Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Corruption Cycle in Latin America

Christine Wade has an article in World Politics Review about corruption in El Salvador.

Some question whether pursuing crimes of the past is a good use of scarce resources, given current levels of corruption and crime in El Salvador. But the legacy of impunity directly influences contemporary attitudes about crime and corruption. The failure to punish past crimes has led high-ranking public officials, like Funes, Saca and Flores, to believe they are above the law. Criminals, elected and otherwise, commit crimes knowing that they will likely never be prosecuted, much less convicted.
This is all happening at the exact same time that the Trump administration is intentionally weakening CICIG in Guatemala in return for Jimmy Morales' support for the Jerusalem embassy, which for Morales was a planned quid pro quo. In other words, national institutions in Central America are horrifically weak, and Donald Trump stands ready to make sure that no international body can help out either.

The bigger question she poses is about the build up of corruption. If you don't prosecute the old ones, no one will feel accountable. It is now almost a cliché: Latin American candidate campaigns on an anti-corruption platform, then later is found to be corrupt. Help from the United Nations (i.e. like CICIG) is no cure-all, but I can't think of any other way of kick starting the process. If we undermine that, then we're stuck.

And, incidentally, if the U.S. undermines efforts to deal with corruption, then the U.S. is directly contributing to the continued erosion of the rule of law, which in turn is contributing to emigration. But that's a whole other story.


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