Thursday, November 09, 2006

Venezuela, a most corrupt country

The annual survey of transparency international is out: Venezuela is the most corrupt country of the Americas, just after Haiti. That Haiti is the most will not surprise anyone. That Venezuela has fallen behind everyone else, under the rule of a benevolent revolutionary leader intent to purify the body politic and create the new socialist man should at least raise a few eyebrows.

Venezuela rates 2.3 out of 10, which places it in a group that holds together countries such as Uzbekistan, its good pals Belarus and Zimbabwe, or Russia, all within 0.3 of Venezuela. That LatAm is normally corrupt is not even an argument anymore: Chile is 20th with 7.3 and Uruguay 28th with 6.4. Venezuela is 138th out of 163. So, what does the Venezuelan government does? Accuse Transparency of being liars, paid by foreign interests or what not. Shoot the messenger, the usual fare. Meanwhile, no matter what the Vice (eerily deserving of his title this time) we all know better and we are all tired to have to grease someone's paw to even get our basic rights such as a simple passport (yours truly has not been able to log in the web page in 5 months of trials: by the time I get in, the quota of the week "has already been filled"; I am seriously considering using someone who will charge me 113 USD to get me an appointment in front of the passport officer).

Anyway, readers of these pages know full well that a one man one rule is the surest path to outrageous corruption so we should not be surprised. The editorial of Veneconomy today will be enough to close this post, with a few [comments]

The editorial of Veneconomy

If Vice-president Jose Vicente Rangel weren't so set on radicalizing the electoral discourse, he might have managed to keep his cool in response to the results of the Corruption Perception Index 2006 published by Transparency International this week. According to this index, which evaluates the perception of corruption in 163 countries, Venezuela ranks 138 with a score of 2.3 out of a possible ten, where ten represents an ideal state of transparency. [Rangel is upset because of course he 1) does not need this during the campaign, and 2) well, it is true and no one likes to have it rubbed in his or her face, in particular when the Vice is one of the ones most responsible for corruption in Venezuela]

The Vice-president of the Republic called Transparency International "mercenary" and its findings "pure rubbish" simply because it warned of the risks and weaknesses in Venezuela'’s public sector that lend themselves to corruption. It is not by killing the messenger that the country will solve this serious problem that affects all spheres of society.

If President Chavez, right from his first year in office, had stopped to analyze (and correct) the indicators that pointed to the existence in Venezuela's public sector of administrative practices that offered considerable opportunities for corruption, perhaps today, the government would be perceived as being less opaque and, as a consequence, people would not be submitted to so many arbitrary measures and decisions and would have their basic food, health and housing needs met in a more satisfactory manner. [Amazingly, the monochromatic National Assembly is discussing a law that would even lower further the current ridiculous bidding requirements of some sectors of public administration, "to save time" they have the chutzpah to say]

Just the opposite has happened. The President and the institutions he manages, such as the Government Accountability Office, the General Prosecutor'’s Office and the National Assembly, have turned a deaf ear to the hundreds of denouncing of corruption that have been made during these almost eight years since he has been in office. The upshot is that, today, Venezuela ranks as the second most corrupt country in Latin America, surpassed only by Haiti, and flagrant corruption abounds in all spheres where the government is involved, including its banner programs such as the missions. [Veneconomy is too kind: the Misiones are probably the biggest corruption sector today as there is absolutely no control, and even less evaluation as to their success. What is worse, it allows for small scale corruption to flourish and become routine as anyone who receives the trust of the chavistas to run some small mision branch is pretty much left alone to steal as s/he pleases: thus this small routine larceny corrupts the moral fiber of the country much more than the big scandalous stunts such as the Argentinean bonds, a new one of them, even more scandalous, just been issued]

This dismal result as far as transparency is concerned is reflected, for example, in the statements made last week by the Food Minister, Erika Farias, when she admitted that Mision Mercal had been seriously affected by the vices of corruption. The Minister reported that, because of this, instead of Mercal covering 1.4 million Venezuelans, which was the goal they believed they had reached, it managed to benefit only 20% of that universe. [And the service and quality and variety of goods has been critiqued a lot lately!!!!]

Another example is the denouncing made by Jesus Torrealba, a member of Movimiento Nueva Democracia, on Miguel Angel Rodriguez' program broadcast by RCTV, on the network of corruption in the allocation of housing by the government through Mision Habitat. Because of this, the President's promise to give thousands of Venezuelans a decent roof over their heads has not been kept.

Chavez has been long enough in power to have learned that sound advice does not come from deaf ears.

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