Corruption as a Habit

Proportion of people who have paid a bribe in the last year to access a public service: in Panama 38%, in Honduras 33%, in El Salvador 31%, in Nicaragua 30%, in Guatemala 28% and in Costa Rica, 24%.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


The report "People and Corruption: Latin America and the Caribbean", prepared by Transparency International, shows how inhabitants of Latin American countries have got used to corruption: from the scandalous cases at the highest political level to under the table payments which are made on a daily basis when carrying out procedures as simple as requesting medical care in a public hospital or obtaining a document from a public office.

The report notes that, at the Latin American level, "... less than a third of the citizens who had used a public service in the previous 12 months paid a bribe (29%). Depending on the country's bribe rates and the size of its adult population, this amounts to more than 90 million people living in the 20 countries surveyed in the region.

This is how people in Central American countries responded when asked: "How often have you had to pay a bribe, give a gift or do a favor to: a teacher or school official; a health worker or a member of staff in a clinic or hospital, a government official to obtain a document, a government official to receive public services, a police officer, or a judge or judicial officer, or have you never done so?"

Percentage of people who have paid bribes when accessing public services: 

El Salvador: 31%
Costa Rica: 24%
Panama: 38%
Guatemala: 28%
Honduras: 33%
Nicaragua: 30%

Who pays bribes? 

The report states: "...We determined that 25% of the better-off people in the region paid a bribe to access basic services while 30% of the poorest people also did so. However, since poor people have lower disposable incomes, bribery payments can represent an absolutely disproportionate burden on their limited resources."

See Transparency International Report: "People and Corruption: Latin America and the Caribbean" (in Spanish).

More on this topic

Odebrecht: An Open Secret

January 2017

The revelation that the brazilian construction company paid nearly $60 million in bribes in Panama is a clear wake-up call to society and the private sector, which must demand transparency in government procurement processes.


Former President of Odebrecht Convicted

March 2016

The court ruling that imposed a 19 year prison sentence has forced a review of the projects being managed by the company in the region, where two projects which are underway in Panama alone, total $2.4 billion.

On March 8th the Brazilian justice system condemned Marcelo Odebrecht, former CEO of the largest Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht, to 19 years and 4 months in prison and to pay a fine of $35 million along with executives from the group for the payment of about $65 million in bribes to officials in the case of corruption in the state run oil company Petrobras, reported La Prensa. The ruling mentioned fraud in tenders, where bribes were also paid for the award of the works.

Guatemala: Opportunities for Honest Entrepreneurs

June 2015

Following revelations about corruption at the highest level and the processing of those involved, it is unlikely that an official will request bribe money from a businessman.


Some analysts are concerned about the effect of allegations of corruption in Guatemala, noting that it will increase mistrust and the instability in economic activity, which could even have a negative effect because of the greater weight of the Guatemalan economy in Central America, over other countries in the region.

Too Much Corruption In Government Procurement

September 2013

World Bank statistics show that every day, about $1.3 billion are paid in bribes related to state contracts.

The figures were mentioned by Michael Kramer, a consultant at the entity, who is taking part in the forum "Preventing and combating corruption and collusion in public procurements", taking place in Panama.

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