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Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials; nonetheless, multiple reports alleged that executive, legislative, and judicial officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, suggesting a failure to implement the law effectively. Weak institutions and an often ineffective and politicized judicial system undermined systematic attempts to curb corruption.

Corruption: Cases of corruption occurred in some security forces. The most frequent abuses included extortion of, and protection for, those involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, and the promotion of prostitution.

On June 30, a federal judge indicted former Kirchner administration secretary for public works Jose Lopez for corruption and unjust enrichment. Police observed and videotaped Lopez hiding approximately nine million dollars in cash and luxury watches inside a remote convent in Buenos Aires Province. During the year the Office of Anti-Corruption participated in the prosecution and reviewed infrastructure contracts Lopez supervised while in office 2002-15.

Allegations of corruption in provincial as well as in federal courts remained frequent. A trial date remained pending for former vice president Amado Boudou, who was indicted in 2014 for illicit enrichment and other lesser offenses.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials are subject to financial disclosure laws, and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights’ Anti-Corruption Office is responsible for analyzing and investigating federal executive branch officials, based on their financial disclosure forms. The law provides for public disclosure, but not all agencies complied, and enforcement remained a problem. The Anti-Corruption Office is also responsible for investigating corruption within the federal executive branch and in matters involving federal funds, except for funds transferred to the provinces. As part of the executive branch, the office does not have authority to prosecute cases independently, but it can refer cases to other agencies or serve as the plaintiff and request a judge to initiate a case. The Anti-Corruption Office analyzed 243 cases of noncompliance during the first half of the year. The office referred 25 cases for legal proceedings and dismissed 169 cases. During the same period, the office initiated 109 administrative investigations against government employees for noncompliance with the financial disclosure requirement and referred one case to the court for alleged illicit enrichment.

Public Access to Information: On September 14, Congress passed a law on public access to information. The law explicitly applies to all three branches of the federal government, the public justice offices, and entities such as businesses, political parties, universities, and trade associations that receive public funding. Responses to citizen requests for public information must be answered within 15 days, with an additional 15-day extension available for “exceptional” circumstances. Sanctions apply for noncompliance. The law exempts classified information for defense or foreign policy reasons, as well as information that could endanger the functioning of the financial system, trade secrets, or in commercial, financial, and scientific cases where disclosure could adversely affect competition. The law also mandates the creation of the Agency for Access to Public Information, an autonomous office within the executive branch.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices. The World Bank’s worldwide governance indicators reflected that corruption continued to be a problem.

Corruption: Allegations of corruption in government among public officials, including ministers and chief executive officers, were numerous, although no substantial proof was presented in most cases. In August, three special reports by the auditor general regarding immigration irregularities between 2011 and 2013 named at least 12 former and sitting cabinet ministers as allegedly “interfering” with the issuance of visas, nationality, and passports. Authorities agreed to calls by the opposition and civil society to form a Senate inquiry to investigate corruption in the Immigration and Nationality Department in light of the auditor general’s reports.

Although the Ombudsman’s Office reported fewer official complaints than in previous years, citizens continued to allege corruption against the Lands Department for illegally distributing lands to party associates. Despite accusations of political cronyism, the government insisted that it maintained transparency in the distribution of land.

In October former deputy prime minister Gaspar Vega resigned as cabinet minister following a revelation that his son, Andre Vega, had benefited from an illegal land transaction during the elder Vega’s tenure as minister responsible for land distribution. In 2014 the government gave the title for a piece of land that already had an owner to Andre Vega. Documents from the Lands Department indicated that the ministry was warned that the property was privately owned already, but a title was still issued to one of Minister Vega’s close advisors for BZ$2,500 ($1,250), who in turn sold it to the minister’s son for BZ$15,000 ($7,500). When the Land Department noticed the “discrepancy,” Andre Vega was compensated at market value because the government had given him a title to land already owned. The compensation was valued at BZ$400,000 ($200,000).

Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials to submit annual financial disclosure statements, which the Integrity Commission reviews. At the same time, the constitution allows authorities to prohibit citizens from questioning the validity of such statements. Anyone who does so, either orally or in writing, outside a rigidly prescribed procedure is subject to a fine of up to BZ$5,000 ($2,500), three years’ imprisonment, or both. The Integrity Commission had been dormant for most of its existence since 1994 and last functioned in 2014. In September, 11 opposition members of parliament filed their earnings and assets and called for members of the ruling party to follow. On November 30, after public demonstrations urging good governance measures, the prime minister, with the concurrence of the leader of the opposition appointed seven members to the Integrity Commission who should serve until the end of 2018.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to documents of a ministry or prescribed authority upon written request, although it protects a number of categories, such as documents from the courts or those related to national security, defense, or foreign relations. The government must supply to the Office of the Ombudsman a written reason for any denial of access, the name of the person making the decision, and information on the right to appeal.

There were two cases in which government agencies denied freedom of information requests. Both cases were reported to the Office of the Ombudsman and later resolved.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. According to a September poll conducted by the independent news outlet Pagina Siete, citizens believed corruption and trafficking of influence were the two principal problems facing the government. The poll found that 44 percent of the persons polled believed the government had serious problems with corruption.

Corruption: There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. On February 3, journalist Carlos Valverde released a story about his investigation into trafficking of influence between the government and the CAMC. While the government initially denied the charge of influence peddling, the scandal embroiled government officials in the weeks leading up to the February 21 referendum vote on presidential re-election. On February 26, authorities arrested Gabriela Zapata on charges of illegal enrichment, laundering of unjust gains, and influence trafficking, the same charges the government was fighting. During Zapata’s tenure at CAMC, the company won more than $500 million in no-bid contracts with the government, allegedly due to her ties to the president. Zapata had frequently worked in the First Lady’s office in the Ministry of the Presidency, used a government vehicle, and allegedly had a child with Morales. The formal indictment filed by the prosecution supported these claims, stating that CAMC contracted Zapata because she was “a woman of considerable influence” who had “a direct line to the president of the country.”

After her arrest, Zapata accused the ministers of hydrocarbons, mining, and public works, and Minister of the Presidency Quintana of involvement in the corruption scandal. In response, Quintana, Minister of Transparency Lenny Valdivia, and Minister of Defense Reymi Ferreira tried to discredit the claims of Valverde and redirect the conversation by attacking Gabriela Zapata and others in the media.

