The Petrobras scandal appears to be dealing a heavy blow to Brazil’s image internationally, with the South American country dropping seven positions on the latest corruption perception index released by the Transparency International.
The report is a grim reading from a Latin American perspective, because major regional countries, including Mexico, are ranked below Brazil. Ranked 158th, the socialist country of Venezuela is the most corrupt countriy in the region, while Uruguay and Chile, ranked 21st and 23rd, respectively, are seen as the least corrupt.
The countries that performed relatively better on the index include Costa Rica (40th), Cuba (56th), El Salvador, and Panama.
Brazil is ranked 76 on the index, and the countries ranked below Brazil include Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Argentina, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Paraguay.
An investigation into Petrobras scandal has already led to the arrest of more than 100 people, including politicians and executives of some of the country’s biggest construction firms. Although President Chair Dilma Rousseff has not been directly implicated in the scandal she is under severe political pressure.
“The framework to prevent corruption in Brazil is relatively strong on paper with the exception of whistleblower protection legislation,” said the Transparency International.
But the report has some praise for Guatemala. Thanks to the United Nations-led investigation, Guatemala ousted its President Pérez Molina and arrested him on charges of receiving bribes, illicit association, and fraud in a scheme that deprived the Guatemalan state of millions of dollars.
“Citizen activist groups in Guatemala are working hard to drive out the corrupt, sending a strong message that should encourage others to take decisive action in 2016,” the report states.
The report does not speak much about Mexico. One of the previous reports from Transparency International stated that corruption cost the Argentine economy over $6.2 billion between 1990 and 2013, and affected the quality and efficiency of public services, such as education, health and transportation.
Denmark took the top spot for the second year running. Top performers share key characteristics: high levels of press freedom; access to budget information so the public knows where money comes from and how it is spent; high levels of integrity among people in power; and judiciaries that don’t differentiate between rich and poor, and that are truly independent from other parts of government.