The Americas: How 2015 was a warning to the corrupt

Corruption perceptions index 2015 americas

En español

View the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index results

We witnessed two remarkable trends in the Americas in 2015: the uncovering of grand corruption networks and the mass mobilisation of citizens against corruption. It’s no surprise that Brazil – which faced its largest-ever corruption scandal around Petrobras – is this year’s biggest index decliner in the Americas, yet there and elsewhere we saw corruption investigations against people who looked untouchable only 12 months ago. The challenge now is to tackle the underlying causes. The citizens who took to the streets demanded an end to corruption for good – only serious institutional reform will make that happen.

In 2015 saw corruption investigations against people who looked untouchable only 12 months ago.

The good

The fight against impunity may be far from over, but 2015 sent a strong warning to the corrupt. As three members of Honduras’s elite Rosenthal clan were charged with money laundering and Guatemala’s president was jailed for reportedly taking bribes, even the most powerful figures found they could no longer rely on their cash and connections to protect them. Scores may not have improved dramatically, but it’s worth remembering that marginal upward movement or stagnation can also be the result of corruption becoming more visible and talked about.

The bad

But arrests aren’t enough. However welcome, prosecuting existing politicians won’t stop new corrupt individuals getting rich at the expense of citizens. Many countries low down the index have ample natural resources – take Argentina, Mexico or oil-rich Venezuela, the region’s joint lowest scorer – yet long-standing corruption has led to a desperate lack of investment in security, education and health. Until these weaknesses are addressed, corruption will continue to be the norm and citizens’ quality of life will not improve.

Even the most powerful figures found they could no longer rely on their cash and connections to protect them.

What needs to happen

Governments need to ensure real and systemic reform – starting with freeing judiciaries from political influence and creating better regional cooperation between law enforcement to stop the corrupt hiding in different jurisdictions. Citizens, meanwhile, should continue their calls for change. In 2015 we saw ever more people connect the poor services they receive with the illicit enrichment of a few corrupt individuals. These people need to keep up their pressure on leaders, and demand the accountable, well-functioning institutions they deserve.


unmask the corrupt campaign transparency itnernational

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Alejandro Salas

About Alejandro Salas

Alejandro Salas is Regional Director for the Americas at Transparency International.

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10 Responses to The Americas: How 2015 was a warning to the corrupt

  1. Abraham 27 January 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    Why nobody mention Enrique Peña Nieto’s casa blanca?? Is TI protecting someone?

  2. Mariana Sosa Cordero 27 January 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    Thanks Abraham, for analysis and recommendations on the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index results for Mexico, including recent scandals like ‘casa blanca’, please see our chapter in Mexico’s website: (Spanish)

  3. jason 27 January 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    this site is astroturf nonsense. kids scavening thru piles of trash to survive b/c of “corruption”? wrong. it’s not corruption, it’s THE ECONOMY.

    and what other countries have billions of dollars flowing around for the election campaign? uh, none but the US, the 2nd “least corrupt” country in the Americas.

    transparent propaganda. laughable. this site & NGO is a stellar example of “corruption.”

  4. Chádia Karnib 27 January 2016 at 8:52 pm #


  5. Rosa M Torres 28 January 2016 at 4:47 am #

    I agree with the comment above. I read the document but still there is no further mention of the Casa Blanca case, nor the OHL Mexico scandals (the biggest scandal in the toll-road operator’s history never happened). Neither the case of the disappeared students and more of 200,000 disappearances additional to the 43 case, which many had state participants (local and federal officials and agencies) and the impunity surrounding those cases. To be honest the perception of corruption is quite benevolent, specially because it is not only the perception but the fact that in several states such as the State of Mexico has 98.2% of impunity. Not one of public servers in the present administration has been held accountable for his actions of corruption. And Mexican public is aware of that. For example, the case of ex governor Moreira who’s been accused of embezzlement, money laundry among other crimes… but in Spanish courts not Mexican. I consider that the index for the case of Mexico should be studied more profoundly

  6. Joshua 2 February 2016 at 8:13 pm #

    Why wasn’t Belize included on the study? For me to trust this it would have to be more comprehensive. Especially if it was a country as corrupt as ours!

  7. Donatello 24 April 2016 at 8:06 am #

    As French, being unable to defend my inheritance rights in Uruguay, I think that you should question how this country was evaluated. The relations between lawyers and politics is similar to Panama. The lawyers are very connected between themselves. An in Uruguay, a lawyer can be a notary. It makes this country weak. And for sure not comparable to Europe rule of law, as you estimate.


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