The region has always been fraught with scandals involving crooked politicians, but never have investigations hit so high. It’s a new indication that these small, yet strategically located countries long known for unpunished corruption may be more willing to go after the powers that be.
The Honduran government announced Thursday that the U.S. has requested extradition of former President Rafael Leonardo Callejas on charges of taking bribes for television contracts through his position as head of the Honduran Soccer Federation.
The same day, a judge in El Salvador ordered former President Francisco Flores to stand trial for allegedly diverting $15 million in donations for earthquake victims to his personal and political party accounts during his 1999-2004 term.
But the most dramatic example is Otto Perez Molina, who was taken down by corruption charges in September while still sitting as Guatemala’s president — an unprecedented act since democracy took hold in Latin America. He is now jailed along with his former vice president, both facing graft charges.
“We’re finally beginning to see countries willing to investigate and try to hold accountable people who were previously untouchable,” said Eric Olson, associate director of the Latin American program at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington. “This is more than just more of the same, especially in Guatemala. And that has other sitting presidents quite nervous.”
Experts cite two main reasons for the change: a more vibrant civil society and outside intervention.
Latin America just experienced a “golden decade,” in which strong economic GDP growth produced an emerging middle class fed up with corruption and more demanding of government officials, said Daniel Zovatto, regional director for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
SOURCE: Times Union