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Political Corruption in Central America: Assessment and Explanation

  • J. Mark Ruhl (a1)

Abstract

Analysts agree that political corruption is an obstacle to democratic consolidation but disagree about how to measure the extent of corruption in individual nations. This analysis of the Central American countries demonstrates that the most important competing quantitative measures of political corruption produce strikingly different rankings. These contradictory results are caused less by poor measurement techniques than by the existence of two different dimensions of corruption that do not always coincide. Statistical indicators based on expert perceptions of corruption and alternative indicators based on ordinary citizens' firsthand experiences with bribery measure, respectively, grand corruption by senior officials and petty corruption by lower-level functionaries. This study attempts to explain why several Central American nations suffer primarily from one or the other rather than both. It advances recommendations for future research and future anticorruption policies that may be applied to Latin America as a whole.

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