Although the president was initially reticent on the CAMC affair, mounting political pressure caused him to call for an investigation into the matter of the CAMC contracts. The State Comptroller, an organization supposedly independent but packed with government loyalists, was the first to investigate. The second investigative body to examine the contracts was the Legislative Assembly, where the MAS party holds a supermajority. The Legislative Assembly absolved President Morales, Quintana, and other government officials involved in the contracts with CAMC of any criminal liability. Zapata, along with a lower-ranking official from the ministry of the presidency and a driver of the ministry car used by Zapata, were under criminal investigation and detention as of November. Opposition party Unidad Democrata used the minority report from the Legislative Commission that investigated the matter to allege that the government was guilty of influence peddling in six of the reviewed CAMC contracts. Other civil society and political actors made similar allegations.

In May, Morales’ private lawyer filed an additional suit against Zapata and her legal team (Eduardo Leon, William Sanchez, and Pilar Guzman) for trafficking in persons, child abduction, falsifying legal documents, and forgery. Zapata and Morales allegedly had a child together in 2007 that they both claimed died shortly thereafter. According to prosecutors Zapata’s lawyers illegally attempted to convince the courts that the child of Zapata and Morales was still alive to show that President Morales had a continuing relationship with Zapata and a reason to support her business ventures.

On July 15, the prosecutor in the case determined there was not enough evidence to sustain any formal complaint against Zapata regarding four of the charges. The prosecutor also absolved the president, the minister of the presidency, directors of CAMC, and other government authorities who were named in the case of any undue influence, corruption, or wrongdoing. Despite these actions, Zapata continued to face a number of charges. On July 27, the government prosecutor presented the following charges against Zapata: laundering of illicit profits, misrepresentation, use of falsified documents, misuse of goods and public services, and conspiracy. As of December she was awaiting trial on these charges in the prison in Miraflores.

Charges against Zapata’s lawyers and others embroiled in the Zapata scandal since February were also pending. Police detained Eduardo Leon, one of Zapata’s former lawyers, on May 17 after the president filed a complaint alleging Leon was guilty of several crimes, including human trafficking. On June 1, authorities placed Leon in pretrial detention under the charge of falsifying his military record in order to obtain his legal license. Following his initial arrest, the Prosecutor’s Office added the charges of fraud and using false documents in official legal proceedings. The Ministry of Education invalidated Leon’s legal license because of the accusation that he obtained it under fraudulent circumstances. The National Bar Association stated the ministry did not have the proper legal authority to take such action. Leon remained in custody awaiting further investigation and trial. Two lawyers who were formerly part of Zapata’s legal team, William Sanchez and Walter Zuleta, fled the country to avoid facing similar charges by the government.

In 2015 a comptroller audit of the government-run Indigenous Fund revealed that as overseer of the fund, former minister of rural development Nemesia Achacollo, helped divert more than 68.3 million bolivianos ($9.98 million) from the fund. According to media reports, Minister of the Presidency Quintana had known of irregularities in the fund since at least February 2014, and several leaders of social organizations stated that Morales knew of the issue but urged silence to keep unity within the social movements. The attorney general filed charges against Achacollo in December 2015 due to mounting political pressure from citizens. Authorities arrested Achacollo in August and placed her in pretrial detention.

Police corruption remained a significant problem, partially due to low salaries and lack of training. The Ministry of Anticorruption and Transparency and the Prosecutor’s Office are responsible for combating corruption, but most corrupt officials operated with impunity.

Cases involving allegations of corruption against the president and vice president require congressional approval before prosecutors may initiate legal proceedings, and congress rarely allowed cases against pro-government public officials to proceed. The government ignored court rulings that found unconstitutional the awarding of immunity for corruption charges.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials to report potential personal and financial conflicts of interest and to declare their income and assets. The law mandates that elected and appointed officials disclose their financial information to the auditor general, but their declarations are not available to the public. According to the law, noncompliance results in internal sanctions, including dismissal. The auditor general must refer cases involving criminal activity to the Attorney General’s Office. There were no reports during the year on the financial disclosures of officials or investigations of those disclosures.

Public Access to Information: The constitution provides for the right to access, interpret, analyze, and communicate information freely in an individual or collective manner. No law implements this right.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption and stipulates civil penalties for corruption committed by Brazilians or Brazilian entities overseas, but the government did not always implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption, and delays in judicial proceedings against those accused of corruption often resulted in de facto impunity for those responsible. In response to a series of high-profile corruption investigations, millions of citizens participated in anticorruption street protests throughout the country during the year.

Corruption: The investigation of the Petrobras state oil company embezzlement scandal (Operation Carwash, or “Lava Jato”), which began in 2014, continued and led to arrests and convictions of money launderers and major construction contractors, and to the investigation, indictment, and conviction of politicians across the political class. Information gained through collaboration and plea bargains with suspects launched a widening net of new investigations. In September federal investigators executed more than 100 search warrants and froze 8.75 billion reais ($2.5 billion) in four of the largest state-run pension funds in an operation called Operation Greenfield. There were also parallel corruption investigations at the federal and state levels that indicated greater anticorruption scrutiny, ranging from federal parastatal entities to contracts with local governments.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials are subject to financial disclosure laws, and officials generally complied with these provisions. Asset declarations are not made public, but federal employees’ salaries and payment information are posted online and can be searched by name.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to unclassified government information. The list of exceptions is sufficiently narrow and includes personal information; information that affects public safety or health, national security, or international relations; and sensitive military and intelligence information. The only fees charged are the costs of printing, copying, and mailing documentation. The government has 20 days to respond to requests and may request an additional 10 days, for a maximum of 30 days, after receiving the request.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively, although officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: On June 16, authorities placed Senator Jaime Orpis in pretrial detention on charges of bribery, tax fraud, and money laundering in connection with his vote on a controversial fishing quota law. Orpis remained under house arrest and the case remained pending at year’s end. Separately, the large financial services organization, Penta Group, and the lithium producer Soquimich, remained under investigation at year’s end for alleged illegal political campaign donations. Prosecutors assert that the organizations evaded taxes by claiming campaign donations as business expenses.

