By Russ Warner, VP Marketing –
“Long live the unity of Latin America,” said Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s former president. Despite its makeup of very different countries and cultures, Latin America seems to have many unifying characteristics — most people know Spanish, boast vibrant native cultures, and foster left-leaning politics. Unfortunately, another tie that binds these countries together is their tendency for high levels of corruption and violence.
None of the countries in Central or South America are strangers to corruption in every facet of society. One has only to watch the news in these regions to experience an inundation of reports about corruption. And all experience high rates of violence, as we can see from Converus’ recent infographic.
Government Corruption by Country
Due to President Otto Perez Molina’s involvement in various corruption scandals, thousands of Guatemalans stormed the streets last May to protest government corruption and demand his resignation. This kind of social revolution is nothing new to Guatemala; Marxist guerillas fought Guatemalan troops from 1960 to 1996, resulting in the deaths of 200,000 people. Only time will tell how effective this recent round of protests will prove to be in the long run for this small country.
Brazil is also not faring well in the honesty game. This year, a big scandal involving the state-run oil company, Petrobras, included a reported a loss of $2.1 billion due to bribes and kickbacks. Corruption is political tradition in this country; as early as 1940, the Sao Paulo governor, Ademar de Barros, was known for stealing but still getting things done.
Rampant Violence Takes its Toll
Cartels and gangs are having a devastating impact on most of the countries in this region. Mexico, Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador and Colombia have suffered enormous setbacks to peace as cartels have taken over governments, bribed police departments, and killed anyone that has gotten in their way. In 2014 in Mexico, 43 students were kidnapped and massacred by drug traffickers, allegedly on the orders of the mayor of Iguala, a city just over 100 miles south of Mexican City.
Honduras and El Salvador endure the highest levels of reported violence. Honduras has the highest murder rate worldwide, and each year 19 percent of its annual GDP is lost to violence. El Salvador is close behind, with a 14.5 percent loss. It comes as no surprise that a recent study conducted by The Institute for Economics and Peace designated Latin America as the most violent region worldwide with respect to crime.
Tools to Promote Peace
With the amount of corruption and violence in Latin America, Transparency International consistently rates it as one of the world’s most corrupt regions . Local governments have increased anti-corruption efforts in recent years, but with little effect. The people in this region need more effective tools to hold leaders in government, the police force and businesses accountable.
One potential tool that could help is EyeDetect®. The latest in lie detection, this technology would enable local governments to administer integrity tests to determine which leaders are corrupt. By implementing this low-cost solution of pre- and periodic-screening of individuals, countries could significantly reduce levels of corruption and increase the prosperity and safety of their citizens.