In This Review

Beyond the Scandals: The Changing Context of Corruption in Latin America
Beyond the Scandals: The Changing Context of Corruption in Latin America
By Kevin Casas-Zamora and Miguel Carter
Inter-American Dialogue, 2017, 68 pp.

Contrary to popular perceptions that Latin American corruption is only getting worse, Casas-Zamora and Carter argue the opposite: corruption is becoming easier to expose, publicize, and punish. Latin America is experiencing a healthy rebellion against endemic corruption, especially among the educated and informed middle classes. Many factors have contributed to a new public morality: international agreements that establish higher standards of conduct; stiffer transparency and accountability laws; tough, well-equipped prosecutors; aggressive, independent journalists; watchful social-media users; and indignant, mobilized civil society organizations. Economic downturns have also reduced tolerance for the flagrant misuse of public funds. Casas-Zamora and Carter find that a battery of legal and institutional innovations are slowly making progress against entrenched habits of opacity, patrimonialism, and malfeasance. Today, gross violations are more likely to be uncovered and successfully prosecuted: even presidents and top-level corporate executives are no longer safe. This study includes useful reviews of major corruption scandals—often involving government procurement or the financing of political parties and campaigns—in Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama.