Ben Raderstorf / Inter-American Dialogue Ben Raderstorf / Inter-American Dialogue

On January 22, the Inter-American Dialogue and the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center hosted an event titled “Bridging the Divides at the Summit of the Americas” to discuss pathways to combat corruption throughout the region. The event was moderated by Michael Camilleri with panelists Mercedes de Freitas (Executive Director, Transparencia Venezuela), Welby Leaman (Senior Director, Global Government Affairs, Walmart), Rosario Diaz Garavito (Founder, The Millennials Movement; Coordination of Youth Participation and Dialogues in Peru), and Ana Rosa Valdivieso (Ambassador of Peru to the Organization of American States). The panel discussed the VIII Summit of the America’s theme of corruption and the opportunity to build bridges between the public and private sectors, civil society, and youth to address this problem affecting the region.

Michael Camilleri began by reflecting on this year’s Summit theme as part of “the awakening to combating corruption” in the region. Given the corruption scandals that have emerged in various countries throughout Latin America, many of the panelists explained how this topic affects their sectors. Corruption, according to the panelists, has a damaging impact on economic development, society, and democratic governance. Economic development is hindered when corrupt deals between public officials and private contractors limit opportunities for competition. Society is impacted at all levels when institutions are not taken seriously (i.e. police bribery) or when inflated public contracts lead to inferior infrastructure. Diaz Garavito argued that fighting corruption is not a matter of holding politicians and corporations accountable. Rather, it is attacking impediments to overall prosperity in each country.

Corruption scandals have also had a destabilizing effect on politics, such as Odebrecht-related revelations in Peru or the broader shockwaves of “Lava Jato” in Brazil. Peruvian Ambassador Valdivieso acknowledged the damage on democratic governance and trust in institutions as a reason why Peru decided to pick this ambitious and timely topic.

Throughout the discussion, panelists proposed solutions which leaders could consider when the Summit meets in April. Leaman, who is a part of the Americas Business Dialogue, recommended greater implementation of certification programs which promote “best practices” for public officials involved in the permitting and public contracting processes. De Freitas, on the other hand, offered three broad goals that could also help: greater public access to government information and press freedom; robust, independent judiciaries; and transparent government and electoral finance. Finally, Diaz Garavito highlighted her group’s grassroots work in motivating youth participation and political entrepreneurship to address corruption at the local level. Multiple panelists also wondered whether regional organizations such as the Organization for American States or the Inter-American Court for Human Rights could also play a function in multilateral anti-corruption initiatives.

The panelists agreed that corruption is not limited to an individual country, but is a concern in every country in the hemisphere. For there to be success in combating corruption, the leaders of these countries across all sectors must demonstrate the willingness and commitment to commit to tangible and aggressive multilateral measures. 

Watch the event recording here: