Despite rampant graft in many Central American and Caribbean nations, Mexico has the dubious honor of being Latin America’s most corrupt country, according to a study by Transparencia Mexicana.
The NGO, which grew off the trunk of anti-corruption organization Transparency International in 1999, interviewed 22,302 people in 20 countries in Latin America (including the Caribbean) from May to December of last year. What sent Mexico galloping ahead of the competition (which included, from second to fifth place, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Venezuela and Panama) was the amount of bribes and/or “ gifts” being paid to public officials in charge of basic services, to ensure those services’ continued smooth operation. Fifty-one percent of interviewees reported dispensing said bribes.
Furthermore, 31-40 percent of those questioned for the study said they had paid bribes for hospital, educational or document-obtaining services, and 21-30 percent reported paying bribes to the police.
However, for such a bleak set of figures, optimism regarding the feasibility of the layman’s ability to combat corruption overruled what one could easily see as rational, empirically-based pessimism, with 74 percent saying they believe that the actions of ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.