer was elected in the October 25th presidential run-off. But there is concern over the presence of organized crime and weak judicial and other public institutions.
In The DR, corruption is still pervasive in the economy which is exacerbated by drug trafficking in recent years.
7: Ecuador: Based on the 33 ranking on the TI Americas Index, Ecuador made the cut for the seventh most corrupt nation in the Americas and 110 globally. The government’s own anti-corruption agency reported in 2013 that cronyism, impunity, excessive discretion, fragmented anticorruption policies, lack of correspondence between offenses and sanctions, and collusion were among the factors that have favored the persistence of corruption in Ecuador.
8: Argentina: Argentina took the 8th spot on our list after scoring only 34 on the Transparency International Corruption Americas index and 107 globally. Corruption plagues Argentine society, and scandals are common. In June 2014, Vice President Amado Boudou was charged with bribery and conduct incompatible with public office. The justice system is afflicted by scores of tenured but incompetent and corrupt judges.
9: Mexico/ Bolivia: Based on the 35th ranking on the TI Americas Index and 103 globally, Mexico and Bolivia, made the cut for the ninth most corrupt nation in the Americas.
Official corruption has long been an endemic problem in Mexico. A conflict of interest scandal involving the wife of the president, Enrique Peña Nieto, in November 2014 is one such instance. This coupled with billions of narco-dollars that enter Mexico each year from the U.S. affect politics, particularly at the state and local levels makes corruption pervasive.
Corruption continues to be a serious problem in Bolivia. The constitution specifically allows expropriation in cases of public necessity or where property is not serving a public function. In recent years, there has been a series of mob invasions of rural and mining properties, which authorities seem unable or unwilling to deter.
10: Suriname: Rounding out the top 10 was the South-American based CARICOM nation of Suriname which came in at 36 on the Americas TI index and 100 globally. Corruption here is reportedly most pervasive in government procurement, license issuance, land policy, and taxation departments while the judiciary is susceptible to political influence. In 2014, Dino Bouterse, the son of Suriname’s president, who served as head of the country’s counterterrorism unit, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, weapons, and terrorism charges, in the latest evidence of the depth of corruption in the Suriname administration.
The TI Index is compiled from 12 data sources. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was established in 1995 as a composite indicator used to measure perceptions of corruption in the public sector in different countries around the world.