LatAm summit makes corruption fight a priority

Lima (Peru) (AFP) –


A summit of Latin American, US and Canadian leaders on Saturday vowed a tougher political stance against corruption with a document making a common "commitment" but offering no enforcement measures.

The Lima Commitment on "Democratic Governability Against Corruption" was a sign of the "firm will" of the region to vanquish graft, Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra told the gathering.

The adopted text, containing 57 points, amounted to a policy statement setting a goal for all the countries to follow.

It had been negotiated over the past seven months.

During that time, Latin America has seen turmoil in many countries related to corruption -- including the resignation of Peru's previous president three weeks ago, the jailing of Brazil's former president a week ago, and increased scrutiny on Guatemala's current president by a UN-backed body.

The region also came under a cloud of malaise linked to a massive political bribery scheme with the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht at the center.

And in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, US sanctions were imposed on powerful family businesses in Central America allegedly linked to drug trafficking. Rising global concerns over money laundering have added to the malaise.

- Anti-bribery efforts -

A meeting of foreign ministers on Friday had reached consensus on the document.

"The fact that after several summits, in this one we have a consensus document worked out by the foreign ministers is a signal of the efforts and search for common ground by us, the countries of the Americas," Vizcarra said.

The document calls for stepped-up efforts to prevent the bribery of public officials, legal norms holding companies responsible for acts of corruption, greater transparency in political financing, and anti-corruption clauses in public contracts.

Yet the document set out no enforceable measures to meet the goal, leaving it up to the countries to implement the commitment.

The two-day Lima summit, which was to wrap up later Saturday, took place without its most prominent guest: US President Donald Trump.

The US leader had canceled on Tuesday, sending his Vice President Mike Pence instead. Trump stayed in Washington to oversee the military preparations that resulted in air strikes on Syria in alliance with Britain and France, in response to a suspected poison gas attack on Syrian civilians.

Pence on Saturday said the military action "degraded and crippled the chemical weapons capability of Syria," and he hoped that Syria, as well as "their patrons in Russia and Iran, once and for all abandon the use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians."

Pence was to leave Lima late Saturday after bilateral meetings with other leaders.

One planned meeting gathering attention was to be with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Ties between the United States and Mexico have been tense since Trump took power, frayed by issues that include the US president's desire to build a wall along the shared border and US demands to revisit the North American Trade Agreement.