Brazil's government is paying attention. Since President Rousseff has taken office, six ministers have resigned amid allegations of corruption, helping to boost her approval rating. Brazil also passed a freedom of information law this fall after years of debate, and formally launched, with the United States, the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a multicountry body that aims for transparency and the empowerment of citizens.
Latin America's corruption problems go back 500 years to the colonial era and persist today because of cultural acceptance, inequality – for example, low-paid police officers in Mexico often extract bribes to make ends meet – and the influx of drug money that can corrupt entire institutions.
Efforts toward greater accountability for wrongdoing run the gamut in Latin America. But most of the countries in the region sit somewhere in the middle, and they are pushing forward to help reverse the status quo – with Brazil paving the way, experts say.
"Brazilian society is passing through a new stage of democratic advances," says Fabiano Angelico, a São Paulo-based independent consultant on transparency.