Corruption in Latin America

Corruption in Latin America
Corruption in Latin America
User Rating: 0.1 (1 votes)

……and what you can do about it.

 Corruption still exists, ´´big time´´ in Colombia but to be entirely fair to this country, corruption is truly  rampant in other parts of the world. The amount of well intended First World money that has siphoned into hidden bank accounts of African leaders probably dwarfs anything that the Latin Americans might have made off with. Not only that the First World countries like Canada and the USA have not been entirely free of this ´´cancer´´ either.

Colombia has made great strides in attempt to root out corruption and stop the practice but 500 hundred years of history and tradition (although a bad  one) is not something that can be stamped out over night.

We can thank the colonial Spanish crown for the corruption that pervades Latin America today. When officials were appointed and sent to the New World they were expected to extract monies from local sources and resources to support themselves. Not only that they may have purchased an appointment  that was only for a short time so they were motivated to make money however they could.  The church was not immune to this form of graft either as they took money for well placed postions.

The second factor driving this economic engine was the crown forbade the colonies from trading with any other country or colony but those within the Spanish realm. This was fine for a while until Spain could no longer supply its colonies. At that time there were plenty of privateers cruising the Caribbean with holds full of stolen goods. Since legally they could not trade with the Spanish the goods had to be either smuggled into the country or many palms had to be greased to turn a blind eye to the stolen wares as they entered the controlled inhabited regions.

After independence corruption continued because the struggling governments didn´t have sufficient funds to pay for the required services necessary.  Underpaid civil servants just carried on a tradition to compensate themselves for small incomes.

The World Bank states the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development is corruption. In fact, it is strongly correlated with a country’s overall competitiveness. Some estimates have suggested that countries that have reduced corruption can increase per capita income by up to 400 percent. Not only that the countries can increase their overall economic performance and the inflow of foreign direct investment.

You might be thinking, what can I do about it ? The answer is, do not take part in any kind of bribes or under the table payments. I have been asked in various ways for money or ´´patronage´´ . I have refused and all that has resulted is delayed service.

I had  clients who were importing their personal goods and their shipping company told them to put an envelope with their goods marked ´´Tea Money´´ for the men at the docks. Who knows where the money went ? There are no longer stevedores physically unloading the goods from the ships. Colombia´s ports are modern and mechanized. If this money was meant for Custom’s officials, please note it is illegal to bribe Customs’ officials. The goverment should be ”tipped off’, not the officials .

I have had other clients tell me that they would happily ´´pay the piper´´ to get what they needed. Unfortunately this is not the attitude that Colombia needs from its visitors and foreign residents. There is a sincere effort to bring corruption into check, Without this, change for the better will be difficult. There is a direct relation between the growth of the informal economy, the spread of illicit activity through organized crime and corruption.

Whether you are a tourist, resident or citizen effectively offering or giving a bribe is completely contrary to the steps Colombia is trying to take to move forward. You too can assist reducing corruption in Latin America.

David is the Chief Editor and CEO for EscapeArtist Colombia.

3 Comments

  1. Mr. Steckenreiter,

    Your comment is completely full of unaccuracies and completely biased against Spain. Your views are quite “logical”, considering the fact that you are the standard Anglo-Saxon ignorant of the real historical facts. You Anglo-Saxons also tend to distort History, not only in the case of Spain, but in any other historical situations, as well. Being a European from Germany, I know this for a fact, as many European do.

    Anyway, let me “teach” you on the real historical facts. The complete 406-year Spanish rule (1492-1898), in Spanish-speaking America, does not mean the Spaniards were to blame for the chronic corruption, social, and political inefficiencies of present-day Spanish-speaking America. This was never, and is not proven, with hard evidences.

    The Spanish-speaking countries are long independent from the Spanish rule, precisely from 1810-21 (but Cuba, and Puerto Rico, which were forced out of the Spanish rule, in 1898, by the U.S.), to date. At the time of their independence, all of them were well-structured, rich countries, by the standards of the time. All of these countries were much better off than most countries, in the 19th century, to become great countries, thanks to the social, political, cultural, and economic structure they inherited from Spain. It was (and still are) these countries’s political, economic elites, and most of their nationals, the ones to blame for their present-day, Third-World status. The nationals of these countries created the deep roots of the present-day social, political, and economic corruption, not the Spanish rule, as you incorrectly conclude.

