AQ Feature

Introducing Latin America’s Top 5 “Corruption Busters”

The crackdown on graft sweeping Latin America is historic. Americas Quarterly magazine celebrates the leaders.
Corruption Busters

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Meet the 5 leaders of Latin America's historic crackdown on corruption

This piece is adapted from Americas Quarterly's first issue of 2016

Corruption has been a problem in the Americas for centuries. But something different – and, we think, historic – is happening right now.

From Brazil to Guatemala and beyond, a new generation of prosecutors, judges and activists is making extraordinary progress. These brave, highly skilled “corruption busters” are prosecuting offenders and sending them to jail in unprecedented numbers – no matter how powerful they are.

If this crackdown continues, it will go down as one of the most important changes to Latin America in the 21st century. It will strengthen democracies. It will make the business world more transparent, and more open to new players. And it will help reduce poverty and inequality, as the billions of dollars lost to graft every year are redirected toward the neediest.

Here at Americas Quarterly, we’ve decided to celebrate five distinguished leaders behind this trend. They are: Sérgio Moro, the Brazilian judge overseeing the probe at Petrobras; Iván Velásquez and Thelma Aldana, the Colombian prosecutor and Guatemalan attorney general whose joint investigation led to the imprisonment of a Guatemalan president; José Ugaz, the Peruvian prosecutor and global chair of Transparency International; and Viridiana Rios, a Mexican activist and academic whom we chose as a symbol of the younger generation of Latin Americans agitating for change on social media.

Below, you’ll see a video and links to profiles that explain who they are, and tell their stories of bravery and persistence. (The image on our cover, by the way, is a photo illustration put together by an artist based on a certain 1984 movie.)

We are in awe of them. And we hope they continue to enjoy great success.

Winter is the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly.


AQ Top 5 Corruption Busters: Sérgio Moro

Sérgio Moro is a star, and it’s no mystery why. The young Brazilian judge pried the lid off a far-reaching graft scheme that had siphoned more than $3 billion from the state-run oil firm into the wallets of high-profile officials and political parties.

AQ Top 5 Corruption Busters: Iván Velásquez

His name shows up in graffiti all over Guatemala City —“Thank you, Iván!” But this Colombian-born prosecutor downplays any talk of courage. “Fear is not an element present in my analysis,” he said. “I don’t think about the risks.”

AQ Top 5 Corruption Busters: José Ugaz

"He knows how to make sure people go to jail." The Peruvian jurist who led corruption investigations of former president Alberto Fujimori is now shaking things up as the global chair of Transparency International.

AQ Top 5 Corruption Busters: Thelma Aldana

One observer called her appointment as Guatemala's attorney general “a slap in the face to reformers.” But Thelma Aldana's dogged work as the country's top prosecutor silenced her critics - and made possible the investigations that toppled a president.

AQ Top 5 Corruption Busters: Viridiana Rios

While the tools are new, the targets are not: Rios wants to use social media and big data to address the violence, poverty and inequality that have long troubled her native Mexico.
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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.

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