Chile Against Corruption: What Can the Region Learn?
To launch the last of a series of spotlights on anti-corruption, the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center hosted a conference call to discuss Chile's successes and steps countries can take to revitalize regulatory frameworks.
Authored by Former Minister of National Women’s Affairs of Chile and Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center Non-Resident Senior Fellow Laura Albornoz Pollmann, the spotlight “Chile Against Corruption: What Can the Region Learn?” analyses the country’s experience with corruption and the lessons it can offer Latin America.
Maria Fernanda Perez Arguello, associate director at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, opened the conversation stating that “anti-corruption efforts have been vague in the region in the last five years, ever since the Lava Jato investigation became known to the public.” Perez Arguello emphasized that though there have been successes to be celebrated, much remains to be done. Countries like Chile can offer valuable lessons and best practices.
Albornoz Pollmann highlighted that over the past twenty years, Chile has reformed public institutions, with the goal of increasing transparency and accountability. One of these developments, Albornoz Pollmann added, are the antitrust laws that have been introduced in Chile, which “have enabled the penal code to impede certain actors from limiting the actions of financial regulators” aimed at guaranteeing free and fair competition in the marketplace. She made the case each country should be cautious of the reforms they push for, given that “everything is highly dependent on the political context of each country.”
Rodrigo Janot Monteiro de Barros, former prosecutor general of Brazil from 2013 to 2017, when the bulk of Car Wash investigations took place, added that combatting corruption is a holistic process that involves not only the judiciary, but also civil society, a free press, and political parties. Janot believes the region could learn from Brazil on how to tackle corruption in a transnational way and how to cooperate with other countries. He emphasized the duty to combat corruption internationally, stating that “if we only tackle corruption domestically, instead of eradicating it, we only end up exporting it to other countries that do not have the institutional capabilities to properly combat corruption.”
Albornoz Pollmann agreed that, usually, corruption cases are cross-border crimes with regional impact. She stressed that to combat corruption more effectively, strategic alliances between governments, the private sector, and international institutions “can raise awareness about best practices to tackle the evils that reside in our democracies.”
For Albornoz Pollmann, one of the main challenges in the fight against corruption is that “corruption acts mutate over time, so what appeared to be corruption in the past, which was an explicit lobby, today is covered up in other different ways of conduct.”
She added that beyond laws, “we need a more horizontal democratic system. As democracy advances, it should enable actors to punish such acts more publicly.” Perez Arguello added that “[corruption] can move at a faster speed than legislators and laws can,” and that the fight against corruption is, in nature, never-ending.
Janot raised Chile’s successful centralization of authority within the Attorney’s General office over all treaties of a penal nature as a successful component of the fight against corruption. He noted this has not taken place in Brazil. For Albornoz Pollmann, while Chile has made strides in its fight against corruption, the power to investigate resides in a public entity dependent on political power, and this relationship has limited the investigations Chile’s Public Ministry can advance.
Beyond the need to guarantee the necessary autonomy of the judiciary and its investigative institutions, both Janot and Albornoz Pollmann drew attention to the importance of a more democratic penal justice system that would guarantee laws are enforced equally, regardless of socioeconomic status. Janot concluded that the recent arrests of former presidents across the region showcase that “justice is for all. A signal of the democratization of the penal justice system.”