    Editor´s note – Mr Hoffmann has provided a much more insightful and information response to my reply. This was done privately and I am including most of the conversation below.

    Mr. Steckenreiter,

    I simply stated serious historical, social, political, and economic facts, not mentioned in your article.

    I know Hispanic America very well, since more than 40 years ago. The fact that I live in Europe does not mean that I do not know this part of the American continent I have to go to, and stay for several months a year, for business purposes.

    Q: I agree with you about this – It was (and still is) these countries’s political, economic elites, and most of their nationals, the ones to blame for their present-day, Third-World status.

    R: Well, basically it is the reality. So you have agreed not with me, but with the current reality.

    Q: But how did that come about?

    At the time, ALL colonial empires were basically corrupt, because colonial rulers strongly favored corruption, and patronage, to their own benefit, and to the benefit of the political, economic, and religious elites, in the lands under colonial control. This is basically why 80%-90% of the populations were basically illiterate, poor, or dirt poor.

    Let me give you an example, for you to get the whole pic.

    England had one of the largest empires ever. The present-day remains of this empire is the Commonwealth.
    This multi-nation political organization is made up of 53 countries. However, only Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (the U.S. does not belong to this entity, for obvious reasons) are considered as “First-World” countries, while the remaning 50 countries have a current status of either Third-World, or Fourth-World countries.

    The main, true fact (though, as the world goes today, this fact cannot be publicly acknowledged, as it is “politically incorrect”) is that the ONLY reason why Hispanic America is, mostly, under the status of a Third-World area is because its inhabitants ARE NOT mostly Spaniards, though they speak Spanish. Their ethnicity, and their mental attitude towards life, and society is not that of the Spaniards.

    I can strongly, and confidently state this fact, because I know perfectly well (since many years ago) the huge differences existing between the mental attitude towards life, and society of the Spaniards, and that of the Hispanic Americans.

    Ethnic Spaniards, in Hispanic America, are barely 3% (and going down) of the current population of 400 million plus (Brazil does not count, because it is portuguese speaking).

    In other words, roughly 12 million people are really ethnically Spaniards.

    This concept is also applied to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The only real reason why these 3 countries are fully developed is because their ethnicity, and the mental attitude towards life, and society are mostly British-backgrounded, while in the other 50 countries, despite the fact that they speak English, their ethnicity, and the mental attitude towards life, and society are not British-backgrounded.

    None of my comments were emotional or irrational. I have lived in Colombia for 10 years. I have read history in Spanish, some of it from old texts. I have lived in Cartagena which is extremely corrupt still today because of what was set into play by the Spanish colonial crown. I was not postulating a theory that the Spanish crown required their colonies to do business with Spanish colonies nor the fact that there were long periods where they could no longer properly supply the colonies. Nor was I speculating that when liberation came that the new governments simply did not have the funds to pay their bureaucrats in outlying regions.

    R: What you state is simply the very superficial aspect of the corruption lifestyle most Hispanic American, and Brazilians are “so proud of”, as any First-World foreigner living (and knowing both Spanish, and Portuguese languages well) in the area may quickly realise, and notice, daily.

    Countries may evolve from their past, but only when national populations are willing to really do it, like (for example) Chile, and Uruguay, nowadays, or Costa Rica, and Panama, in a lesser extent.

    The corruption exists today because of what was put into play by the Spanish system and continued because as you so elegantly stated – It was (and still is) these countries’s political, economic elites, and most of their nationals, the ones to blame for their present-day, Third-World status and prior to independence their poitical and economic power came from the throne.

    R: Again, the world, centuries ago, (including the world’s greatest empire, and civilization ever: the Roman Empire) was much more corrupt than today’s, because, back then, the social, and personal perception of corruption was completely different than the one we perceive, at present.

    http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/951127/lomnitz.shtml

    R: This “academic paper” has a very distorted view of the historical facts, and of its present consequences, because it completely, and conveniently omits the state of mind (towards life, and society) of the mixture of different races, and ethnias, with no link to the real Spaniards, (or with no link to the real British, in the case of the 50 countries of the former English Empire).

    In order to explain, in a nutshell, the huge differences of mentality towards life, and society, let me put herein an old, widespead saying in Latin America: “Es mejor un acuerdo normal con un Español -en lo que sea- que un buen acuerdo con un latinoamericano”.

