2018 is a momentous year in Latin America. Elections have been or are scheduled to be held in 14 countries in the region. However, trust in political institutions has been shaken in many quarters on account of corruption, violence and impunity. For example, Brazil’s Odebrecht Group bribed numerous leading politicians from several countries in the region in order to secure billion dollar state construction contracts, thus triggering the biggest corruption scandal in the history of Latin America.
The rate of violence is higher than on any other continent; 43 of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world are in Latin America. At the same time, the region is home to nine of the 13 countries with the highest level of impunity worldwide.
The Federal Government has therefore once again stepped up its efforts to promote the rule of law. The objective is to work together to stabilise democracy and citizens’ trust in a functioning state. Both sides hope that this will inject fresh impetus into economic development.
Minister of State Niels Annen recently said the following at the Latin America Day in Hamburg:
I firmly believe that we can benefit from each other and create sustainable growth with close cooperation and on the basis of our shared values.
Mexico as a key country
The situation regarding the rule of law and human rights is particularly difficult in Mexico. In 2017, 29,000 people were killed violently, the rate of impunity is extremely high and thousands of people have “disappeared”. Journalists, human rights activists and also politicians are increasingly exposed to open violence. The newly elected Government under Lopez Obrador has signalled that it will step up efforts to change this. Germany is supporting the Office of the Attorney General in Mexico with technical expertise to help it investigate more cases of people who have disappeared under violent circumstances and ensure better protection for victims of violence. Germany is advising the Office in areas such as criminal law and forensic technology and medicine. This is a small but important step towards restoring trust in state institutions.
Trust in state action
Germany is working with various actors to help regain this trust in many other countries in the region. Whether specialist seminars with judges in Brazil, support for setting up election committees in El Salvador or funding for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, the focus here is on fundamental functions of the state that citizens are able to depend on. Partners are diverse and range from UNDP to GIZ to German political foundations.