Corruption Report Claims Business as usual in Venezuela

Transparency International released its Corruption Perception Index this week and ranked Venezuela as one of the most corrupt countries. Venezuela's ranking, though has changed little since the index was first created and Venezuelan government officials reacted by saying that the organization was deliberately trying to discredit the Chavez government.

Caracas, October 20, 2005–The Venezuelan Vice President, José Vicente Rangel, and the leader of the National Assembly, Nicolas Maduro strongly criticized a report that said Venezuela is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Vice President Rangel called Transparency International, the report’s publishers, "mercenaries at the service of international powers."

Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption campaign group, released their "Corruption Perception Index," or CPI, on Tuesday. According to the CPI, countries that score high are less corrupt and countries that score low are more corrupt. Venezuela has a score of 2.3 out of 10, placing it at rank 130 out of the list of 150 countries. The opposition has tried to use this as an example of how corruption has become worse under the Chavez government. El Universal, a leading opposition newspaper yesterday ran an article on the report with the title, "Venezuela stinks of corruption."

However the CPI shows that Venezuela’s corruption rating has changed little since the evaluations began ten years ago. It has remained at around 2.5 out of 10, since 1995. Dr. Aurelio Concheso, an executive board member of Transparency International’s Venezuelan associate, Transparency Venezuela, said, "over the past few decades the corruption situation in Venezuela has probably been about the same, not getting much worse or much better."

The CPI is calculated by averaging a number of corruption studies that poll international business people and country analysts about the level of corruption they perceive in different countries. Transparency International says, "It is difficult to assess the levels of corruption in different countries based on hard empirical data," which is why studies of perceptions are used instead.

Vice President Rangel and Assembly Leader Nicolas Maduro have both reacted angrily to the report’s assessment and have alleged political motives for the low score. Maduro said, "They want to present Venezuela as a nation with a corrupt democracy and a corrupt government and this is in line with the US Government’s position." Vice President Rangel stressed, "the struggle against corruption is an absolute priority in all levels of the government."

The government has increased the transparency of ministerial budgets reducing by 80% the funding which was previously kept secret. The public financing of political parties, the church, and unions has been virtually eliminated. There have also been attempts to better train and supervise judges and law enforcement officers. Despite these efforts corruption is still considered to be widespread and according to the Venezuelan Comptroller’s office, thousands of cases have been filed against people in the public administration.

Alejandro Salas, the co-ordinator of Transparency International Latin America, praised some parts of the government’s policy, saying that the Misions in particular are, "characterized by the transparency of their processes and distribute their services well with open accounts, including the details of incomes and expenditures." He also said they, "have the double impact of benefiting social inclusion."

Regarding the Venezuelan reactions to the report, Concheso of Transparency Venezuela said, "the government seems to have made a gut reaction to this and it was inevitable that the opposition would try and use it for political reasons during an election year."