For the third year running, Argentina has has been placed among the world’s – and the region’s – most corrupt nations, just as fresh details are emerging about dodgy campaign financing between Hugo Chavez and president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
On Monday this week, Transparency International released its Corruption Perceptions Index, where Argentina scored 2.9 on a score of 1-10, where 10 is the cleanest and 1 the most crooked. In the by-country ranking, Argentina came 109th among 180 countries, with squeaky-clean Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden at the top and basket case Somalia at the bottom.
Following hot on the tails of this bad news came further details in “Valijagate” or the suitcase scandal that’s besetting the Argentine and Venezuelan governments. The suitcase bearer, Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, testified yesterday in a Miami court that the US$800,000 he was carrying – which is said to have been illegal and undeclared campaign finance from Hugo Chavez to Cristina Kirchner – was only part of the story and that a separate suitcase on the same plane contained a further US$4 million.
The steady flow of details from the Miami hearing is casting a shadow over Kirchner’s triumphant trip to New York, where she’s been promising to pay off debtors and giving the US a lesson in economic management (see previous post).
Corruption is a serious human rights issue, according to Transparency International chair Huguette Labelle – as serious as life and death when money for basics like medicine and clean water is in play. “The continuing high levels of corruption and poverty plaguing many of the world’s societies amount to an ongoing humanitarian disaster and cannot be tolerated,” she said. “But even in more privileged countries, with enforcement disturbingly uneven, a tougher approach to tackling corruption is needed.”
Of Argentina’s Latin neighbours, Chile and Uruguay scored best with 6.9 and a rank of 23 (the same ranking and score as France, and just three spots behind the USA, which scored 7.3 and was placed at no. 18 on the list). Colombia scored a 3.8, Peru and Mexico 3.6, Brazil 3.5, Bolivia 3.0, Ecuador 2.0 and Venezuela 1.9.
Delia Ferreiro Rubio, president of Poder Ciudadano (or “Citizen Power”), an Argentine anti-corruption NGO, said she wasn’t surprised at her country’s poor score. “We still don’t have a law guaranteeing public access to information, our public contracts lack transparency, there’s a large degree of discretion in the distribution of public resources and there’s shady financing of political campaigns,” she said.
Transparency International’s CPI (Corruption Perceptions Index) is a composite index that draws on different expert and business surveys to measure the perceived levels of public-sector corruption in a given country.