Based on the 2015 recommendations by a government-appointed anticorruption commission, the government passed several laws to improve transparency during the year, including a campaign finance law that establishes limits to private financial contributions to political campaigns and increases the enforcement capacity of the election oversight board. Additionally, the government passed a law increasing penalties for collusion, including jail time and higher fines, which was widely perceived to be the government’s response to allegations that pharmacies, the poultry industry, and toilet paper manufacturers engaged in price fixing.

Financial Disclosure: Law and regulation require income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected officials. Declarations are made available to the public and there are administrative sanctions for noncompliance. On January 5, the president signed into law a provision that expanded the number of public trust positions required to release financial disclosure, mandated disclosure in greater detail, and allowed for stronger penalties for noncompliance.

Public Access to Information: The constitution provides for public access to government information, and the law was effectively implemented. The requirement to provide public access to information applies to ministries; regional, provincial, and municipal level governments; the armed forces, police, and public security forces; and public enterprises where the state owns more than 50 percent or holds a majority of appointments on the board of directors. The law lists five exceptions to disclosure. Responses to requests for information must be delivered within 20 business days, and there is no cost for making a request. In cases of noncompliance, the head of the organization is subject to a fine amounting to approximately 20 to 50 percent of his or her monthly salary. The autonomous Transparency Council serves as an arbitrator in cases in which requests for information are denied, and it makes binding rulings as to whether or not a determination not to release information was correct.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively, although officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices without punishment. The World Bank’s worldwide governance indicators reflected that government corruption was a serious problem. Revenues from transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking, exacerbated corruption.

Corruption: In January media reported 12 persons were arrested for alleged corruption related to ICBF contracts, including the former ICBF regional director in Barranquilla Department and an active CNP officer. According to media reporting, an estimated COP 1.755 trillion ($600 million) was embezzled. Additionally, two ICBF officials were arrested in August for their alleged involvement in a corruption scandal related to contracts worth millions of dollars for the care of minors and pregnant women within the ICBF’s “Cero a Siempre” strategy. The two officials faced charges for crimes, including embezzlement, procedural fraud, forgery of private documents, falsifying a public document, and malfeasance.

A special investigative unit of the Supreme Court of Justice, charged with investigating members of congress and senior government officials, reported that since January 1, it opened one investigation against a former senator; the investigation. During the same period, the unit opened 59 investigations against former governors and 28 against sitting governors but won no convictions in the cases.

The Attorney General’s Office reported that for the year through September, it had investigated 19 attorneys, one comptroller, and 16 other senior government officials. In addition, as of August 25, the Attorney General’s Office was investigating 75 cases of corruption, of which 71 were in the preliminary investigation phase and four had been brought to trial.

Financial Disclosure: By law public officials must file annual financial disclosure forms with the tax authority. The information is not made public. The law states that persons who intend to hold public office or work as contractors for the government for more than three months shall submit a statement of assets and income, as well as information on their private economic activity. The Administrative Department of Public Service is in charge of preparing the required forms, and the human resources chief in each entity is responsible for verifying the information submitted. Congress maintained a website on which members could voluntarily post their financial information.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information, and the government generally provided this access. There were reports that some low-level officials insisted on bribes to expedite access to information.

Costa Rica

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: On March 15, the labor minister resigned for violating a code of ethics that he had helped to promote, after he hired his niece at the ministry. On August 10, a former OIJ secretary general was sentenced to 12 years in prison for embezzlement charges from 2009.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials are subject to financial disclosure laws that require senior officials to submit sworn declarations of income, assets, and liabilities. The law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected officials. The content of the declarations is not made available to the public. The law stipulates administrative sanctions for noncompliance and identifies which assets, liabilities, and interests public officials must declare. Officials are required to file a declaration annually and upon entering and leaving office.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information, and the government generally implemented the law effectively, providing access for citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media. Authorities have 10 days to disclose or respond to a request for access. There are no processing fees or sanctions for noncompliance, although requesters can file a petition if their request is denied. Government institutions published reports that detailed their activities during the year. The Public Ethics Solicitor’s Office provided regular training to public employees on public access to information. The Ombudsman’s Office operated a webpage dedicated to enhancing transparency by improving citizens’ access to public information.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The government took some steps to address official corruption. It continued a process to reform the judiciary, which improved the judiciary’s ability to remove corrupt or ineffective judges. Many civil society activists noted, however, that judges on the higher courts appeared more closely aligned with the current administration, and many questioned the independence of those courts, especially in politicized cases. Media reports alleged police corruption and corruption in public contracts and procurement, including in state-owned companies. Labor leaders and business owners reported corruption among labor inspectors.

Corruption: On May 16, police arrested Alex Bravo, the manager of public oil company PetroEcuador, for influence peddling. On August 10, the Attorney General’s Office modified Bravo’s charges by including the charge of illicit enrichment; later, charges were further expanded to include acceptance of bribes from the company Oil Services & Solutions. On October 5, Alexis Mera, President Correa’s legal secretary, announced that Bravo received $12 million in bribes and kickbacks during his tenure at PetroEcuador. The Attorney General’s Office charged 17 individuals, including Bravo, former minister of hydrocarbons Carlos Pareja, and their relatives in connection with the PetroEcuador corruption case. A Quito criminal court held a preliminary hearing to review evidence on October 21. The judge ordered pretrial detention for nine suspects and prohibited the other suspects from departing the country. According to media reports, 14 of the 17 suspects, including former minister Pareja, had already fled the country. On October 23, the justice and interior ministers announced that the government had requested that Interpol issue “Red Notices” for eight suspects outside of Ecuador. On November 23, prosecutors added charges of illicit enrichment against Pareja, Bravo, and other defendants. On December 2, El Comercio reported that criminal investigations related to money laundering, illicit enrichment, bribery, and organized crime remained in process against 80 individuals, with six under arrest and 24 facing criminal charges. As of December the case remained in progress.

On December 21, unnamed Ecuadorian officials were cited among those taking bribes from the Brazilian construction and engineering company Odebrecht. Odebrecht admitted to making more than $33.5 million in corrupt payments to government officials in Ecuador between 2007 and 2016. The company realized benefits of more than $116 million as a result. As of December 31 an investigation into corruption claims related to public works projects managed by Odebrecht remained in progress.

