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  HOME | Latin America (Click here for more)

Chile, Uruguay Lead War on Corruption in Latin America

BERLIN – Chile and Uruguay are leading the fight against corruption in Latin America, which is generally seeing a slight improvement despite unusually poor results from Cuba, according to the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index released here Tuesday by Transparency International.

Venezuela on the other hand occupies last place among Latin American countries, at the same level as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea.

The total list includes 178 countries and regions, and analyzes the perception of corruption in the public sector. The scale used goes from 0 (most corrupt) to 10 (no corruption).

Despite certain optimism over trends in Latin America, the study revealed a general deterioration worldwide, in part because of the crisis.

The United States got the worst result since the creation of the TI report 15 years ago, dropping out of the 20 countries rated as least corrupt.

“While at first glance one perceives certain stagnation in Latin America, when one looks at the details the panorama is rather optimistic,” Alejandro Salas, regional director for the Americas at Berlin-based TI, told Efe.

Specifically, he said that the success of Chile, which obtained 7.2 points out of the ideal 10, and went up four places over its position on last year’s index to No. 21, is due to political continuity despite changes of government, a police force that is “very clean,” and a judicial system that is “traditionally autonomous.”

He also said that the Chilean administration has employed in recent years electronic systems in government, transparent processes for awarding contracts, and laws of access to government information that help combat corruption.

Ecuador’s improvement, with a climb from No. 146 to No. 127 and a rating of 2.5 points out of 10, is linked to the perception of a greater “permanence” in the political system, “despite the shock a couple of weeks ago,” Salas said, referring to a one-day police mutiny against President Rafael Correa.

Nonetheless, Ecuador remains far down the list for transparency in Latin America.

For its part, Cuba, which historically has been among the least corrupt nations in Latin America, fell from its 4.4 points last year to 3.7, and dropped eight places to No. 69.

In that regard, Salas urged a certain caution, since the sources consulted provide contradictory figures and the result could be due to a “technical” matter.

Besides Chile, two other Latin American countries that did reasonably well on the index were Uruguay, ranked No. 24 with 6.9 points, and Costa Rica, No. 41 with 5.3 points.

At the other extreme, the worst results were obtained by Nicaragua and El Salvador, tied at No. 127 with 2.5 points; Honduras, No. 134 with 2.4 points; Paraguay, with 2.2 points in position No. 146, and Venezuela, which closes the list of Latin American countries down in position No. 164, with 2.0 points.

In between Brazil’s 3.7 points and the 2.8 for Bolivia were the rest of the Latin American countries, all showing only minor variations from last year.

Salas said that while Latin America has “made progress in putting corruption on the political agenda,” the average citizen “needs to be more aware” of how much this problem is costing and demand greater transparency. EFE

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