Corruption is a scourge that hurts ordinary people every day across the Americas. And when they speak out about it, far too often they face retaliation.
Almost two thirds of people that we surveyed for the latest Global Corruption Barometer, People and Corruption: Latin America and the Caribbean, said that corruption had risen in the 12 months prior to when they were questioned (62 per cent).
More than half said that their government is failing to address corruption (53 per cent). And one in three people who had used a public service in the last 12 months said they had to pay a bribe (29 per cent). We talked to more than 22,000 people in 20 countries.
Based on the estimated population size of these countries, this means that around 90 million people paid bribes.
It’s no surprise then that across the region people regularly take to the streets to protest corruption. We’ve seen it in Brazil, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. We’ve seen it in Mexico and Honduras. In fact seven in ten citizens stand ready and willing to get involved in the fight against corruption (70 per cent).
Yet despite this, few bribe payers said that they had actually reported this to the authorities (9 per cent), and of those who do, almost one third said that they suffered negative retaliation as a result (28 per cent).
Bribery was found to be most common in Mexico and the Dominican Republic where 51 per cent and 46 per cent of those surveyed said that they had to pay a bribe to access public services.
Police and politicians are perceived to be the most corrupt institutions in the region, with almost half of citizens saying that most or all people in these institutions are corrupt. This demonstrates a worrying lack of trust in these vital public sector groups.
"This report shows that citizens’ demands for accountability and transparency are not being met by their leaders. Governments must do more to root out corruption at all levels," said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.
Transparency International makes four key recommendations to strengthen the judicial system and help people speak up without fear of retaliation. Governments across Latin America and the Caribbean should:
Strengthen the institutions involved in the detection, investigation and prosecution of corruption-related crimes
Lift political immunity for corruption-related cases
Strengthen police investigative capacity, reinforce internal disciplinary measures and establish permanent accountability mechanisms for the police
Create accessible, anonymous, reporting channels for whistleblowers, which meaningfully protect them from all forms of retaliation.