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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
In brief
Latinamerica Press
12/21/2015
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Latin America and the Caribbean, Argentina, Bolivia, Panama, Peru.

On Dec. 9, International Day against Corruption, the most emblematic cases of corruption in the world were elected by a competition called “Unmask the Corrupt,” launched on Nov. 12 by Transparency International (TI). Three cases from Latin America and the Caribbean were included among the 15 finalists: the former president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), accused of diverting millions of dollars of public funds for his own benefit; Petrobras, the Brazilian state petroleum company, immersed in a network of corruption involving politicians and big construction companies; and a governing-party senator in the Dominican Republic, Félix Bautista, accused of money laundering, illicit enrichment and falsification of public and private documents. Bautista is leading the vote-count as the most corrupt, followed by Petrobras. The public will elect — among the finalists — the two most representative cases, which will be announced by TI on Feb. 10.

Former President of Argentina, Carlos Menem (1989-99), was condemned on Dec. 1 to four years and six months in prison for having paid inflated salaries during his mandate to high officials with funds allocated for other purposes. The sentence included Domingo Cavallo, former Minister of Economy, and Raúl Granillo, former Minister of Justice. Menem, 85, was tried for various charges, including arms smuggling to Croatia and Ecuador, for which he was sentenced to seven years in jail, the cover-up of the attempt against the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in 1994, and for fraud in the concession of radio frequencies to the French group Thales in 1997. The lawyers of the former president have requested statute of limitations by the time elapsed since the illegal actions were committed and Menem’s advanced age.

Several members of the Movement Towards Socialism party (MAS), headed by the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, were arrested by public prosecutors investigating the whereabouts of US$6.8 million destined for 49 projects administered by the Indigenous Fund, created in 2005 to finance development activities in rural areas. The arrests were announced by the Bolivian Attorney General, Ramiro Guerrero, head of the Public Ministry, on Dec. 4. The charges are related to projects that were never executed and public works that were never completed. About 20 people, including a former minister, two senators and MAS leaders, are being prosecuted for corruption. This case is considered to be the most serious since Morales came to power in 2006. The Indigenous Fund was liquidated last year due to these accusations of corruption.

Panama loses annually 1 percent of its GDP, equivalent to US$520 million, due to corruption, revealed the Regional Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Amado Philip de Andrés, in a meeting on Dec. 9. According to Philip de Andrés, presently the Public Ministry is investigating dozens of cases, including that of former President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) and members of his personal staff for illicit enrichment, payment of bribes and embezzlement. The government’s National Authority on Transparency and Access to Information (ANTIA) has removed about 20 government officials of the present administration of President Juan Carlos Varela for nepotism and receiving salaries without going to work. The ANTIA has appointed one hundred workers dedicated to monitor government institutions.

In Peru, 78 percent of the population accepts corruption, according to a survey by the polling company Ipsos Peru, requested by Proética, the Peruvian chapter of Transparency International (TI). Also, 85 percent consider that the government’s fight against corruption is not effective and consider that the Judiciary, the Congress and the Police are the most corrupt institutions. For Walter Albán, executive director of Proética, the figures have to do with impunity, the bad example of high-level authorities and lack of effective sanctions. Within the framework of the presidential elections, that will be held on April 10, 2016, José Ugaz, president of TI, pointed out that none of the candidates leading the polls have come out with proposals to combat corruption. Also, they all are accused of illicit enrichment, favor private interests, links to drug trafficking, and embezzlement, among other accusations.


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