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The Americas in the Corruption Perceptions Index

We have reviewed the results for the countries of the Americas. Now we tell you how we see the outlook in the region.

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By Laura Ortiz, Nicolás Barahona and Juan Pablo Garnica

Transparency International (TI) presented the 2022 edition of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories according to their perceived levels of corruption in the public sector. It is measured through information obtained from external expert sources on a scale from zero (very corrupt) to 100 (very transparent).

The data presented in this edition show an overall stagnation in the fight against corruption. The average score (43 points) has stayed the same for eleven years. The report emphasizes the relationship between the increase in violence and more significant corruption in the countries.

This year, Denmark (90), Finland (87), and New Zealand (87) repeated in the report as the least corrupt in the world. South Sudan (13), Syria (13), and Somalia (12) have the highest corruption perception indexes.

The Americas: the continent continues to stagnate

The report includes 32 countries in the Americas. The average score for these countries has been 42.9 for the past four years. It varies little concerning Latin America and the Caribbean: 41.06. However, Andrés Hernández, executive director of Transparency for Colombia, at the presentation of the index in the city of Bogotá, stated that “a minimum goal should be to be above 50 points”.

The report warns that corruption and institutional weakness in the region have facilitated the rise of organized crime, impunity, violence in the form of sexual extortion, environmental damage, and the murder of defenders and activists. In Hernández’s words: “Corruption weakens the state’s capacity to provide protection services to the citizens.”

The worst-ranked countries are Venezuela (14), Nicaragua (19), Honduras (23), and Guatemala (24). According to the report, there is evidence of the influence of organized crime in daily life and politics. In addition, countries such as El Salvador, Ecuador, and Honduras have concentrated power in their executive branch to respond to security threats, which has led to the undermining of civil liberties and especially of social control over public affairs.

Below we present how the countries of the region are evolving. Although it is intended as a score ranking, the CPI should be understood as a race of a country against itself and not against others.


Source: Transparency International

Countries that are getting worse

The strengthening of mafias stifles citizen welfare with extortion, forced prostitution, and labor exploitation. This has led the governments of El Salvador and Honduras to declare states of exception, limiting access to rights and endangering one of the pillars of the fight against corruption: journalism.

TI warns about the interference of organized crime through the nomination of its members to public office and the financing of electoral campaigns. An example of this is Costa Rica (54), which reached its lowest score in recent years due to cases of bribery in infrastructure contracts and reports of alleged illicit financing of the current president’s electoral campaign.

Haiti (17), Nicaragua (19), Guatemala (24), Paraguay (28), El Salvador (33), Suriname (40), Cuba (45), Grenada (52), Costa Rica (54) and St. Lucia (55). In several of these countries, such as Cuba and Haiti, there were solid civic protests in 2022 and questions about institutional integrity.

Countries that improve

Only seven countries in the Americas improved, and they did so timidly. The Dominican Republic (32) and the United States (69) are up two points. The U.S. is well on track with implementing its beneficial ownership registry but still has money laundering problems, with a bill blocked at the end of the year.

Bolivia (31), Guyana (40), Trinidad and Tobago (43), St. Vincent and the Grenadines (60), and Uruguay (74) move up a single place. Uruguay is placed 14th in the world ranking. It has been on a progressive scale for five years, which has led it to return to the score it had in 2015. On the other hand, Bolivia, despite improving, is in seventh position, starting among the worst scorers in the region.

Countries that remain unchanged

Almost half of the countries in the region maintain the same position. So far from being an improvement, this is a wake-up call. It shows that the perception remains unfavorable, as we have already seen in almost all countries with scores below 50.

In this category are Venezuela (14), Honduras (23), Mexico (31), Ecuador (36), Panama (36), Peru (36), Argentina (38), Brazil (38), Colombia (39), Jamaica (44), Dominica (55), Bahamas (64), Barbados (65), Chile (67) and Canada (74).

In Venezuela, illegal economic activities were 21% of its GDP in 2021, and criminal groups have exhaustive control over economic operations. In addition, elites and organized crime co-opted institutions. This is also the case in Honduras, where large extortion cases go unpunished.

Ecuador, despite its stagnation, has been implementing new policies of access to information, which facilitate the control of public resources. With the CPI, this country launched its Corruption Barometer 2022, which shows that 93% of the people maintain that the National Government has a big or very big problem of Corruption and do not trust the institutions.

Source: Barómetro de Corrupción de Ecuador, 2022. 93% of the people say they do not trust the Government.

Colombia maintains its score but obtains low ratings on indicators measuring “corruption in the political system and business” and for the “use of public office for private gain in the branches of government, the military, and the police”, according to Hernández.

Transparencia por Colombia invites the fight against corruption, which could facilitate peace conditions. “The issue is not the indicator but the fundamental change we can achieve. This is what the CPI is for: to trace our routes of action” Hernández added.

Chile (67) is one of the best-rated in the region. Despite its efforts, its economy and trust in institutions are affected by the need for more progress in anti-corruption. Its score has remained in the same position since 2017, following a reform to the law on political parties.

Hernández at the PCI 2022 launch

Hernández at the PCI 2022 launch.

Download the data used in this article.