By Beatrice E. Rangel
A recent survey conducted by the World Economic Forum and the UNODC (UN Office on Drugs and Crime) reveals a revolution in the making throughout the Americas.
Millennials have chosen to fight corruption.
To their minds corruption is the greatest development impediment as 72% believe it is both holding countries back and destroying opportunities for their generation.
Accordingly they are organizing themselves behind NGOs that promote transparency.
They also are using their market power to reward and punish companies that they deem corrupt. And they seem to have chosen Sergio Mora and Antonio Carlos Welter from Brazil and Claudio Gonzalez Jr as their leaders. Messrs. Moro and Walter are the leading prosecutors in the Petrobras and Odebrecht corruption cases that affect most elite leaders in Brazil . Mr. Gonzalez singlehandedly created a national anti-corruption organization that has unveiled at least 50 corruption cases in Mexico including some touching President Pena Nieto. The trio has received death threats which -- far from creating fear -- seem to inject them with renewed impetus to fight corruption.
These developments have led many analysts to decree the end of corruption in Latin America.
But this enthusiasm needs to be tempered, as what we are seeing is the beginning of a long journey that will entail substantial changes in the political ad economic structures of every Latin American country.
Indeed, such changes need to begin with revising the avenues to exert self-determination. In far too many Latin American countries, votes are bought among poor people who render themselves available to vote for the option that offers the best material rewards on election day. Being treated to a comfortable voting tour that offers meals and a stipend in exchange for a vote are the rule rather than exception in most Latin American countries.
Accordingly, victory is almost certain to be achieved by the candidate that has managed to dispense more cash on election day. From the management of public institutions, corruption makes the difference between getting your ID papers on time or having to wait forever to renew a passport, a driver's license, an identity card or a bus card.
Withdrawal of these "success" fees will thus entail restructuring of public institutions to reduce payroll, assign proper compensations and develop monitoring capabilities in what today seems to be a wild ride into public realms.
Then there is the economy.
The only effective antidote to corruption is competition.
Most Latin American countries still work under relatively closed environments. Foreign investors find themselves at disadvantage, as local business leaders make sure to create a regulatory framework that promotes and freezes advantages for them on the playing field.
Then there is culture.
Mexico's most followed rule of conduct is: settle to advance ("quien no se tranza, no avanza"); Brazil stills pays national tribute to what is dubbed as the Jeitinho or malicious behavior that props up advantages to the person executing such behavior. Or perhaps it is a way of circumventing norms and indeed, the rule of law without violating them. In Venezuela popular jokes pay tribute to shrewdness as opposed to knowledge or propriety.
The journey is long and full of obstacles, but unstoppable in light of Millennials' choice for the future which in their own words is 'a world ruled by transparency so as to quench the greatest cause of inequality and instability: corruption."
Life will, of course, not be easy for them. Corruption forces will respond in earnest to defend the status quo. Mr. Gonzalez can attest to that. He has experienced 25 audits from different authorities into his NGO and his businesses. He has also been followed with the very same technology acquired by the Mexican government to fight organized crime. And yet, like the USA's untouchable Eliot Ness of almost a century ago, Mr. Gonzalez remains undeterred in his commitment to continue doing the right thing. Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.
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