The Fight Against Corruption in Colombia

Inter-American Dialogue / Alex Sadler

On July 7, the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Inter-American Dialogue invited Fernando Carrillo Flórez and Edgardo Maya Villazón, the respective Colombian Inspector and Comptrollers General, to address the growing issue of corruption in Colombia and their plans to solve it. The event was hosted at the Woodrow Wilson Center and moderated by Nathalie Alvarado, Citizen Security Lead Specialist of the Inter-American Development Bank, and Michael Shifter, President of the Inter-American Dialogue.

Mr. Carrillo opened the event by addressing the corruption issue head-on. He admitted that corruption has plagued Colombia for decades but it is only now coming to light because the country is no longer dealing with the omnipresent violence it was inundated with for decades. The Inspector General expressed hope that with the fog of violence being lifted, Colombia would no longer be paralyzed in its attempts to deal with pressing issues like corruption. Carrillo went on to declare that the best way for Colombia to deal with corruption is to eradicate it from the base. He said that citizens armed with the constitution – not superheroes – were needed to defeat corruption. Carrillo spoke of the goals his office had set in engaging with the new political leaders and social activists of Colombia. The onus does not fall on just the government, Carrillo said, the private sector has as much of a responsibility to avoid corruption as its public counterpart.

In his remarks, Edgardo Maya Villazón briefly shifted the conversation away from corruption. While he acknowledged that corruption remains a serious issue in Colombia, the country suffered from far more pressing issues like dealing with high rates of poverty, homelessness, a failing education system, and lackluster healthcare. Transitioning to the topic of corruption, Maya declared that without cooperation from different public and private sectors, corruption would never be vanquished. He went on to praise the impressive economic development Colombia had experienced in the past decade but warned that with more financial resources come more opportunities for corruption. The Comptroller General ended his speech with faith that this pressing issue can end soon because for the first time in his career he is seeing numerous government agencies coming together to fight corruption.

During the Q&A portion, both speakers agreed that Colombia has made great strides in the Odebrecht investigation in spite of crucial evidence being withheld by the Brazilian government. Carrillo and Maya ended the event with a return to their thematic rallying cry of unity defeating corruption. Addressing the crowd in his late statement, Carrillo insisted, “In this fight (against corruption), either we all win or we all lose. There’s no other way around it.”

Watch the full recording of the event here

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Suggested Content

Turbulence in Brazil

Over the past weeks, public discontent with the administration of President Dilma Rousseff has continued to rise.