Gustavo Coronel was a member of the Board of Directors of Petroleos de Venezuela (1976-79) and, as president of Agrupacion Pro Calidad de Vida, was the Venezuelan representative to Transparency International (1996-2000). He knows what he’s talking about.
First, read Gustavo’s Executive Summary of his Cato Institute Report, Corruption, Mismanagement, and Abuse of Power in Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. (The report is available on PDF file at that link).
It seems clear that the convention has not produced an improvement in the manner Latin American countries have managed the problem of corruption.
Why is this so? Basically because it cannot be enforced. Although the convention is a valuable compendium of all the potential manifestations of corruption in member states it is simply unusable to enforce honest and transparent practices in those member states. The reason is that corrupt practices in Latin America are almost always initiated within government structures, in the bureaucracy of those countries. They exist because government institutions are weak, controls are lax or inexistent and political leadership is insincere about wanting to curtail corrupt practices or incapable of keeping his followers in line. When this happens, the OAS cannot act unless the state requests it. But, how can a member state ask for action against corruption, if corruption is being practiced by the state itself, if the main political and bureaucratic representatives of the state are involved, through commission or omission, in the practices of corruption?
The Inter-American Convention Against Corruption says in its preamble that the member states are “convinced” that corruption undermines legitimacy, that democracy “requires the combating of every form of corruption,” that fighting corruption “strengthens democratic institutions” and that the states are “responsible to hold corrupt persons accountable… and to cooperate with one another for their efforts in this area to be effective.” It goes on, article by article, to ask for efforts by the states and for cooperation among states to fight against corruption. It defines corruption in terms which leaves no doubt as to what corruption means: (a), the incorrect, dishonorable and improper fulfillment of public functions, (b), illicit enrichment, (c), lack of biding practices in government contracting, (d), impunity and complicity in the commission of corrupt acts, and, (e) bribery and extortion, transnational bribery. Corruption and illegal flows of money, says the convention very specifically, cannot hide behind bank secrecy rules.
What can the OAS do, then, when a member state violates practically every component of the preamble and every article of the convention?
Read every word.
Update On a related theme, Latin America’s Wrong Turn
The very real prospect that Latin America will now be backtracking on its reform agenda could not come at a worse time for the region. It would seem all too probable that Latin America’s unprecedented commodity boom will soon fade as global growth moderates, while its international borrowing costs will rise as global liquidity dries up. More menacing still is the almost certainty that competition from China will only intensify in the years ahead.
(h/t Pajamas Media)