By Carolina Pulice
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - An index evaluating Latin American countries' ability to root out corruption showed most countries moving backward, according to the ranking released on Tuesday.
The 2023 Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Index, published jointly by Americas Society/Council of the Americas and Control Risks, points to a decline in the region's average score for the first time since 2020.
Falling scores in 10 of the 15 countries assessed indicate "an anti-corruption environment that in many countries is less active and mobilized than in years past," the index said.
Looking at 14 variables, including the independence of judicial institutions and the strength of investigative journalism, the CCC Index "relies on extensive data and a proprietary survey conducted among leading anti-corruption experts" to score and rank countries on a 0-10 scale.
A top score of 10 reflects a country most likely to prosecute and punish corruption. Eight of the 15 countries analyzed this year scored below five.
"Setbacks were generally not dramatic compared to 2022, instead reflecting a steady erosion that has been underway for years," the report added.
The region's no. 2 economy Mexico ranked 12th, showing "pronounced downgrades" in the civil society and media categories as Mexican journalists face "the world's highest rate of violence against reporters outside Ukraine," the report said.
Mexico and Guatemala are the only countries whose score has fallen every year since the CCC Index launched in 2019.
Latin America's largest economy, Brazil, ranked 8th, its score improving 1.5% from 2022.
"Brazil's score in the democracy and political institutions category increased, reflecting their endurance after several years of strain," the report said, citing former President Jair Bolsonaro's attempts to influence investigations.
Venezuela saw the biggest decline in the index, marking its fifth consecutive year with the region's lowest score.
Uruguay ranked first again, but registered a consecutive year of decline, a sign "that no country is immune from either stagnation or regression in the fight against corruption," the index said.
(Reporting by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Brendan O'Boyle)