Bolivian corruption and egocentrism through the international lens

Andres Oppenheimer wrote two interesting articles for The Miami Herald. Follows excerpts that pertain to Bolivia; and at the end of each, the link to get the full articles.


Andres Oppenheimer: Latin America’s corruption starts at top


Andres OppenheimerA new study on corruption in Latin America contains some alarming figures — an average of about 20 percent of the region’s people say they have been asked to pay a bribe by a policeman or another public official in the past year, compared with 5 percent in the United States and 3 percent in Canada.

The Americas Barometer poll by Vanderbilt University, whose full findings are to be released Thursday at the University of Miami’s Center for Latin American Studies, shows that in some Latin American countries like Haiti, Bolivia and Ecuador, the number of people who say they were asked to pay bribes last year surpasses 40 percent.

These three regional champions of corruption are followed not far behind by Mexico, Peru and Honduras, where the percentage of people who say they were asked to pay bribes by public servants is 31 percent, 28 percent and 26 percent respectively, according to the poll of 40,000 people in 26 countries.

The new poll is one of the most valuable tools to measure countries’ corruption levels. Unlike other surveys that ask people whether their countries are corrupt — something that can be easily influenced by the media headlines of the day — this one asked about their personal experiences of corruption.

Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, a Vanderbilt professor who was among the poll’s supervisors, told me that while overall corruption victim numbers in the region rose slightly in 2012, it’s not a uniform trend.

“The countries that are driving that general increase in the region are Ecuador, Bolivia, Haiti and Honduras,” she said, adding that the poll is done every two years.

What can we learn from these figures? I asked Ariel Armony, head of U.M.’s Center for Latin American Studies and an academic partner of Vanderbilt’s study.

“They show that when people think that institutions are corrupt, and that there is no rule of law, they are more likely to pay and accept bribes,” he said. “On the other hand, when people see that the government is cracking down on corruption, like in Brazil, people behave more honestly.”

My opinion: I agree. It may be no coincidence that last year, when news of harsh sentences against top ruling party politicians dominated the headlines in Brazil, the number of Brazilians who were asked to pay bribes fell by half.

And it may be no coincidence that Chile, which has strong institutions, emerged in the poll as the Latin American country with the lowest number of bribery cases.

Granted, there are many other causes of corruption, including excessive government regulations and huge bureaucracies. The more government inspectors you have, the more opportunities they have to ask for bribes.

But, in general, corruption starts from the top, and gets stopped from the top. The good news is that Brazil, the biggest country in the region, is showing the way of how to fight corruption — from the top down. It would be great if all of Brazil’s neighbors followed its steps.

ECUADOR: Dictatorship of the 21st century?



Many people are surprised by Rafael Correa’s sweeping victory in Sunday’s Ecuadorean presidential election, despite his government’s massive corruption scandals and his record of repression against the media and political opponents.

But if you look closer, it shouldn’t be surprising at all.

In addition to Ecuador’s oil-driven prosperity, Correa won because the election rules were tailor-made to help his candidacy. The president controls all government institutions, which has allowed him to spend freely on self-aggrandizing propaganda and to impose growing controls on the media, Hurtado said.

Under Correa’s election laws, Ecuadoran media were not allowed to publish “biased” reports on any candidate, which amounted to a de facto censorship of any story critical of Correa, or of his government.

Also, Correa has invoked an imaginary international media conspiracy to close down or take over several formerly independent radio and television stations, and has intimidated newspapers by filing lawsuits that may drive many of them out of business.

Hurtado told me that “unlike the dictatorships of the past, which took power with a coup d’etat, closed down the Congress and replaced the president, the dictatorships of the XXI Century ignore the constitutional order under which they were elected and create a new constitutional order that allows them to stay in power forever.

“After a while, they become dictatorships,” he added.

What should pro-democracy people in Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia and other autocracies do? Hurtado responded that there is not much they can do, except participating with one single candidate so as not to divide the opposition vote.

“The answer should come from the Organization of American States (OAS,) since these governments are violating several articles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” Hurtado said. “But unfortunately, the OAS has remained silent. There seems to be a double standard, in which the OAS lashes out against dictatorships of the right, but not against dictatorships of the left.

My opinion: I agree. These narcissist-Leninist autocracies have been in power for several years now, and they all seem to follow the same manual: their leaders run for office as anti-corruption and pro-democracy crusaders, and as soon as they are elected, they change the rules of the game to grab absolute powers.

They may not last forever, because Chávez’s illness, for example, declining commodity prices, and disastrous economic policies may further weaken them in the near future. But for now, nobody should be surprised by Correa’s “sweeping victory.”

Some food for thought! Bolivian people need to revert current government’s will to continue in power, enough!!!

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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