There were other reported instances of corruption involving lower-level government officials, judges, and police officers. In April the Center for the Study of Bribery and Extortion Situations issued a report that described several cases of extortion experienced by rural women, including monetary demands from police officers and sexual and monetary demands from government officials in rural parishes.

Financial Disclosure: Government officials are required to declare their financial holdings upon taking office and if requested during an investigation. All agencies must disclose salary information annually. The constitution requires civil servants to present a sworn statement regarding their net worth at the beginning and end of their term of office, including their assets and liabilities, as well as an authorization to lift the confidentiality of their bank accounts. All declarations are filed in the offices of public notaries and are entered as a public document. The comptroller general’s website contains a section where the public can conduct a search on officials to see if the officials complied with the income and asset disclosure requirement. There are no criminal or administrative sanctions for noncompliance, except for the inability to assume office. Public officials are not required to submit periodic reports, even when changes occur in their holdings.

Following the May 2015 arrests of a National Assembly member and two other public officials on corruption charges, National Assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira requested that the comptroller general investigate the declared assets of all 137 lawmakers. In May 2016 media reported that six legislators remained under investigation due to possible evidence of criminal liability. As of November 1, the Office of the Comptroller General had not made public the results of the investigation.

Public Access to Information: The constitution and other regulations provide for the right of public access to government information, but authorities did not effectively implement the law. The law requires all public and private organizations that receive public funds to respond to written requests for information, publish specific information on their website, and submit an annual report to the Ombudsman’s Office that details their compliance with the transparency law. Because of this legislation, government agencies increasingly included budget information, functions, organizational information, lists of government officers, and official notices on the internet in addition to responding to written requests. Nevertheless, the government did not always grant requests for information, and the government made exceptions, stating that the requested information was not available. Judges did not enforce the legislation requiring the government to release information.

Opposition legislators complained that although the law allows them to request information directly from government institutions, President Correa instructed government ministers to respond only to requests for information channeled through the president of the National Assembly.

El Salvador

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. The NGO Social Initiative for Democracy stated that officials, particularly in the judicial system, often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: Autonomous government institutions initiated several investigations into corruption. In late 2015 the Probity Section of the Supreme Court began, for the first time, to investigate seriously allegations of illicit enrichment of public officials. The Supreme Court reported that, as of July 22, the Probity Section investigated 72 current and former public officials for evidence of illicit enrichment and submitted five cases to the Attorney General’s Office for possible criminal investigation. As of July 18, the Attorney General’s Office reported investigating 93 cases related to corruption, resulting in seven convictions.

Attorney General Douglas Melendez, elected by the legislature in January, initiated criminal investigations of several public officials for corruption during the year. On June 6, the police arrested Apopa mayor Elias Hernandez on gang-related charges of illicit association, making threats, and aggravated homicide. On August 17, the Attorney General’s Office executed search warrants on seven properties related to former president Mauricio Funes (2009-14) and opened a criminal corruption case against him. The government of Nicaragua granted Funes asylum on September 2. On August 22, police arrested former attorney general Luis Martinez and businessperson Enrique Rais on charges related to corruption. On October 30, former President Antonio “Tony” Saca (2004-09) was arrested on corruption-related charges, including embezzlement and money laundering, stemming from an alleged conspiracy to divert $18 million in government funds to private accounts. On November 5, a judge denied his bail.

Financial Disclosure: The illicit enrichment law requires appointed and elected officials to declare their assets to the Probity Section of the Supreme Court. The declarations are not available to the public, and the law does not establish sanctions for noncompliance. On May 12, the Supreme Court established three criteria for selecting which cases to investigate: the age of the case (i.e., proximity to the statute of limitations), the relevance of the position, and the seriousness and notoriety of the alleged illicit enrichment.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for the right of access to government information, but authorities did not always effectively implement the law. The law establishes mechanisms to appeal denials of information and report noncompliance with other aspects of the law. As of July, the Institute for Access to Public Information had formally received 1,001 cases, 81 percent of which had been resolved. The law gives a narrow list of exceptions that outline the grounds for nondisclosure and provide for a reasonably short timeline for the relevant authority to respond, no processing fees, and administrative sanctions for noncompliance.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, but officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year, many of which the Public Ministry and CICIG investigated and prosecuted on charges including money laundering, illegal political party financing, and bribery.

Corruption: The Comptroller General’s Office and the Public Ministry are responsible for combating corruption. The comptroller general’s mandate is to monitor public spending, and the attorney general’s mandate is to prosecute related crimes. Although both agencies actively collaborated with civil society and were relatively independent, they lacked adequate resources, which affected their ability to carry out their mandates.

On June 2, the Public Ministry accused former president Otto Perez Molina and former vice president Roxana Baldetti of money laundering and illegal political party financing. The Public Ministry/CICIG investigation eventually linked the case to additional charges against the former ministers of defense, government, energy and mines, and communications for using illicit funds to provide lavish gifts to Perez Molina and Baldetti. The government issued approximately 70 arrest warrants targeting former government officials and the highest levels of the banking, state procurement, telecommunications, media, construction, agricultural, and pharmaceutical sectors. On August 4, a high-risk court sent 28 defendants who were deemed a flight risk to pretrial detention and ordered house arrest for 19 more. Perez Molina and Baldetti were in pretrial detention since 2015.

On September 13, President Morales announced that his son Jose Manuel Morales and brother Sammy Morales would cooperate in a corruption investigation based on the allegation that they procured false invoices in 2013. The case involved former public registrar Anabella de Leon, who allegedly used these invoices in a corruption scheme that defrauded the government through phony contracts.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials who earn more than 8,000 quetzals ($1,064) per month or who manage public funds are subject to financial disclosure laws overseen and enforced by the Comptroller General’s Office. The financial disclosures were available to the public upon request. Administrative and criminal sanctions apply for inadequate or falsified disclosures of assets.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for the right of citizens to access public information and establishes fines for government agencies that obstruct such access. The disclosure law contains exceptions for national security, sets reasonably short timelines for disclosure, and allows for a reasonable processing fee. There are no sanctions for noncompliance. The government granted access to public information for citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media, although at times in a slow and incomplete manner. Human rights groups criticized the delay by the Ministry of Defense in releasing information related to transitional justice cases. While there was no formal mechanism to appeal denials of requests, petitioners often successfully appealed to the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman for assistance relating to a government denial of public information.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year, and administration officials responded to the reports. There remained a widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels, including the police and the judiciary.

