Region Gets Poor Marks in Corruption Index

October 22, 2004

GRANADA, Nicaragua –With a failinggrade of 3.6 out of 10, Latin Americaranks second to last behind Africa (3.0) onthis year’s Corruption Perception Indexprepared by Transparency International,released this week in Germany.In Central America, Costa Rica bestedits neighbors and finished third amongLatin American nations with a ranking of4.9, although the ranking was conductedlast year, before the recent corruptionscandals surfaced involving former CostaRican Presidents Miguel Angel Rodríguezand Rafael Angel Calderón.Behind Costa Rica, El Salvadorreceived a grade of 4.2, followed byPanama (3.7), Nicaragua (2.7), Honduras(2.3) and Guatemala (2.2). No country inCentral America received a grade higherthan an “F.”A total of 106 out of 146 countriesscore less than 5 against a clean score of10, according to the index. Sixty countriesscore less than 3 out of 10, indicating rampantcorruption, according to TransparencyInternational.Costa Rica, which ranked 41 out of 146participating countries, was unaffected bythe recent scandals in this year’s index. Butgiven the shifting mood in Costa Rica,exhibited by last week’s massive marchagainst corruption (TT, Oct. 15), changingperceptions of corruption will most likely bereflected in next year’s index.In Nicaragua, Ethics andTransparency, the regional branch ofTransparency International, called thecountry’s ranking unacceptable. The organizationsaid that three years ofNicaragua’s war on corruption appears notto be bearing any sustainable fruits, andinstead appears to be politically directedtoward select individuals.IN Honduras, meanwhile, state prosecutorsthis week protested what they called“embarrassing” corruption and impunity.Honduras’ 399-member Prosecutors’Association blasted the Chief Prosecutor’sorder to suspend corruption allegationsagainst former Honduran President RafaelCallejas (1990-1994).“It is embarrassing; while the otherCentral American countries are judgingand condemning their corrupt officials, inHonduras, due to wretched interests, theyare being pardoned,” the Prosecutors’Association said a release reported in AFPwire reports.Callejas, accused in 1994 of corruptionand embezzlement of $20 million, was setto face charges in the Supreme Court Oct.15 when the Prosecutor’s Office orderedthe case suspended due to lack of evidence.IN Guatemala, which finished at thebottom of the class, Transparency notedthat unresolved corruption cases involvingtop-ranking officials has led to a “a cultureof impunity that is deeply entrenched.”The most visible case of impunity inGuatemala involves embezzlement allegationsagainst former President AlfonsoPortillo and several of his inner circle,who allegedly moved $600,000 through13 offshore bank accounts and four “phantom”companies in Panama.Guatemala’s two special anti-corruptionprosecutors who have been assignedto investigate the case since 2002 haveboth resigned after allegedly receivingdeath threats, and one left the country infear for her life.Finland once again topped this year’sindex with a ranking of 9.7. Haiti andBangladesh finished in a tie for last place,with a score of 1.5.

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