Combating Corruption in Mexico: Challenges and Opportunities
On May 30, the Inter-American Dialogue co-hosted an event titled “Combating Corruption in Mexico: Challenges and Opportunities.” The Dialogue partnered with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) for the event, and it was moderated by WOLA Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights Maureen Meyer and DPLF Executive Director Katya Salazar. The panelists were Mariclaire Acosta, the head of the Citizen Participation Committee of the National Anti-Corruption System, Alejandro Rios of COPARMEX the Confederación Patronal de la República Mexicana (COPARMEX) , and Daniel Lizárraga of Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad.
Meyer opened the discussion by asking the panelists to characterize Mexican corruption and the principal actors therein. Daniel Lizárraga stated that Mexican corruption is complicated because most of society is involved. The corruption is not limited to the government, as “there is one [side] that gives and one [side] that receives.” That being said, he continued, there is an imperative to better inform Mexican citizens of the workings of their government. Undertaking these investigations is a dangerous but essential task, with Mexican journalists routinely threatened and murdered. Widespread lack of security and impunity for crimes of corruption is an issue at the forefront of this year’s pivotal election.
Salazar then focused the discussion on impunity, asking Mariclaire Acosta to comment on some of the greatest challenges facing the National Anticorruption System’s uphill battle against corruption. Acosta agreed with Lizárraga that the problem of corruption is entrenched and systemic in Mexico, creating an odd situation in which there are very thoroughly surveyed conditions of corruption which are not being judicially investigated. One of the major problems in the NAS is that key roles, such as that of Independent Prosecutor, remain vacant, so important investigations cannot take place.
Meyer then addressed Alejandro Rios, the head of COPARMEX – the Mexican Employers’ Association – to ask the role that the private sector has played in supporting Mexican anticorruption efforts. Rios explained that the private sector began to play a role in combating corruption after the constitutional reforms that introduced the NAS were made. The new constitutional laws implicated the private sector, which for the first time was in a position to commit grave offenses if it did not comply by new standards of practice laid out in the law. Most Mexican companies do business transparently and in good faith, said Rios, but they are simply not familiar with new anticorruption laws, and so may inadvertently commit corruption offenses. COPARMEX is focused on educating those businesses in the law of the land and supporting more anticorruption initiatives.
The Q&A section with the audience opened with some very strong questions from audience members, among them whether the NAS is prepared to function under a President who will not support it, and what can be done regarding the insecurity of journalists and whistleblowers. Considering that the leader in the polls, Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador (AMLO) has publicly excoriated the NAS and federal anticorruption efforts, Acosta remained optimistic: she said that the NAS is written into the constitution, so it is resilient. Regarding AMLO’s criticism, she affirmed that candidates say a lot of things during their campaigns, and then end up doing different things as elected leaders, and she hopes that this is the case with AMLO. Regarding press security, Lizárraga added that there has not been any candidate that has spoken out on the issue, and he feels that it is now up to the press to begin actively advocating for the issue to be addressed.
The strength of Latin American democracies is eroding. Does meddling with a country’s constitution further erode democracy? Or does this erosion precede reform? If so, should the changes be considered a reason for hope?
Is press freedom seriously jeopardized in these countries or elsewhere in the region? What implications does it have for the state of democracy? Should regional bodies or other organizations be taking action? If so, how?