Corruption: In July a police investigation found that Omar Shariff, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of the Presidency, had more than 10 billion Guyanese dollars (GYD) ($500 million) in his personal bank accounts. Media reports suggested the money was accumulated through money laundering and tax evasion dealings spanning numerous years. Shariff was placed on annual leave and remained off the job. As of November there were no reports that a legal case had been made against Shariff.

Financial Disclosure: Although the law requires public officials to declare their assets to an integrity commission, the commission had not been constituted by year’s end. The law sets out both criminal and administrative sanctions for nondisclosure. If a person fails to file a declaration, that fact can be published in the daily newspapers and the official Gazette. Failure to comply with the law can lead to a summary conviction, fines, and imprisonment for six to 12 months. If property is not disclosed as required, the magistrate convicting the defendant must order the defendant to make a full disclosure within a set time. No such publication or convictions occurred during the year.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for persons to secure access to information under the control of public authorities and for the appointment of a commissioner of information. In 2013 the government appointed a commissioner but did not issue implementing regulations. Requests to the commissioner were infrequent.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties on public officials for corruption, but authorities did not implement the law effectively. Government institutions were subject to corruption and political influence, and some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Insufficient internal controls and lack of training in public resource management contributed to the corruption and lack of transparency. The government took steps to address corruption at high levels in government agencies, including arresting and charging members of congress, judges, prosecutors, current and former senior officials, including presidential staffers from previous administrations, mayors and other local authorities, and police officers.

Following large-scale public protests in the spring of 2015 against government corruption, in January the government signed an agreement with the Organization of American States to install the MACCIH. The MACCIH began operations in the country on April 19, with an initial focus on police reform, electoral reform, and emblematic cases of public sector corruption networks.

Former president Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero (1990-94) was among 16 persons accused of corruption in 2015 for actions related to the International Federation of Association Football scandal. Callejas surrendered to foreign authorities in December 2015, and on March 28, he pled guilty in a foreign court to eight charges of organized crime, fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Corruption: Prosecutions of public-sector corruption predominantly targeted low-level officials and focused on charges of abuse of authority and misconduct in public office, which were easier to prove but carried lower penalties than illicit enrichment, fraud, and money laundering. Since the 2014 indictment of the entire board of directors of the Social Security Institute (IHSS), however, there was an increase in indictments of higher-level officials. Since 2014 prosecutors had filed charges against 54 persons in the IHSS scandal, including former ministers, business executives, and labor leaders; prosecutors charged many in multiple cases. As of December 20, there had been five convictions related to the IHSS scandal, including prominent business executive Jose Bertetty. Courts issued three of these convictions during the year. Many cases were in the appeals stage (a case can be appealed before it goes to trial). In June 2015 the government brought charges against public officials at the Ministry of Health and employees of the private company Astropharma, including then vice president of the National Congress, Lena Gutierrez, and three members of her family. In August the court of appeals ruled that the case could continue to trial. On August 8, the Financial Crimes Task Force executed a search warrant at LAIN (International Labs) and seized evidence to support a new line of investigation in the Astropharma case. Trial court judges were selected on September 7. On December 16, former IHSS director Mario Zelaya was convicted on firearms charges; he faced trial on seven additional charges including bribery and money laundering.

There were reports that the government’s anticorruption institutions did not take sufficient steps to contain high-level corruption and were unwilling or lacked the professional capacity and resources to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those involved. The civil society organization National Anticorruption Council has an investigative unit of 15 persons. The council receives government funding, which obliges it to disclose the names of its investigators, making them more vulnerable to reprisals. NGOs reported that some individuals who reported public corruption received threats.

In August the domestic NGO (and chapter of Transparency-International), Association for a More Just Society (ASJ) published a report reviewing public corruption in the country for the seven years prior to 2015. The report revealed that during those years the Public Ministry received 3,471 complaints about public corruption and issued 283 indictments. The ASJ tried to review the case files of 165 of the indictments, but it was unable to find 55 case files in the court system. Of the cases it reviewed, nine had resulted in convictions, 29 were resolved without a conviction, and 14 had been open for more than three years without resolution, which the ASJ defined as impunity. In 2015 there were 28 convictions for public-sector corruption, and as of August, there had been 19 such convictions. Among those convicted during the year were two members of Congress, a former government minister, a judge, current and former mayors, and two individuals associated with the IHSS scandal.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials are subject to financial disclosure laws but did not always comply. The law mandates that the Supreme Auditing Tribunal monitor and verify disclosures. The tribunal published its reports on its website and published the names of public officials who did not comply with disclosure laws.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information, and the government generally implemented this law effectively. In 2014, however, the National Congress passed a controversial law giving the National Security and Defense Council the authority to classify information that puts national security or defense at risk. NGOs and some members of Congress criticized both the breadth of the law and the manner in which it was approved.

All institutions receiving public funding are required to disclose their expenditures and present an annual report of their activities in the prior year to the National Congress 40 days after the end of the fiscal year. IAIP operated a website through which citizens could request information from government agencies. IAIP is responsible for verifying that government institutions comply with transparency rules and practices for access to public information. In June IAIP reviewed 133 government entities, to include municipalities, on their compliance with transparency regulations. IAIP rated 35 percent of these entities “excellent,” 10 percent “good,” 12 percent “bad,” and 48 percent received its lowest rating of “deficient.” IAIP reported that it sanctioned the entities deemed deficient with fines of up to five minimum salaries ($2,000). In July, IAIP also asked the government to suspend 10 officials without pay for five days whose organizations received deficient ratings, including nine mayors, and the Minister of Education, Marlon Escoto, due to his role as rector of the National Agricultural University.

