Early this month, Peru hosted the eighth Summit of the Americas, with leaders of 34 American countries.
The discussion about the fight against the systemic corruption that is widespread in the governments and private sectors of the majority of the countries of the region was the main topic of the Summit.
Lately, there is no lack of corruption scandal examples in the daily press. Firstly the summit’s original host Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned the Peru presidency over corruption allegations at the end of March. Mr. Kuczynski is just one of high-level politicians in Latin America and the Caribbean who is either under investigation or charged with corruption in a widening case involving Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company.
This scandal involves more than 10 countries in America with allegations of illegal payments to politicians in exchange for public construction contracts. In Brazil, almost a third of the actual government ministers, as well as the actual president, Michel Temer, are under investigation. In Ecuador’s the vice-president, Jorge Glas, was sentenced to jail for receiving bribes related to the company.Other cases of corruption include the arresting of Seuxis Hernández, one of the chief negotiators of the Colombian peace deal with the rebels. Mr Hernández is accused of helping traffic 11 tons of cocaine. In Mexico, the president’s wife is under investigation for buying a multimillion-dollar home from a government contractor under favourable terms.Nevertheless, the corruption issue raises more than just daily political scandals. It’s also related directly to the future of the countries of the region.Lead by corruption, short-term goals and the interest of private big companies, political leaders are letting the common good of the population fall behind. The lack of quality or even of the existence of some public services is remarkable in a majority of Latin American and Caribbean countries. There is a lack of improvements and plans for a better future that seem to lead the continent into a not so bright future.If we take the case of public education and compare to other regions, South Korea and other East Asian countries for example, had similar, if not worse, educational levels than many Latin American countries 50 years ago. Today, South Korea has significantly better educational outcomes than every single Latin American country according to the OECD publication on quality of education (PISA)
Despite the fact that one of the objectives of the summit was fighting corruption as a way to support the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the discussion held seems to be more directed for public notice, to show that the scandals are not being left without a response from the leaders. The debates were essentially about new measures for increasing democratic governance and more transparency and there was a lack of discussion about the long-term effects of corruption in the development of the countries and ways remedy it.
Finally, the document that emerged from the Summit, the Lima Commitment, is a set of directives for countries that does not involve any constraint measures or mechanisms. All things considered, one is sure, even if the fight against corruption can be strengthened with those new commitments and the political environment begins to change, the damage to public institutions is rooted. It will take a long time to form new leaders that will be able to revert the existent logic and to put into practice long-term policies for a more sustainable development for their population.