The Corruption of Democracy in Venezuela: Under Pres. Hugo Chavez's Regime the Last Nine Years, Corruption Has Reached Heights Undreamed of by Even the Greediest of Despots, as the People of Venezuela Have Been Fleeced out of Billions of Dollars

By Coronel, Gustavo | USA TODAY, March 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Corruption of Democracy in Venezuela: Under Pres. Hugo Chavez's Regime the Last Nine Years, Corruption Has Reached Heights Undreamed of by Even the Greediest of Despots, as the People of Venezuela Have Been Fleeced out of Billions of Dollars


Coronel, Gustavo, USA TODAY


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

HUGO CHAVEZ was elected president of Venezuela in December 1998 on the strength of three main promises: convening a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution and improve the state, fighting poverty and social exclusion, and eliminating corruption. Nine years later, it has become evident that the Constituent Assembly primarily was a vehicle to destroy all existing political institutions and replace them with a bureaucracy beholden to his wishes. Poverty and social exclusion remain as prominent as before, while the levels of government corruption are higher than ever.

Today, the nation is locked in an intense struggle between the defenders of democracy and a president intent on becoming a dictator for fife. Chavez's latest attempt to push a constitutional reform that would have allowed him unlimited opportunities for reelection was defeated by a margin that official figures put at two points, but independent analysts place at five to 10 points. In negotiating the narrower margin with a National Electoral Council largely under his control, Chavez managed to appear magnanimous in defeat, but he is not a democrat, and he will keep trying to become president for life in any way he can.

Venezuela has been characterized by the persistent presence of political and financial corruption in public administration. In 1813 and, later, in 1824, national hero Simon Bolivar felt it necessary to issue decrees defining corruption as "the violation of the public interest." He established the death penalty for "all public officers guilty of stealing 10 pesos or more," including "those judges who disobey these decrees." In 1875, the finance minister at that time confessed, "Venezuela does not know to whom it owes money and how much. Our books are 20 years behind." One hundred years later, the General Comptroller under Pres. Luis Herrera would describe the state of the country's finances in almost identical terms, as "a system totally out of control."

In the early 20th century, the long dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gomez was plagued by high corruption, but it was limited to the dictator's immediate collaborators. A similar situation prevailed during the military dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez, from 1948-58. This situation of administrative disarray was replaced during the 1960s by a period of high transparency in the management of public wealth at the hands of democratic presidents Romulo Betancourt, Raul Leoni and Rafael Caldera. During these years, Venezuelan democracy became the political model to be imitated in Latin America, comparing favorably with the dictatorships of the left and right that prevailed in those years, and becoming a haven for thousands of Latin American political exiles looking for freedom.

In the mid 1970s, the management of national assets deteriorated significantly, as the country experienced a sudden oil windfall that tripled fiscal income. The ordinary men in charge of the government were exposed to extraordinary temptations. Faced with such fiches, Pres. Carlos Perez established a program called "The Great Venezuela," a tropical version of Mao Tse-Tung's "Great Leap Forward" in China that ended in financial and social disaster. The government poured close to $2,000,-000,000 into industrial projects designed to convert southern Venezuela into another Ruhr. At one point, the country was home to more than 300 state-owned companies, none of which was profitable. As a result of the significant government expenditure and insufficient enforcement of regulations, corruption spun out of control. Up until then, graft had been restricted to the ruling elites, but now many Venezuelans started to participate in the abuse and misuse of public funds. By 1980, the country had fallen into debt to the international banks, victim of the so-called "Dutch disease" that affects Third World petrostates that depend almost solely on hydrocarbon exports for national income.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Corruption of Democracy in Venezuela: Under Pres. Hugo Chavez's Regime the Last Nine Years, Corruption Has Reached Heights Undreamed of by Even the Greediest of Despots, as the People of Venezuela Have Been Fleeced out of Billions of Dollars
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?