The pandemic left us convalescent and in a deep crisis from which we are still trying to emerge. Although we are moving towards an almost total opening and “normality” may be returning, there are several aspects that have been affected and with which we are struggling.

One of them is the rule of law, which weakened globally for the fifth consecutive year, according to the latest “Rule of Law Index” of the World Justice Project (WJP). In other words, we live in a less equitable world, with more fragile institutions, eroded trust, and less transparency. With this, we see a threatened democracy and, indeed, countries in the region are already plunged into populism and/or authoritarianism, seeing how their freedom of expression and information is curtailed.

Although Chile is ranked 33rd out of 140 countries, and third in the region, it fell one place. The first and second places are occupied by Uruguay and Costa Rica, respectively. Although we could say that dropping one place is not a big deal, the truth is that it does matter, because it means that our society is suffering from gaps in one or more aspects. The report details that, globally, the most dramatic declines in the rule of law have occurred in factors associated with the rise of authoritarianism, but it also shows a drop in respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, which have declined in three-quarters of countries since 2015. Limits on government power, such as oversight of the judiciary, legislature, and media, have also fallen. These have been reduced in two-thirds of the countries studied.

Recently, the new director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch, Juanita Goebertus, referred to the deterioration of democracy in Latin America, where the common axis is the “dramatic loss of confidence in democracy, in the parties, in the rule of law and the institutions”.

Precisely this has led to polarization and discredit, where social networks have played an important role, deepening distrust through the publication of fake news that goes viral as a guaranteed truth and has led us not to believe in anything or anyone.

Therefore, it is important to understand that when the rule of law is weakened and distrust grows, corruption permeates and acts at ease, making it difficult to investigate.

The recent report “Exporting Corruption 2022” by Transparency International, exposed the scarcity of coordinated efforts in the fight against corruption and bribery of multinational companies that want to make their way into foreign markets, evidencing the prevailing impunity. Chile qualified with “limited” compliance in the matter, detecting shortcomings to confront bad practices in the public and private sectors.

This “limited” compliance of Chile is due to deficiencies mainly in the lack of a public registry of beneficial owners of companies and trusts; inadequate accounting and auditing requirements; inappropriate sanctions; lack of a legal framework to establish cooperation mechanisms between public ministries of different countries; and the lack of an adequate framework for the protection of anonymous whistleblowers, as well as one that recognizes the rights of victims in cases of foreign bribery.

Under this scenario, it is time to move to action and avoid further decline in such important issues as the quality of our rule of law or the fight against corruption. This must be a priority for the government and society as a whole, and here companies must assume their responsibility through greater prevention, compensation, sanctions, facilitating whistleblowing, protecting those who alert illicit or bad practices, and tending, in general, to assume their responsibility, or otherwise, to prove their innocence in a given event. Let us put aside the habit of sweeping under the carpet what we do not want to see, of not publicly condemning or overlooking serious situations.

We are at a critical moment, where the demands are greater and, therefore, the answers must be at the same level. Let us not continue to get lost in petty squabbles and the search for individual gains, and let us focus on the big battles. While we see countries in the region mired in populism and authoritarianism, what we need is for our representatives and our institutions to think about the common good, and to give signals that restore our confidence. Otherwise, the risks of further eroding democracy and the rule of law may lead us to the abyss.

By Susana Sierrra

Source: La Tercera