Does society forgive the corruption of its politicians?

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For many, the education and experience of a political leader outweighs his record of illegality

Does society forgive the corruption of its politicians?

In Latin America, three out of every four citizens have little or no confidence in their governments. The data produced by a survey prepared by Transparency International (IT) in 2017, show that almost 80% of citizens recognize that corruption extends from public entities to electoral representatives. Even so, the votes seem to favor candidates with a history stained by corruption.

Leer en español: ¿Perdona la sociedad la corrupción de sus políticos?

In addition to being globally recognized for its fertile lands and friendly people, Latin America is ranked as one of the regions with the highest concentration of corruption. Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, Venezuela and Mexico make up the list of the most corrupt countries in this region.

According to statistics revealed by TI, Mexico ranks first amongst the countries where more bribes are paid to public officials. But in recent months, other governments have been involved in monumental scandals that have ended with the dismissal, resignation or imprisonment of several political leaders.


A quick tour of the largest bribery network in history

One of the most recent cases, which is called the largest foreign bribery network in history, corresponds to the Brazilian construction company Odebercht. Several of the most important politicians of the continent trembled after knowing that this company had been involved in numerous and millionaire electoral processes in the region.

The Odebrecht explosion prompted the resignation of Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who became the highest-ranking politician to fall due to the scandal while he was in office. In this same country, the presidents Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006) and Ollanta Humalla (2011-2016) were accused of having received millionaire bribes. The shock wave of manipulation and corruption goes through Brazil, where both the current president, Michel Temer, and his predecessors Dila Rousseff and Lula da Silva have been implicated. The latter was handed over on Saturday, April 7 to the authorities to begin serving a sentence of 12 years in prison for corruption.

In Colombia, the re-election campaign of President Juan Manuel Santos was also splashed after confirming that 4.6 million dollars were received in contributions and financing. Former presidents of Panama, the president of Argentina and government advisers from El Salvador and Nicaragua are not spared from the Odebrecht network. But this is just one of the tentacles of the gigantic octopus that covers and manages the political threads of the world -and in this case Latin America-, where campaigns are paid with political favors and voters are continually manipulated.


Do citizens approve corruption?

Studies on the support of the citizenship for corrupt candidates indicate that most people value the education and experience of the politician over their history or links with cases of corruption. In turn, the population that knows and disapproves of the acts of corruption of its leaders ends up thinking that all of them are equal, so they stop considering the vote as a possibility of change. This is where electoral abstention becomes a tool that favors the corrupt and a threat to democracy in a region that has stopped believing in its leaders.

In Colombia, for example, the abstention rate is never below 50%. In the last seven years, more than 19,000 people have been sanctioned by corruption cases and at least 150,000 million USD are lost each year, an amount that would be enough to build one million houses of social interest.

It seems that those who continue to support candidates and parties used by corrupt leaders who try to perpetuate themselves in power (despite their investigations for corruption and illicit enrichment), ignore in the midst of their naivety or disinformation that the powers of the state rule only for 1% from the country, that 1% that accumulates the wealth of a nation and finances the arrival to the presidency of the politicians.

According to IT, in Latin America 53% of the population believes that governments do nothing to combat the scourge of corruption and, on the contrary, contribute to the situation worsening. Reducing corruption is a key condition for a just and equitable society, but it is up to the citizens to condemn or not the illicit acts committed by their leaders in the past.


Latin American Post | Krishna Jaramillo

Translated from "¿Perdona la sociedad la corrupción de sus políticos?"