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International IDEA addresses need for effective regulation in the fight against corruption in Latin America
Buenos Aires, Argentina

International IDEA’s Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Director, Daniel Zovatto, seated (center) among panelists of the "Fighting corruption: The new way forward session" at the World Economic Forum in Argentina.

International IDEA’s Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Director, Daniel Zovatto, seated (center) among panelists of the "Fighting corruption: The new way forward session" at the World Economic Forum in Argentina. Zovatto shared the floor with Eber Betanzos Torres, Undersecretary for Public Administration of Mexico; Alejandro Guerrero, Corporate Country Officer, MMC Argentina; Juan Carlos Botero, Executive Director, The World Justice Project; and Alberto Bello, Editorial Director, Expansion Editorial Group. Photo credit: World Economic Forum

International IDEA’s Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Director, Daniel Zovatto, participated as a keynote panelist at the session “Fighting corruption: The new way forward” held on 7 April 2017 at the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

Zovatto shared the floor with Eber Betanzos Torres, Undersecretary for Public Administration of Mexico; Alejandro Guerrero, Corporate Country Officer, MMC Argentina; Juan Carlos Botero, Executive Director, The World Justice Project; and Alberto Bello, Editorial Director, Expansion Editorial Group.

The panel looked at the challenge of corruption in Latin America, including in relation to political finance, and discussed strategies and approaches for fighting this pervasive phenomenon, in the light of recent high-profile scandals in the region.

Zovatto noted the alarming inconsistency between rhetoric and action against corruptive practices across Latin America and the need to eradicate incentives to corruption through effective regulation.  “While some countries in the region have developed regulatory frameworks that look good ‘on paper’, these, in many cases lack the necessary teeth—or political will—to achieve effective results” the expert said.  A cultural shift is also fundamental in a region that has been complacent towards corruption for a long time, as “impunity and lack of rule of law contribute to cynicism and skepticism towards democratic institutions”.

Zovatto said countries should focus on tackling large-scale corruption at the highest level and the linkages with political finance. A region-wide consensus must be reached to eradicate corruption, similar to the consensus achieved in recent decades in Latin America on the importance of embracing democracy; respecting human rights; conducting responsible macroeconomic management; and fostering social inclusive policies. For this purpose, it is necessary to update, improve and strengthen institutional and regulatory frameworks, including in relation to public procurement and infrastructure. Political will and social commitment are also key in the fight against corruption.

While there is no silver bullet to tackle corruption, as Zovatto noted, there are some key instruments, including the plea bargaining mechanism, which have been very effective in recent criminal proceedings in Brazil.  Strengthening investigative powers of the judiciary is of fundamental importance - the courts should not hesitate to investigate and punish corruption at the highest level and uphold the rule of law, as ending impunity is instrumental for achieving sustainable democracies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Watch the full session “Fighting corruption: The new way forward” and  Zovatto’s interventions.

For further reading (in Spanish): Depurar la corrupción, la clave para empezar a reconstruir las instituciones en América Latina (El País); El Supremo de Brasil ordena investigar a ocho ministros del Gobierno Temer (El País); y La corrupción de los gobernadores sacude México y cerca a Peña Nieto (El País).

About the Author

Programme Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean
Pablo Schatz

Pablo Schatz is Programme Officer in the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office since 2017.