The country ranked No. 100 in Transparency International’s recently released 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index. The index judges perceived levels of public sector corruption in 183 countries globally, with 0 representing "highly corrupt" and 10 meaning "very clean." Mexico garnered a 3 in the latest index, down from 3.3 in 2006.
Mexico’s five-year battle against organized crime has claimed more than 40,000 lives, according to several estimates, since President Felipe Calderón sent the military into the streets in hotspots around the country. The government has nabbed or killed dozens of cartel leaders; an overhaul of the nation’s judiciary system is underway. But rather than assuage concerns, the perception of public sector corruption has deteriorated.
“You can have a lot of military and police on the street but if you don’t attack the corruption, the inherent problem is still there,” said Maureen Meyer, a senior Mexico analyst with the Washington Office on Latin America. “If you still have collusion, the root cause is present.”
In an incensed editorial in Mexico’s influential Reforma newspaper in August, author and journalist Eduardo Huchim wrote, “The first enemy to beat in this and other battles is corruption, and if it keeps poisoning large portions of the public and private sector, there is no future.”
Generally speaking, countries in the Americas didn’t fare well in the index: More than two-thirds fell below the list’s middle mark. Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina face special challenges, according to Alejandro Salas, Transparency International’s regional director for the Americas.
“These countries have abundant resources, relatively well-performing economies, some strong and modern institutions, regular elections and the rotation of power among different political parties,” he said on the organization’s blog. “Yet, they continue to be stuck in the bottom half of the index... Particularly in Brazil and Mexico, some modern institutions that push for reforms often clash with an old system based on patronage, cronyism and regionalism.”
Chile was a bright spot for Latin America, however. The country scored higher than the United States for the second straight year, taking the No. 22 spot versus the United States’ No. 24 ranking.
Infographic: Transparency International