The payment of bribes to access basic public services is more common in Mexico than any other country in the region, according to a new report on corruption in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Completed by global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International, the report concluded that Mexico is the worst offender among the 20 countries it surveyed, and it also fared poorly on other corruption indicators.
More than 20,000 people across the region were polled for the report, entitled People and Corruption: Latin America and the Caribbean.
Fifty-one per cent of Mexicans surveyed said when accessing public services over the previous 12 months they had to pay a bribe. That figure placed the country ahead of the Dominican Republic, which came in second worst at 46%, while most other countries in the region recorded rates between 20 and 40%.
In the region as a whole approximately one out of every three people surveyed had paid a bribe to access government services in the past year although the figure went as low as 6% in Trinidad and Tobago and 11% in Brazil.
The services Mexicans most frequently pay bribes for are related to schools, health care, personal documentation and utilities, the report said. Between 21 and 30% of Mexican respondents also said that they had paid bribes to the police while between 1 and 10% said they had done so in court-related matters.
Both the rich and the poor paid bribes, the report said, but those of limited economic means did so at a slightly higher rate and it had a much greater impact on their finances.
The survey also found that there is more social stigma against people reporting corruption in Mexico than most other countries.
At 49%, under half the respondents said it was socially acceptable to report a case of corruption, placing Mexico fourth lowest on the list.
The director of Transparency International in Mexico told the newspaper El Economista that the figures confirmed the level of institutional deterioration that has occurred at a municipal and state level.
“Mexico being a federation, no one is surprised that state and municipal administrations ask for bribes to expedite procedures and services. . .” Eduardo Bohórquez said.
He added that the practice can place people in a vulnerable situation as it may determine whether an essential service such as water is supplied, or even enable access to justice.
“Corruption and impunity are real threats to the democratic model,” Bohórquez concluded.
Across the region, police and elected representatives were seen as the most corrupt members of society, a finding supported by Mexican respondents with a majority rating the government’s record on fighting corruption “very bad” or “fairly bad” while the overall perception of corruption within the police was high.
Presenting the report in Berlin, Germany, the chair of Transparency International said “the people of Latin America and the Caribbean are being let down by their governments, their political class and their private-sector leaders.”
José Ugaz also said that almost two-thirds of respondents indicated that corruption had increased in their countries in the year preceding the survey, a figure that represents a concerning upward trend.
While the number was slightly lower in Mexico at 61%, it may be representative of long entrenched corruption.
“This report shows that citizens’ demands for accountability and transparency are not being met by their leaders,” Ugaz said, adding that “governments must do more to root out corruption at all levels.”
The one positive to come out of the report for Mexico was that 74% of respondents said that ordinary people could make a difference in the fight against corruption.
“A strong, clean and transparent judicial system will be vital for sustaining this public engagement, with the public wanting to see public officials receive due punishment for any crimes committed,” the report reads.
“Without this, citizens will become further disillusioned with the governance system in their country . . . .”
Source: El Economista (sp)