By Brendan O’Boyle
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Brazil and Mexico were among the countries registering the biggest declines in anti-corruption efforts as the pandemic and inflation pushed fighting graft lower on public agendas in Latin America, according to a ranking released Wednesday.
The 2022 Capacity to Combat Corruption Index, published jointly by Americas Society/Council of the Americas and Control Risks, pointed to “new setbacks for key institutions and the anti-corruption environment as a whole” in Latin America’s two largest economies.
The index, which evaluates 15 Latin American countries on how effectively they uncover, punish, and deter corruption, presented a “mixed picture” with rising inflation and COVID-19 distracting from anti-corruption efforts, the report said.
“Overall, the willingness and capacity of governments across the region to combat corruption appears to have plateaued against the backdrop of other, more immediate concerns,” said Geert Aalbers, partner at consultancy Control Risks and one of the report’s authors.
Mexico is ranked 12 out of the 15, with one of the highest declines in the index, as “the country experienced setbacks in all categories, but the steepest decline was within democracy and political institutions,” the report said.
It cited President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s proposal to replace Mexico’s national electoral institute with a body chosen by voters.
Brazil fell four places to 10, declining for the third straight year. President Jair Bolsonaro has clashed repeatedly with Brazil’s judiciary.
Anger over corruption accusations was a driving factor in elections that booted incumbents in Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Peru, Chile and Ecuador in the last couple of years.
Guatemala saw the biggest decline in the corruption index, following the attorney general’s sacking of an anti-graft prosecutor.
The Dominican Republic saw the biggest jump, while Uruguay ranked first for the third consecutive year.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Boyle, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)