If a government agency denies a request for public information, the denied party can submit a claim to IAIP, which has the authority to fine entities for failing to comply with legitimate requests.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not enforce the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Executive branch officials continued to disburse economic and developmental assistance funds lent by the Venezuelan-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which averaged more than $550 million dollars per year from 2010 to 2013 but has recently plummeted to approximately $200 million in 2016, outside the normal budgetary process controlled by the legislature. The media reported that ALBA-funded contracts were awarded to companies with ties to the Ortega family and noted the funds from Venezuela served as a separate budget tightly controlled by the FSLN, with little public oversight. Cases of mismanagement of these funds by public officials were reportedly handled personally by members of the ruling party, rather than by the government entities in charge of oversight of public funds.

Independent media, human rights groups, and opposition parties reported President Ortega’s administration blurred distinctions between the FSLN and the government through its use of FSLN-led family cabinets (community-based bodies that administer government social programs) and party-controlled Sandinista leadership committees (CLSs). The government administered subsidized food, housing, vaccinations, access to clinics, and other benefits directly through either the family cabinets or CLS system, which reportedly often coerced citizens into FSLN membership and denied services to opposition members. Persons seeking to obtain or retain public sector employment, national identity documents, or voter registration were obliged to obtain recommendation letters from CLS block captains. The government continued to devolve legal responsibilities to family cabinets, specifically regarding mediation processes in cases of domestic violence.

Indigenous leaders, property owners, and civil society organizations continued to request detailed information and express objections to the 2013 100-year concession given to the Hong Kong Nicaraguan Canal Development Investment Company to build and operate an interoceanic canal through the country. A number of organizations, human rights groups, and landowners, collectively known as the National Council for the Defense of our Land, Lake, and National Sovereignty, tried formally to challenge the law that allows the concession in both the National Assembly and the CSJ. Both institutions, however, blocked these requests.

Corruption: Companies reported that bribery of public officials, unlawful seizures, and arbitrary assessments by customs and tax authorities were common. In a survey of 2,500 companies, one-third of all respondents reported arbitrary and illegal actions by government offices that regulate property rights and business establishment.

The courts remained particularly susceptible to bribes, manipulation, and other forms of corruption, especially by the FSLN, giving the sense that the FSLN heavily influenced CSJ and lower-level court actions. In February the press reported on the release of more than 8,000 prisoners since 2014 through a program that existed outside the Ministry of Interior and bypassed the legal judicial process that provides judges sole authorization for prisoner releases. The government confirmed the release and justified it as a program to provide for the humanitarian release of prisoners and reunite families. Human rights organizations, however, noted that several prisoners who had previously received court orders for release, issued through the judicial system, remained incarcerated. Private-sector representatives additionally reported an increase in judicial corruption for extorting money.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials were subject to financial disclosure laws. The law requires these declarations be made public and provides for sanctions in cases of noncompliance. In practice few public officers made these declarations public, and there was no public record of sanctions for noncompliance. The Office of the Comptroller is responsible for combating corruption within government agencies and offices. Observers, however, questioned the impartiality of the comptroller, especially concerning the lack of oversight of ALBA funds given directly to the government. Since 2007 the comptroller had not investigated any government office or mandated sanctions due to noncompliance as required by law.

Public Access to Information: Although the law mandates public access to government information and statistics, lack of transparency and access to information remained serious problems. Government budget documents were widely and easily accessible to the general public, but they did not provide a complete picture of revenues and expenditures. For example, the government did not account for the expenditure of significant off-budget assistance from Venezuela (see above), and this assistance was not subject to audit or legislative oversight. Delays and denial of information were common, while appeals mechanisms were overly burdensome and slow. Control of government information is centralized in the Communication and Citizenship Council, headed by First Lady Rosario Murillo, but there is no provision for that office in the law. Media and civil society organizations, such as CINCO and Foundation Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, repeatedly reported that requests for official information without express authorization from the council were often refused. The law provides for exceptions to disclosure in cases related to national security and trade secrets. There are no mandated timelines for compliance with disclosure requests.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively; however, there were allegations that government officials and members of the previous government administration engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption remained a problem in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches as well as in the security forces.

Anticorruption mechanisms such as asset forfeiture, whistleblower, and witness protection, plea bargaining, and professional conflict-of-interest rules exist.

Corruption: The National Authority for Transparency and Access to Public Information (ANTAI) combats and investigates government corruption. During the year there were several credible allegations of corruption against current or former members of the government.

In March the government established the High Level Secretariat to Prevent Corruption (SEPRECO) to improve transparency. As a pilot program under ANTAI’s authority, SEPRECO was tasked with preventing corruption in public bids and payment of bribes and protecting foreign investment.

In April, the Tenth District Penal judge sentenced a former Social Security Fund finance and managing director, Alberto Maggiori, to eight years in prison for embezzlement in awarding two linked companies contracts of more than two million dollars in 2011 and 2012. Maggiori also faced criminal charges in a different corruption case.

The anticorruption prosecutor continued the investigation of Panama Canal Authority board member Lourdes Castillo, her business partner Samuel Israel, and his wife Alexandra de Israel, for alleged payment of bribes in 2014 in exchange for a contract with the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP). Former president Martinelli approved a contract for Pele System without its participation in the bidding process. The new administration filed a complaint based on an alleged overpayment of 12 million balboas ($12 million) to Pele System. The anticorruption prosecutor’s investigation found that Pele System made payments to Castillo and the Israel couple’s businesses incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

Corruption and a lack of accountability among the police continued to be a problem, though the government took steps to address violations. Thirty-two agents were dismissed on corruption grounds and were under investigation by the Public Ministry. The agents included a police captain and a lieutenant arrested in August along with 11 others for allegedly falsifying prisoners’ records and altering criminal sentences as well as former civilian agents from the penitentiary system who allegedly charged up to 70,000 balboas ($70,000) to assist gang members to leave prison early.

To address police corruption at the prisons, the 2015 PNP policy requiring members of the PNP who serve as prison guards to rotate to other police functions after two years continued. The policy aims to reduce corrupt behavior by preventing PNP guards from remaining at one prison for an extended period; the PNP also began to provide a monthly bonus of 35 balboas ($35) for each agent assigned to the prisons to reduce incentives for corruption.

The case against former minister of labor Alma Cortes related to charges of illicit enrichment continued. The prosecutor claimed Cortes could not justify how she accrued two million dollars in assets and bank accounts while serving as minister of labor. Cortes was detained in August.

