Maduro’s Anti-corruption Campaign, part I

David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz

There are no untouchables here; no one is untouchable. We will fight corruption with all our strength. It doesn’t matter if corruption wears a red beret or if it is part of the yellow fascist bourgeoisie. Nicolas Maduro, July 8, 2013

In recent weeks President Nicolas Maduro has taken on corruption with the announcement of arrests of a number of mid-level government officials. These include multiple officials from both tax collection agency SENIAT and consumer protection agency INDEPABIS, the ex-President of Ferrominera (state mining company), an inspector from the Ministry of Health, and five officials involved in a multi-million dollar scam involving the China Fund. (A list compiled by Hinterlaces of government officials arrested so far can be read here)

Addressing corruption is a challenge for any government since it ipso facto highlights its own failures. But this is especially true for a socialist, revolutionary governments whose discourse associates social ills, especially those having to do with greed and dishonesty, with capitalism. Maduro has addressed this by suggesting that “corruption is an anti-socialist and anti-revolutionary act.”

In a May 4 declaration, Maduro announced the creation of a “secret agency” that would fight corruption wherever it is found: “To those who are corrupt but dress in red [socialist party’s colors], I say we are coming for you. We will be implacable.” Maduro also quoted Simón Bolívar staying the starting point of the anti-corruption struggle should be a moral one: “One of the greatest dangers is the demoralization of the people. A decrease in public morality soon causes the dissolution of the State. This is why the Fourth Republic [Venezuela’s democracy from 1958-1998] went into dissolution; it morally declined and disintegrated because of corruption.”

Other government officials have been making public declarations on the issue as well. Vice-president Jorge Arreaza said they aimed to weed out corruption from “all the ministries, all of our procedures. We need to detect internal corruption, but also corruption of the right [opposition leaders], in their governorships, their mayors, their political parties.”  

The Fiscal General Luisa Ortega Díaz discussed corruption in an interview, suggesting it is not unique to Venezuela: “the theme of corruption in the world is almost contemporary to the birth of humanity.”

The appointment of the new INDEPABIS director Eduardo Samán is seen as part of this anti-corruption campaign. Among government supporters Samán, is regarded as a radical of high ethical standards. He declared on July 7 that “We now see a disposition by the national government to fight this corruption and my appointment has to do with that, with the disposition to fight corruption among public functionaries, but also business corruption.”

In our next post we will look at critical reactions to Maduro’s fight against corruption.