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Colombians say corruption is worsening in a poll released today by anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, with politicians condemned as the worst culprits.

In a damning indictment on the way the country is run, 80 per cent of Colombians believe both the congress and the nation´s political parties have their snouts in the trough.

Faith in public institutions – across the board – is plummeting, with nearly half of those asked claiming that overall levels of corruption had increased significantly.

Nearly two thirds of Colombians believe the judiciary is engaged in improper practices, while 70 per cent right off the chicanery of government officials.

No high-profile public body escapes unscathed. The police, the military, and Colombia´s healthcare providers have lost the trust of over 50 per cent of the country.

What is the government doing to fix the problem?

President Santos began his period in office promising to stamp out the corrupt practices that have long put a break on the country´s progress. He signed off a series of laws designed to aid transparency and bring to justice those caught stealing from the public purse.

Despite this, Colombians remain highly sceptical of their representatives nearly half of whom in the 2006 to 2010 congress were investigated for their ties to paramilitaries, and 10% of whom in this parliament have been impeached.

And Transparency International´s March 2013 report also sees very little to cheer in Santos´reforms.

The new institutional reforms promoted by the government of President Santos—the new Anti-corruption Act of 2011, and the creation of a new Anti-corruption office in the Presidency—have not contributed to curbing corruption. To the contrary, in Transparency International´s 2012 Corruption Perception Index, the country received the worse score in ten years, going from 57 in 2002 to 94 in 2012.

Corruption in Colombia is not just the responsibility of those in power, however. 79% of Colombians believe they can oil the machine by bribing officials, and nearly a third admitted someone in their family had greased the palm of a policeman.

So should we worry about this, after all isn´t it just a poll?

Corruption is perceived to be getting worse in many countries, of course. Let us be honest; when asked, who really replies that they believe their politicians are getting cleaner, and more transparent? So perhaps we shouldn´t be too dismayed?

This might be true, but Colombia Politics believe that to ignore these figures as part of the flotsam and jetsam of modern life would be a mistake.

Ok, perceptions of corruption might be getting worse in Europe and elsewhere, but Colombia already starts from an unflattering position. She ranked alongside Mongolia and India in last year´s Transparency International corruption index.

That things are getting worse should sound alarm bells in the presidential palace. Juan Manuel Santos has staked much of his reputation on pulling the nation up by its bootstraps, forcing it to eat at the table with the big boys. He wants Colombia to be seen as a member of an emerging elite.

But so long as there is a perceived breakdown in the social contract between the people and their representatives, development will be stunted. Former presidential candidate and now Antioquia Governor, Sergio Fajardo famously said that corruption was the number one problem in Colombia.

Over the past weeks we have seen Brazilians take to the streets in their millions to force their government to act to root out corruption. Santos must fear that Colombians too will soon conclude enough is enough.


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