In August, ANTAI opened an investigation regarding AMP Director General Jorge Barakat’s alleged receipt of basketball game tickets valued at more than 1,000 balboas ($1,000) from an AMP contractor; he attended the game during an official trip.

In August the former Agriculture Institute director general under the current administration, Edwin Cardenas, was detained under charges of mismanagement of more than six million dollars of public funds. The fourth anticorruption prosecutor charged Cardenas for wrongdoings from July 2014 through April 2015.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires certain executive and judiciary officials to submit a financial disclosure statement to the Comptroller General’s Office. The information is not made public unless the official grants permission for access to the public.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to information about public entities, with the exception of cabinet meeting minutes. Public procurement notices are posted online. ANTAI statistics as of July showed 24 of 43 new requests for access to information had been fulfilled; the others remained pending as of August. Citizens can appeal denials of information to the Supreme Court. Deadlines are 30 days, and there are no processing fees. There are sanctions, primarily fines, for noncompliance.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Corruption in all branches and at all levels of government remained widespread, with hundreds of cases of embezzlement, tax evasion, falsified documents, and criminal association. Cases typically spent several years in the courts. Under a law that prohibits court cases from lasting longer than four years, politicians and influential individuals convicted in lower courts routinely avoided punishment by filing appeals and motions until reaching the statute of limitation. Although indictments and convictions for corruption of low- and mid-level public officials occur with regularity, high-ranking public officials enjoy a high degree of impunity. Sometimes such officials are forced to resign or are indicted, but formal complaints rarely lead to convictions.

Corruption: On July 7, the Economic Crimes and Corruption Unit of the Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into the Chief of Defense, Luis Gonzaga Garcete, and his wife, Lucia Duarte de Garcete, for fraud and abuse of authority associated with the misuse of approximately Gs. 38.5 billion ($7 million) of public funds. On August 19, the Attorney General’s Office transferred the investigation to the Supreme Court of Military Justice due to jurisdiction concerns. No charges were filed and the investigation was pending as of November 1.

On June 21, a Paraguayan court of appeals upheld sentences handed down December 15, 2015, against 12 executive directors and board members of the Itaipu Pension Fund for the breach of trust and fraud involving $48 million. The court sentenced Victor Bogado Nunez and Mariano Escurra Vicesar to 14 years in prison; Felix Villamayor, Cesar Bejarano, and Walter Delgado to 12 years; Ricardo Antonio Perreira Polleti to 10 years; Jose Szwako, Jose Alonso, and Pabla Mieres to eight years; Cibar Insfran to four years; and, Gustavo Dure Almada and Edgar Mengual Herken to three years. The Attorney General’s Office stated the courts overcame 1,200 motions presented by defense attorneys to arrive at the sentences.

Financial Disclosure: The constitution requires all public employees, including elected officials and employees of independent government entities, to disclose their income and assets within 15 days of taking office or receiving an appointment and again within 15 days of finishing their term or assignment. Public employees must also disclose assets and income of spouses and dependent children.

The law mandates the Comptroller’s Office monitor and verify disclosures; the Comptroller may make income and asset disclosures public only at the request of the executive branch, congress, the Attorney General’s Office, or judicial authorities. The Attorney General’s Office opened several investigations for inconsistencies related to these disclosures.

The law bars public employees from holding government positions for up to 10 years for failure to comply with financial disclosure laws and imposes monetary fines of up to Gs. 19.1 million ($3,350), but this was generally not enforced. Filings often were late, incomplete, or misleading, and many simply did not disclose their finances. Legislators generally ignored the law with impunity, using political immunity to avoid investigation or prosecution.

Public Access to Information: The constitution guarantees public access to government information. Citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media representatives, had access to government information.

From January 1 to September 1, the Public Access to Information Unit in the Ministry of Justice received and responded to 1,162 requests for information. Since the access to information law entered into force in 2015, more than 80 public offices, from all branches and levels of government, have opened an office to receive and manage information requests. The executive branch, through the Ministry of Justice and the Secretariat for Information and Communication Technology, created a “one-stop-shopping” website for citizens to file information requests and find data pertaining to other requests. The website provides statistics and infographics on the number of requests filed by month, by public office, and by location. As of September 1, the website has processed over 2,100 requests.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for officials engaged in corruption; however, the government did not always implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Citizens continued to view corruption as a pervasive problem in all branches of national, regional, and local governments.

Corruption: The governmental Public Service Office, which reports directly to the cabinet, manages a registry of former government officials who are no longer eligible for public service due to corruption crimes. Between 2014 and November 2016, various courts had convicted three of 26 former and sitting regional governors of corruption charges, and another six remained under preliminary or full investigation.

There were allegations of widespread corruption in the judicial system during the year. Although not fully implemented in Lima and Callao, the government applied the new criminal procedure code to corruption cases in these judicial districts. In 2015 authorities dismissed then attorney general Carlos Ramos Heredia for impeding investigations into corruption networks orchestrated by former regional governor Cesar Alvarez and businessman Rodolfo Orellana. In 2014 authorities had arrested Alvarez for homicide and corruption-related crimes and Orellana for fraud and money laundering. Both were accused of bribing vast networks of police officers, judges, prosecutors, and other public officials to protect themselves from prosecution. A special congressional investigative commission, the Public Ministry, and the National Magistrates Council continued investigations into the networks. As of November the government renewed its pretrial detention of Alvarez, and the case against him and Orellana remained pending.

Members of Congress enjoy congressional immunity and may not be prosecuted for any acts during their time in the legislature. In the case of flagrant crimes, the judicial branch may request that Congress lift immunity and allow the arrest of a member. By law congressional immunity does not apply to crimes committed before the member was sworn in, but it impeded most prosecutions in practice.

Corruption in prisons remained a serious problem during the year, with continuing cases of guards cooperating with criminal bosses who oversaw the smuggling of guns and drugs into prisons. There were several reports of military corruption, impunity, and resistance in providing evidence on military personnel under investigation for human rights abuses committed during the country’s internal conflict against the Shining Path. Security forces continued to strengthen accountability with mandatory human rights training.

