By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. Mar. 7, 2014: Several Caribbean and Latin American governments have been criticized by the U.S. State Department for weak and lax anti-corruption laws and doing little to implement the laws on the books effectively.
The U.S. ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013,’ released recently, slammed several Latin American and Caribbean governments for weak laws and poor implementation of those laws. Latin America was especially cited as being rife with corruption.
In Argentina, the U.S. said while the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials; multiple reports alleged that executive, legislative, and judicial officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, suggesting a failure to implement the law effectively.
“Weak institutions and an often ineffective and politicized judicial system undermined systematic attempts to curb corruption,” the report stated, citing the fact that Vice President Amado Boudou remained under investigation for illicit enrichment and for using his former position as minister of economy to benefit the Old Fund Company, a firm in which he had a financial interest and the conviction of former president Carlos Menem and former defense minister Oscar Camilion of arms smuggling to Ecuador and Croatia.
Bolivia’s government of Evo Morales was cited for not implementing the anti-corruption laws effectively.
The U.S. says officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity and there is still little progress in the investigation of 14 government officials, including Fernando Rivera Tardio, Denis Efrain Rodas Limachi, Boris Villegas, and Jose Manuel Antezana Pinaya, who were arrested in November and December 2012 in connection with the Jacob Ostreicher case. Ostreicher was arrested in Santa Cruz, Bolivia while overseeing a rice growing agricultural venture that he had invested in and was jailed for 18 months on suspicion of money laundering, though he was never formally charged.
Ostreicher maintained his innocence and stated that the allegations by the Bolivian government were “the scam of the century”. On December 18, 2012, Ostreicher was released from prison on $14,000 bail and placed under house arrest while several Bolivian officials were later arrested for what authorities state was an extortion ring.
As Brazil gets ready to host the World Cup and the Olympics, the government there has been named by the U.S. as a place where “officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”
There were numerous reports of government corruption and in November last year, the Supreme Court remanded 17 of 25 individuals convicted in the Mensalao anti-corruption trial to prison. Those incarcerated included former senior officials in the administration of former president Lula da Silva, including his chief of staff and PT president.
Costa Rica, according to the U.S. State Department, is also a country where “officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.” The report points to cases like the August 5, 2013 report in which the country’s attorney general confirmed that three of the main political parties that participated in the 2010 election were under investigation for their campaign finances, and two legislators from the ruling party were among the suspects for accepting illicit corporate campaign contributions.
In Mexico, the U.S. government report said credible reports indicated that officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity and that relatively few cases came to trial.
“Corruption at the most basic level involved paying bribes for routine services or in lieu of fines to administrative officials and security forces,” stated the report’s analysts. “More sophisticated and less apparent forms of corruption included overpaying for goods and services to provide payment to elected officials and political parties.”
Other Latin America nations where the governments did not implement anti-corruption laws effectively, were Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Guyana was cited as a Caribbean nation where widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels, including the police and the judiciary, remains while Belize’s government of Dean Oliver Barrow was slammed for not implementing the laws which provide for criminal penalties for corruption by officials.
The U.S. report claims further that Belize officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices as evidenced in the September 2013 case when the prime minister expelled Minister of State Elwin Penner from the cabinet after an investigation uncovered allegations that he illegally assisted a non-Belizean citizen to obtain Belizean citizenship and receive a Belizean passport.
In the Dominican Republic, the U.S. government says there is “a widespread attitude of tolerance toward some forms of corruption complicated anticorruption efforts.”
It claimed the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity and where government corruption remained a serious problem and a key public grievance.
In neighboring Haiti, the U.S. says there were numerous reports of government corruption during 2013 that led to the arrest of some government officials. But the report noted that “Although the government continued to implement legal, administrative, and management reforms designed to increase accountability in several ministries and government institutions, corruption remained widespread in all branches and at all levels.”
The Caribbean governments of Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Suriname were also criticized for not implementing anti-corruption laws effectively.