    In English: “It is better to have a fair deal with a Spaniard, in anything, than to have a good deal with a Latin American”.

    This concept tells it all on the Latin American mentality.

    Almost 40 years ago, the vast majority of present-day Spaniards agreed to change their mentality, and to evolve, to become one of the most dynamic, modern, advanced societies in the world, despite their temporary crisis they are getting rid of, slowly (this change of mentality has nothing to do with Spain being a EU member, because long before Spain entered, this country was very modern, and socially dynamic).

    The Spaniards evolved, with almost no natural resources, at all. If the Spaniards did it, then the Latin Americans may do it, too, provided they definitely drop their serious, deeply-rooted, anti-social, and personality liabilities, like:

    A.- Their “viveza criolla” (or cheating most everybody they come across, in life).

    B.- Their almost-natural tendency to accept bribes (even for really little, insignificant situations), in daily life.

    C.- Their “para mañana” attitude.

    D.- Their much-talk-and-do-almost-nothing attitude, when it comes to serious matters in life.

    E.- Their very slow-motion (sort of “ahorita”) attitude.

    These are some of the most serious anti-social, and personal attitudes the vast majority of Latin Americans have.

    Thank you Mr. Hoffmann. Well stated !

    • Mr Hoffmann

      Thank you for your comments. These forums are meant to be a space for conversation and discussion, even if we do not agree.

      Obviously we do not concur and while you lance an obvious bias against Anglo Saxons, I will try to explain my position. This is not an academic forum. It however presents ideas from living in Latin America and reading history both in English and Spanish

      I agree with you about this – It was (and still is) these countries´ political, economic elites, and most of their nationals, the ones to blame for their present-day, Third-World status.

      But how did that come about ?

      Where I don´t agree with you is The nationals of these countries created the deep roots of the present-day social, political, and economic corruption, not the Spanish rule. What I believe (and there are academic papers that bear this out) that is was the colonial Spanish crown and their bureaucracy that created the system.

      I agree with you here – At the time of their independence, all of them were well-structured, rich countries, by the standards of the time.

      Here is where we part company - All of these countries were much better off than most countries, in the 19th century, to become great countries, thanks to the social, political, cultural, and economic structure they inherited from Spain.

      This is where I think that you miss the point – this is exactly why the corruption exists, due to the social, political, cultural, and economic structure they inherited from Spain.

      I have lived in Colombia for 10 years. I have read history in Spanish, some of it from old texts. I have lived in Cartagena which is extremely corrupt still today because of what was set into play by the Spanish colonial crown. I was not postulating a theory that the Spanish crown required their colonies to do business with Spanish colonies nor the fact that there were long periods where they could no longer properly supply the colonies. Nor was I speculating that when liberation came that the new governments simply did not have the funds to pay their bureaucrats in outlying regions.

      The corruption exists today because of what was put into play by the Spanish system and continued because as you so elegantly stated – It was (and still is) these countries’s political, economic elites, and most of their nationals, the ones to blame for their present-day, Third-World status and prior to independence their poitical and economic power came from the throne.

      None of this was written with a prejudice. If you have not lived here for any length of time then you believe what you were taught in school. Frankly I don´t have an Anglo-Saxon bias. It appears that you may currently be living in England. Ask your English colleagues who was Francis Drake. They will probably correct you and tell you he was ´´Sir Francis Drake´´, the second person to circumnavigate the globe and the second in command of the fleet against the Spanish Armada. When I ask my Colombian associates who he was, they tell me he was ´´El Draque´´, a pirate and a slaver. History is in the eye of the beholder.

      What you contend that I so incorrectly concluded is in fact borne out in academic papers. This being one of them.

      http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/951127/lomnitz.shtml

      Mit freundlichen Grüßen

  2. This gives me much food for thought. I have seen instances of corruption in many countries, including the US and there are many reasons. Not,all corruption is political. The person who cheats on a time card, who trims a little from the cash register, short changes a customer, sells a car without declaring the problems it has. I have to admit my guilt in some things. Basically, I tend to be honest, but to be truthful, not in every way and even everyday. I can see that corruption is a major problem in the world. I will also agree that certain people have a greater propensity to being dishonest

Leave a Reply to Richard Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>