The People Agree: Venezuela is the Most Corrupt Nation in the Americas

Transparency International just released its Corruption Perceptions Index 2019, and other than placing Venezuela almost at the very bottom, it offers perspective into why corruption hits us so—and what we can do to fix it.

Workers of Brazilian construction company Odebrecht build the new Brazilian naval submarine base in Itaguai, some 70 km south from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on April 7, 2017. The first Brazilian conventional submarines (SSK) are manufactured under the national submarine development program (Prosub) in partnership with France. / AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA
Photo: Telemetro, retrieved.

Reading about how Venezuela is currently perceived as the most corrupt nation in the Americas and the Caribbean, as established by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2019, you might just cross your arms and say, “Well, what’s new?”

And you’d be missing how this can help us in the struggles to come.

Transparency International and its Venezuelan chapter, established in 2004 and carrying a relentless labor currently headed by Mercedes de Freitas, is placing Venezuela five steps away from the bottom of its 2019 global corruption index, composed of 180 analyzed nations. Denmark shares the top with New Zealand and is followed by Finland, Singapore, Switzerland and Sweden, while Venezuela is at the 173rd spot, just above Yemen, Syria, South Sudan and Somalia.

Now, when we speak about corruption, keep in mind that this goes beyond the obvious bribe and misappropriation of public funds; individuals engage in corruption if they try to influence the public administration by, for example, placing friends and family at key offices, something that’s for everyone to see in Venezuela, and has been going on before the Chávez years. Governments are supposed to fight against these temptations, not indulge in them as chavismo has, bringing Venezuela to the lowest spot it has held on this list, ever.

Governments are supposed to fight against these temptations, not indulge in them as chavismo has.

The downward trend is clear: in 2015, Venezuela occupied the 158th spot and, one year later, it was placed on the 166th. The position was the 169th in 2017, and it improved by a single point in 2018. Back then, Transparency International said that “as long as corruption runs rampant, democracy everywhere will be threatened.” So 2019’s position reflects the worsening of the Venezuelan political crisis.

Something else that’s worth emphasizing is how this isn’t exclusive to Venezuela; although the nation sits near the bottom of the list and is the worst perceived of the Americas (the two closest are Haiti, at the 168th place, and Nicaragua, at the 161st), Transparency International considers that there’s a general stagnation in the fight against corruption, and “nations in which elections and the financing of political parties are open to improper influences are less capable of struggling against corruption.”

The best-positioned countries in the region are Canada, Uruguay, and the U.S., yet they get a warning too, since, as the organization says, “plenty of scandals in 2019 proved how transnational corruption is usually eased, enabled and performed by apparently ‘clean’ countries.” 

Transparency International considers that there’s a general stagnation in the fight against corruption.

Consider 2014’s Operação Lava Jato, where Brazilian police uncovered a massive corruption scheme for over $2,640 million. What at first looked like a domestic money-laundering operation turned out to involve dozens of public officials both in Brazil and in Peru, even provoking the arrest of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Another relevant case is that of infamous construction giant Odebrecht, who had an actual budget for bribes in 12 countries (including Venezuela). A modern corruption epic with uncountable public officers involved in all of Latin America, the Odebrecht case exemplifies what happens when political leaders look after their own interests and not those of the citizens.

The Corruption Perceptions Index is made through a careful selection of data (from credible organizations inside each nation that allow a precise and deep study of public institutions), that is later processed through a scale of degrees, with an eye out for the percentage of uncertainty. It’s a very thorough process that offers insights into the workings of corruption, and a super valuable tool for administrations that want to actually tackle the issue.

Victor Cuotto

Victor usually writes about geek culture and punk music. In 2015, he won the Concurso Venezolano de Literatura Fantástica & Ciencia Ficción SOLSTICIOS. He thinks Magneto makes some valid points.