Transparency International has listed Venezuela as one of the world's most corrupt.
On what evidence? You should know this: Transparency International is itself a corrupted organization - a kind of bribery cartel. One of its big benefactors is Balfour Beatty construction - Britain's 'Halliburton' - which has admitted to massive bribery.
Five years ago I reported how the former chairman of Transparency International's backer, "announced with enormous pride that he personally had handed over the check to the government minister for the Pergau Dam bribe." See, "War On Corruption? Not Quite, Minister," The London Guardian, Sunday, July 9, 2000.
TI's support comes from bribe payers who want to reduce their pay-outs—but not eliminate them or the edge they give over honest businesses.
What is the source of the Transparency International corruption index? It runs "surveys" of corrupt countries by asking corrupt corporate leaders which nations they consider corrupt.
The oil industry is the world's most corrupt in terms of dollars paid. Exxon Mobil paid hundreds of millions of dollars in funny money to the president of Kazakhstan. Oil industry executives are never done telling me that the bribery under Ahmed Chalabi and his gang in US-occupied Iraq is some of the worst on the planet -- "far worse than under
Saddam," according to Hess Oil executive. Yet, I've never had a single oil executive tell me they had to pay off Chavez insiders.
That doesn't mean there's no corruption in Venezuela; doubtless there is, though what I've found in Venezuela is a problem with sabotage by opponents of Chavez - and the president's high tolerance with incompetence within his administration. (A big exception: in oil, the recovery of Venezuela's production under the guidance of Ali Rodriguez is nothing but brilliant.)
The TI index oddly leaves off the top of the 'most-corrupt' list the most corrupt nations of all in terms of bribery -- the USA and Western European states. Where does all that bribe money come from? Not Poland.
Transparency International's corporate controllers would serve the world best by beginning their survey of corruption by looking in the mirror.
Greg Palast, New York
Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy
Money Can Buy (Penguin 2004).