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Why is corruption so prominent in the contemporary Latin American political scene?

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Introduction

Why is corruption so prominent in the contemporary Latin American political scene? Political corruption can be defined in many different ways but the most widely accepted definition of the term is the abuse of political power for personal gain in a manner that could be deemed as unethical or unfair (1) No country on earth is free from corruption, but the amount and impact it has varies greatly. Traditionally corruption has occurred in poor countries, rates of corruption being much higher in developing countries compared with OECD countries. Latin America, with its many developing states has traditionally been seen as suffering from corruption on a large scale. (2) Corruption is deeply embedded in Latin American political structures although it takes distinctive forms depending on each country's history and bureaucratic traditions, however Huntingdon identifies several factors present in most Latin American states that can be said to briefly explain why corruption prospers in Latin America "Corruption thrives on disorganisation, the absence of stable relationships among groups and of recognised patterns authority...corruption is most prevalent in states which lack effective political parties, in societies where the interests of the individual, the family, the clique or the clan predominate." (3) Corruption has prospered in so many Latin American states due to the system of government that exists in many of these countries. Kurt Weyland identifies state intervention in the economy as being one of the core explanations for corruption in Latin American. (4) "The more the government is removed from the economic marketplace - in most instances - the less opportunity and temptation there is for corruption" argues Bernard Aronson but there is precious little evidence to show that any of Latin American government is prepared to step back, especially after the economic crisis recently experienced in Argentina. (5) The government's role is essential in preserving corruption as it is government officials that determine what public resources are available and how they are distributed, which in itself gives huge scope for corruption. ...read more.

Middle

(25) They also contend that under this form of government, "corruption reigns supreme at all levels" as the leader's power is established and maintained by a mixture of fear and rewards to their collaborators." (26) It is possible to identify many sultanistic regimes in Latin America during the 20th century most notably Argentina under Peron, Nicaragua under the Somoza's and Paraguay under Stroessner. Although traditional sultanist regimes are largely a thing of the past in Latin America, one must be careful not to dismiss their existence in some diluted form. Linz and Chehabi argue that "elements of a legal-rational order of legitimising ideology are not totally absent from most sultanistic regimes" (27) and therefore just because most Latin American states are no longer experiencing traditional style sultanism, does not mean that elements of it still do not exist in Latin America, which thereby promotes the continuation of political corruption, even though overtly sultanistic regimes are no longer in existence. As the various Latin American sates have attempted to establish themselves as democracies, which no longer openly support state sponsored corruption, small scale sultanism has been established away from the prying eyes of the reforming state. (28) Guillermo O'Donnell argues that "in the aftermath of democratisation and economic restructuring in Latin America, countries like Argentina, Brazil and Peru have attempted to downsize state bureaucracy, which in turn has weakened the government's legitimacy and thus prevents them from establishing their authority and upholding the law outside of metropolitan areas. "Districts peripheral to the national centre, which are usually hit hardest by economic crises and are already endowed with weaker bureaucracies, create (or reinforce) systems of local power which tend to reach extremes of violent, personalistic rule - patrimonial, even sultanistic." (29) Corruption in rural Argentina is rife. The north-western province of Tucuman is among the country's most corrupt area, the role of local government in the region is primarily to enrich politicians and provide jobs for their cronies. ...read more.

Conclusion

Weyland, The Politics of Corruption in Latin America, Journal of Democracy, April 1998, p115 (18)Kurt Weyland, The Politics of Corruption in Latin America, Journal of Democracy, April 1998, p114 (19)http://www.bamrud.com/lbc/corruption.htm - article identifying corruption in Latin America and ways that people are trying to prevent it (20)Edited by H. Culbertson & N. Chen, International Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996, p279 (21)Edited by H. Culbertson & N. Chen, International Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996, p280 (22)http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0918/p08s01-woam.htm - article detailing political corruption in Paraguay (23)Walter Little & Eduardo Posado-Carbo, Political Corruption in Europe & Latin America, Macmillan Press, 1990, p38 (24)Edited by H.E. Chebabi & Juan J. Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, The John Hopkins University Press, 1998, p4 (25)Edited by H.E. Chebabi & Juan J. Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, The John Hopkins University Press, 1998, p7 (26)Edited by H.E. Chebabi & Juan J. Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, The John Hopkins University Press, 1998, p7 (27)Edited by H.E. Chebabi & Juan J. Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, The John Hopkins University Press, 1998, p9 (28)Edited by H.E. Chebabi & Juan J. Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, The John Hopkins University Press, 1998, p47 (29)Edited by H.E. Chebabi & Juan J. Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, The John Hopkins University Press, 1998, p47 (30)http://regulationmagazine.com/research/articles/lindsey-020109.html - article by acclaimed economist Brink Lindsey detailing Argentina's economic woes of recent years (31)Edited by H.E. Chebabi & Juan J. Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, The John Hopkins University Press, 1998, (32)Edited by H.E. Chebabi & Juan J. Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, The John Hopkins University Press, 1998, p150-151 (33)Edited by H.E. Chebabi & Juan J. Linz, Sultanistic Regimes, The John Hopkins University Press, 1998, p150-151 (34)http://www.ignet.gov/randp/f01c05.pdf - website detailing the work and successes carried out by the anti-corruption office in Argentina (35)Walter Little & Eduardo Posado-Carbo, Political Corruption in Europe & Latin America, Macmillan Press, 1990, p210 (36)http://www.globalpolicy.org/nations/launder/regions/2003/1208nica.htm - article about jailing of former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman (37)http://www.bamrud.com/lbc/corruption.htm - article identifying corruption in Latin America and ways that people are trying to prevent it (38)http://www.worldpress.org/Americas/379. ...read more.

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