Maduro’s Anti-corruption Campaign, part II

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David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz

On Monday we looked at the Maduro government’s efforts to fight against corruption. In recent weeks multiple government officials have been arrested. Opposition critics have pointed to the selective nature of the cases, suggesting that Maduro’s efforts are more about politics than justice.

The decidedly mid-level character of the officials who have been targeted thus far has led many to suggest that Maduro won’t touch the big fish. For example Carlos Vecchio of Voluntad Popular points out that while Maduro talks about corruption “he has at his side Diosdado Cabello, who is one of the people that has been denounced the most for serious corruption.”

However, even selective pursuit could help Maduro gain internal control over his coalition. Pollster Luis Vicente León has said that through the fight against corruption: “Maduro can show that he is willing to attack groups within chavismo that are out of control. He is warning that if any chavista revolts, he may be accused of corruption.”

Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles has wryly suggested that the corruption campaign is necessarily selective. “If they really go in depth with the corruption issue, they will be left without a government.”

Opposition figures have also been the target of the anti-corruption campaign. Most notably, the Primero Justica National Assembly representative Richard Mardo, who was dramatically accused in February in the National Assembly of fraud and money laundering for contributions that were never declared to the National Electoral Council or tax authorities.

Mardo has declared that he is being politically persecuted. He says he was blackmailed by the government coalition who said they would not bring these charges if he switched parties and came to their side. The PSUV does not quite have the two thirds majority it wants in the National Assembly and has, in the past year, peeled away several opposition legislators.

The National Assembly is in the process of annulling his parliamentary immunity to allow him to be tried. Primero Justicia has said they stand by Mardo. Capriles recently suggested the government is pursuing him in order “cover over its own disaster.”

In our next post we will look at the reactions of anti-corruption non-governmental organization Transparency Venezuela.