Corruption – How does Venezuela measure up?

According to Venezuelans surveyed in a report released by Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) yesterday, the judicial system is the most corrupt institution in the country, followed closely by the legislature and the police.

Caracas, December 10, 2004—According to Venezuelans surveyed in a report released by Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) yesterday, the judicial system is the most corrupt institution in the country, followed closely by the legislature and the police. 

The Global Corruption Barometer 2004 revealed that people throughout the world are concerned with corruption.  Venezuelans perceptions on which institutions were most negatively affected substantially differed from international trends. 

Respondents were asked to rate corruption in national institutions on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being not at all corrupt and 5 meaning extremely corrupt).  In Venezuela, the judicial system was rated as the most corrupt institution, with an index of 4.3.  The legislature and the police were tied for second, with 4.2 points each and the category political parties, with 4.1 points, received the dubious honor of fourth most corrupt. 

Surveys were conducted by Gallop Poll International in 64 countries, surveying more than 64,000 people.  Unlike the Corruption Perceptions Index and Bribe Payers Index which only assess expert opinions on corruption, the index complied by TI evaluates perceptions of the general population, including expectations for future levels of corruption.

Between July 21 and 27, 500 residents of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas were polled by the Venezuelan polling firm Sigma Dos Venezuela.  This is the first year that Venezuela was included in the survey.

Perceptions differ between Venezuela and the World Average

Thirty-six of the sixty-four countries surveyed identified political parties as the most corrupt institution (averaging 4.0), followed by the legislature (3.7), the police (3.6)and the judiciary (3.6).  The United States (3.6), the United Kingdom (3.4), and Japan (4.3) were among the countries that indicated political parties to be the most corrupt institution.

According to TI, these figures indicate a general world trend revealing widespread “grave concern” about corruption in political life.  “Public condemnation of political parties and parliaments-legislatures would seem to indicate a particular disappointment with lawmakers and others who represent the public in political life,” note Robin Hodess and Marie Wolkers, the report’s authors. 

In Latin American the report surveyed Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. The overall Latin American consensus matched the rest of the world’s preoccupation with corrupt political parties.  In Mexico and Guatemala political parties and the police tied for the most corrupt institution, both with a score of 4.2.  Uruguay and Venezuela were the exceptions, with the judiciary receiving the rates of 3.9 and 4.3, respectively.  

The report also rated social problems, finding that political corruption topped the list in Latin America.  In Venezuela, insecurity was deemed the largest problem, followed by a three-way tie between unemployment, political corruption and poverty.  

The world average indicated that unemployment and insecurity were perceived as the most severe problems, followed by poverty and political corruption.  Environmental problems, administrative corruption, and human rights violations were also listed as major concerns.

Expectations: Will Corruption increase or decrease over the next three years?

According to the survey, 44% of Venezuelans expect corruption to increase over the next 3 years, while only 26% of those surveyed expected that corruption would decrease over the same period.

More than half of citizens from Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru expected corruption to worsen in the next three years.

According to TI, the general levels of pessimism as to whether corruption will be reduced within the next three years indicated that measures currently underway and by and large unsuccessful. Yet Akara Muna, President of the IT Cameroon, believes that in spite of these results “we still have reason to hope, it is obvious that the people have identified the problem and want to change it.”  The report concludes by encouraging governments to sign the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

“Fight to the Death”

It has been a well-known fact that Venezuela’s judiciary system is corrupt. “We have a culture of corruption created for half century, in fact it has been carried out by these members of the Democratic Coordinator, the Adecos and the Copeyanos [members of the two traditional parties, Acción Democratica and Copei] who became rich,” notes President Chávez. 

Since coming to the Presidency in 1998, Hugo Chávez has taken some important first steps to eradicate the dishonesty and incompetence that have plagued the judiciary since its inception.  Although Chávez has issued a new penal code, ordered investigations, attempted to better train and supervise judges and law enforcement officers, and even declared what he refers to as a “fight to the death” against corruption, concrete results have yet to be seen.