LATIN AMERICA: CORRUPTION GREATEST THREAT TO DEMOCRACY

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Sabina Astete

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Oct 4, 1993, 8:42:41 PM10/4/93
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Title: LATIN AMERICA: CORRUPTION GREATEST THREAT TO DEMOCRACY


by diego cevallos

quito, oct (ips) - the greatest threat to democracy in latin
america is not communism or poverty, but the corruption which
pervades nearly every aspect of public and private sector
activities, experts gathered in ecuador said.

university administration professors, public prosecutors and
representatives from 18 countries, all said the democratic system
must eliminate corruption or ''end up like the former communist
countries.''

the issue was examined by 70 regional specialists during an
oct. 27-29 conference in quito, sponsored by the new york public
administration institute, the u.s. government, and ecuador's
public accounting office.

opinions on the causes of corruption ran from bad family
upbringing and education, to political cronyism, nepotism, the
existence of monopolies, low salaries, and inadequate laws.

according to james wesberry, president of the new york
institute of public administration, the meeting in quito gave
officials from throughout latin america the opportunity to
discuss strategies against the theft of public monies, influence
peddling, and bribery.

the participants said they will recommend that their
governments introduce legal changes allowing for the immediate
removal of officials involved in corrupt activites, as well as
the depoliticization of the judicial systems, and the breakup of
monopolies.

other suggestions included making official dealings more open
and transparent, seeking public support in rooting out
corruption, and directly invlolving the media in discussing and
covering the issue.

wesberry said that, although corruption occurs on a larger
scale in developed countries, ''what happens in latin america is
that it is less sophisticated and much more visible.''

luis moreno ocampo, former prosecutor for the argentine
federal appeals court, said corruption is not based on ''race or
culture,'' but instead is a result ''of the way the state is
organised.''

ocampo, who investigated corruption by military dictatorships
in his country, said ''in countries such as ours, a five percent
payoff is customary.''

the former prosecutor said a 1992 regional investigation
revealed that the wealthy are more involved in corruption than
the poor. (more/ips)
----


the only way to halt corruption is through the application of
true democratic principles: real citizen participation and the
proper excecution of state powers, ocampo said.

robert klitgaard, an expert on corruption from yale
university, in the united states, said one of the essential
elements of democracy is ''openess.''

''if there are secrets kept, and if the people don't
participate in decision making, corruption will be present,'' he
said.

klitgaard said all types of public and private monopolies must
be eliminated if corruption is to be fought effectively.

''i believe that corruption is the result of a flawed system,
not individuals,'' he said.

this position was questioned by venezuelan gustavo coronel,
who directs the non-governmental organisation ''for the quality
of life,'' and by costa rican government prosecuter hernan vega.
both said that corruption is based on modern family values and
upbringings, which stress only material and economic
satisfaction.

during the quito meeting, aristides junquera, brazil's
attorney general, and antonio herrara, assistant attorney general
of venezuela, discussed the investigative processes that brought
down presidents fernando collor and carlos andres perez, in their
respective countries.

junquera and herrara said the results of the cases against
their former presidents show that it is possible in a democracy
to fight corruption, even at the highest levels.

''if corruption is not dealt with as it was in brazil and
venezuela, democracy will suffer the same fate as communism,''
wesberry said.

according to carlos faidduti, general comptroler of ecuador,
public sector corruption in latin america will only end with the
elimination of cronyism and populism in the electoral processes.

faidduti said that many government officials achieve their
posts through political favours, rather than earning them
honestly.

faidduti, wesburry, moreno ocampo, and klitgaard all agreed
that it is necessary to catch ''the big fish,'' rather than just
minor officials, if public trust and support are to be won.

''without the help of the press and the common people, the
struggle against corruption will fail,'' they said.
(end/ips/trd-so/dc/rh/js/93)
----

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