Corruption levels in many Latin American countries have reached record highs. Nowadays, corrupt public officials not only want to get kickbacks from the awarding of public contracts. They also want to be shareholders of them. To do this, they partner with local business groups that will usually finance their political activities, and through extremely complex networks of shell corporations throughout the globe, end up hiding and laundering hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Many people believe that some levels of corruption are tolerable and even necessary. We don’t think so. At the Center for Investigative Journalism in the Americas (CIJA) we want to expose cases of misuse of public funds or illegal activities by public officials in Latin America, using journalistic investigation and the publication of investigative reports on all broadcasting platforms, through the joint efforts of a network of Latin American journalists, and through partnerships with media outlets and organizations that promote the values of transparency and integrity in the management of public resources.
Investigative journalism has a key role in continuously exposing corruption and its detrimental effects for Democracy and economic development. Our mission is to promote the use of investigative journalism as a tool to expose corruption and abuse of public power in the region, as well as to increase public awareness and involve private citizens in the discussion of these problems.
To achieve this mission, during our first year of existence, CIJA has been promoting a series of activities, events and investigations. Just to mention a few:
- On December 5th, 2014, CIJA took the lead in the fight against corruption in Argentina and filed, together with journalist Jorge Lanata, a Motion to Intervene in the case NML vs. Argentina in the State of Nevada (known as the “Nevada Kirchner’s Money Route Case”), requesting the court to unseal key evidence in a corruption and money laundering case that involves people with direct connection to the Kirchner family. Judge Ferenbach authorized Jorge Lanata’s motion and granted our lawyers access to the sealed information.
- Earlier this year, in collaboration with different human rights groups from Venezuela, we conducted an awareness campaign to educate people about the effectiveness of individual-targeted sanctions as a powerful tool to combat human rights violations. As an indirect result of these efforts, the U.S. Congress passed the Venezuelan Defense of Human Rigths and Civil Society Act of 2014, which was signed into law by President Obama on December 18th. The law aims to revoked visas and freeze assets of those Venezuelan public officials involved in serious human rights violations.
- During 2014 CIJA has been working hand to hand with Ecuadorian journalists in the development of a potential corruption case involving high-level Ecuadorian government officials and a boutique New York based PR firm, MCSquared PR, which was retained by the Government of Ecuador for a $6.4 million contract. However, MCSquared did not register as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice until July 2014, over a year after the contract started. CIJA took over the investigation and worked to keep the people up to date with the latest development of the case.
- In October, we partnered with Freedom House to organize a public conversation between two of the most renowned journalists in Latin America, Jorge Lanata and Andrés Oppenheimer. In July, we organized a major conference on Capitol Hill titled “New Challenges to Freedom of Expression in Latin America”. In May, in partnership with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, we organized the presentation of Miami-based journalist Casto Ocando’s book “Chavistas en el Imperio”.
- Through our newsletters, we had maintain the general public informed about the latest developments in Ecuador and Argentina, particularly in relation to corruption cases and human rights violations. In 2015, we plan to expand our “Watch” newsletters to several other countries.
During our short but fruitful existence, CIJA’s reports and actions have been covered by top media outlets in Latin America and in the U.S. Our investigation on Ecuador’s McSquared case was covered by top newspapers in Ecuador such as El Universo, El Comercio and Plan V magazine. Our motion to intervene in Nevada was front page of the main newspapers in Argentina for weeks. CIJA’s contributors op-ed’s have been place in outlets such as El País, The Hill, the Huffington Post, Fox News, among others. Our work was also featured in top US outlets such as Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
2015 will be an even more challenging year. Apart from the aforementioned ongoing investigations and cases, at CIJA we plan to widen out scope of work to at least 4 more countries in the region, through signing working agreements with the investigative units of the top newspapers in each country.Also, early this year, we will be launching a unique secure whistleblowing platform that will allow private citizens from all over the region leak to us evidence about corruption cases in their countries.
Finally, we plan to start building a historical archive of corruption, a database that will document the major cases in each country, beginning with those occurred during the last 15 years; the database will be available to reporters, the general public, students and researchers, in order to promote and open a discussion about this phenomenon.
As a non-profit organization, CIJA’s activities are based solely on the generous contributions of private citizens and Foundations. Your support will make the difference in promoting transparency and accountability in the region, through the advancement of investigative journalism.
If you are willing to help, we will use your contribution wisely in the fulfillment of CIJA’s mission and hope to merit your continued support. Donate Now
Sincerely,Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger Founder & Executive Director Center for Investigative Journalism in the Americas