Financial Disclosure: By law most public officials must submit personal financial information to the Office of the Comptroller General prior to taking office and periodically thereafter. The Comptroller General’s Office monitors and verifies disclosures, but the law was not strongly enforced. Administrative sanctions for noncompliance range from 30-day to one-year suspensions, include bans on signing government contracts, and culminate with a ban from holding government office. The comptroller makes disclosures available to the public. On November 26, the government issued anew law under congressionally granted legislative powers to enable the Superintendency of Banks’ Financial Intelligence Unit to access individual or corporate tax records and bank accounts to investigate allegations of money laundering and other crimes.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information, and most ministries and central offices provided some information on websites. Implementation of the law was incomplete, particularly outside of Lima, where few citizens exercised or understood their right to information. The ombudsman encouraged regional governments to adopt more-transparent practices for releasing information and monitored their compliance with the requirement for public hearings at least twice a year.

The law has a narrow list of exceptions and grounds for not releasing certain government records. Government officials may exclude the release of classified information, information concerning national security, intelligence, police investigations, and details surrounding advanced technology. The law requires a reasonable timeline for officials to disclose financial information. The Ombudsman’s Office reported that response times to information requests submitted to the Constitutional Court were often lengthy, varying from 18 to 36 months. The law also imposes administrative, but not criminal sanctions for noncompliance.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Although the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the government did not implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption, but no cases came to trial during the year.

Corruption: Allegations of corruption grew more prevalent as the economy deteriorated throughout the year. Allegations included government contracting to political party insiders and supporters. There continued to be questions regarding the transparency of government decisions to issue mineral and timber concession rights. There was a continuing widespread perception that officials used public power for private gain.

Civil society, media, and other nongovernmental parties particularly scrutinized and criticized the Ministries of Natural Resources, Public Works, Social Affairs, Justice and Police, Education, and Physical Planning, alleging widespread corruption and favoritism.

The Attorney General’s Office showed a willingness to investigate claims of corruption throughout the year. In August 2015 the office launched a criminal investigation of officials of Energie Bedrijven Suriname (EBS), the state-owned electricity company, based on a report by the Central Government Accounting Office which identified numerous financial irregularities including payments for nondelivered goods and unauthorized contracting. Three persons were under investigation in this case. In August authorities announced the prosecution of one of the suspects.

In October the minister of justice and police reported that the bribery and arson investigations at the Alien Affairs Department, which began in September 2015, were unlikely to result in criminal charges. Initially the investigation targeted bribes allegedly taken for issuance of residency permits. Then, days after the minister dismissed all suspected staffers, an arsonist burned down the building housing the Alien Affairs Department, which was conducting the investigation.

Financial Disclosure: Officials were not subject to financial disclosure laws.

Public Access to Information: No law requires public disclosure of information. Although occasionally granted, access remained very limited in certain areas. There is a centralized office for media and information requests under the Office of the President. Gaps in official government statistics and bureaucratic hurdles made obtaining information difficult. There were no administrative or criminal sanctions for nondisclosure and no appeals mechanism.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. While officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices that authorities addressed with appropriate legal action, the country was considered to have a low level of corruption, according to Transparency International.

Corruption: No cases of official corruption occurred or were publicized during the year.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected officials. Each year the presidentially appointed Transparency and Ethics Board lists the names of government officials expected to file a declaration on its web page and informs the individuals’ organizations of those expected to comply. The incumbent, the judiciary, a special parliamentary committee, or the board may access the information in the declarations (by majority vote of the board). The board may direct an official’s office to retain 50 percent of the employee’s salary until the declaration is presented, and it may publish the names of those who fail to comply in the federal register. While there is a requirement for filing, there is no review of the filings absent an allegation of wrongdoing.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for general access to public information, defined as all information held by a government entity unless considered classified. The law requires government agencies to make public their organizational charts, responsibilities, salaries, and budget allotment and to produce regular reports. Authorities effectively implemented the law; there were no public outreach activities to encourage its use.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by government officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Some government officials explicitly acknowledged impunity for corruption as a major problem. The government frequently investigated and prosecuted its political opponents on corruption charges to harass, intimidate, or imprison them. The Public Ministry cited numerous examples of investigations, stemming largely from improprieties in the distribution and sale of price-controlled items and in government currency allocations.

Corruption: The government continued a campaign to combat corruption through fast-track authority and executive powers, but critics contended the government’s efforts focused only on low- to mid-level public officials while targeting high-level opposition politicians. The campaign included enforcement against smuggling of goods carried out by private citizens as part of what the government calls the fight against the “economic war” waged by the political opposition and foreign governments. According to the NGO Transparency Venezuela, weak government institutions and a lack of transparency allowed public officials at all levels to participate in corrupt activity with impunity. The National Assembly conducted its own corruption investigations, including against Rafael Ramirez, former head of PDVSA and current Venezuela Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Although well- publicized, these activities yielded no results.

On August 17, a court sentenced two executives of the state-owned airline Conviasa to four and one-half years in prison for their involvement in an overpricing scheme.

Corruption was a major problem in all police forces, whose members were generally poorly paid and minimally trained. There was no information publicly available about the number of cases involving police and military officials during the year, although the Public Ministry publicized several individual cases against police officers for soliciting bribes and other corrupt activities.

In a June 14 report, Transparency Venezuela criticized the widespread practice of nepotism in the government and cited the example of Controller General Manuel Gallindo, who employed at least 13 close family members in his office.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials, as well as all directors and members of the boards of private companies, to submit sworn financial disclosure statements. By law the Public Ministry and competent criminal courts may require such statements from any other persons when circumstantial evidence arises during an investigation. In 2015 (the most recent data available) the Public Ministry cited 19,562 complaints or grievances of corruption, leading to charges against 4,119 individuals.

Public Access to Information: Although the law provides for public access to government information, human rights groups reported the government routinely ignored this requirement. The law requires a government agency to respond to a petition within 20 days of filing. The agency must also notify the applicant within five days of any missing information needed to process the request. Government agencies are subject to sanctions if they do not respond to a request. If the agency rejects the petition, an individual may file another petition or appeal to a higher level within the government agency. The agency must respond to the appeal within 15 days. The Pro Access Coalition, composed of NGOs advocating for the right to access public information, released a study in 2013 noting the government ignored 94 percent of citizen petitions for information, a trend cited as continuing during the year.

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