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Cronyism, Militarism Mark Venezuela’s Corrupt Government

By: Pedro García Otero - Jul 27, 2016, 3:24 pm
Every day more, the Venezuelan government is a corporation of small family clans and military that cling to power (Turimiquire.com)
Every day more, the Venezuelan government becomes more and more a corporation of small family clans. (Turimiquire.com)

EspañolNepotism origin – Mid 17th century: from French népotisme, from Italian nepotismo, from nipote ‘nephew’ (with reference to privileges bestowed on the “nephews” of popes, who were in many cases their illegitimate sons). Source: Oxford Dictionary

Between July 2014 and July 2015 at least 105 officers from the military were named to high offices of in the government.  In that same period, 32 people were given other high administrative responsibilities. Of those connected family members, most were named by the Comptroller General Manuel Galindo. Which is particularly fascinating because part of his job is to prevent exactly this from happening.

These findings came out in a report titled “Nepotism and the Military in Power in Venezuela” conducted by the Convite Civil Society. It was created in 2006 by investigators, teachers and social activists and has a close relationship with the Catholic Church.

Though the information reported is from a year ago, it’s worth noting the military’s influence has increased further. To name one example: Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, who has become a de facto vicepresident. Nicolas Maduro announced “all ministries and offices report directly to him” despite Maduro saying he had decided to “return the military to their quarters.”

The same can be said about nepotism — at least in Galindo’s case. A report from early this month by the website Runrun said the number of the Comptroller’s relatives in key positions has increased to 13.

Perhaps because of the rampant corruption in Venezuela, nepotism isn’t directly punishable ini accordance with the 2014 corruption law. Said law had been paralyzed since 2012, precisely because of the refusal of parliament members of the official party to add an article to it.

However,  there are several international treaties signed by the country, like the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (2003) and the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption  (1996), which promote transparency and the elimination of practices that promote conflicts of interest.

All in the family

Aside from Comptroller Galindo, the report emphasized the case of first lady Cilia Flores. It also mentioned former, former Vice President and current member of Parliament Minister Elías Jaua. He is also President of Corpomiranda, an office created just for him when he was defeated as governor for his state.

For example, his wife Natacha Gonzalez was president of two foundations, including one dependent of Corpomiranda. She’s also Vice President of Pequiven — a state petrochemical company — without even taking into account her disastrous performance leading the Socialist Cement Corporation, which is made up of nationalized cement companies.

Regarding the first lady, there are two of her family in the Comptroller General’s Office: her brother Giuson Flores and her cousin Numidia Flores. The first was named as Deputy Comptroller General. The second went over four offices in just 19 days. Also, her former brother in law was named Magistrate of the Supreme Justice Tribunal. Other two officers in the Court are related by blood or personal connections with Cilia Flores.

Of course, the report doesn’t even evaluate Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and Efrain Campo Flores. Cilia Flores’ nephews are in jail in the U.S., though they held no public offices. However, when interviewed after being accused of conspiracy to get 800 kilograms of cocaine into the country they claimed being her relatives allowed them free traffic in all airports. This is particularly hard to dismiss given the number of drug trafficking cases that involve the military and high Venezuelan officers.

Even though Diosdado Cabello has lost power in the government, he managed to get his wife Marleny Contreras named Minister of Tourism.  He also got his cousin Ramon Campos Cabello named National Superintendent of Public Goods. His brother Jose David Cabello has been tributary superintendent for years.

Supporting the troops

The report also mentioned how the military filled key roles throughout the country, which is in open contradiction to the Venezuelan Constitution that establishes the army as professional and non-partisan. They have occupied roles in key areas like citizen security, food and public finance.

The militarization of such areas can only be qualified as disastrous. Venezuela is today the most violent country in Latin America. It also has the worst food scarcity, public deficit and inflation. However, this hasn’t been an obstacle for the number of military personnel in official appointments that continue to rise.

The military has filled the Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace with 30 appointments. In the Ministry of Food, 10 military were appointed. In the Industry and Commerce eight were appointed, and seven in the Ministry of Finance.

The report pointed out that both phenomena (nepotism and militarization of high offices) raise the possibility of corrupt acts, at they represent too much discretionary power for the public sector. It puts non-qualified people in sensitive posts, destroys the alleged neutrality of the military and fosters clientelism.

Convite also concluded that these problems are all made worse with the absence of an independent judicial system that punishes corruption. That is, “unless its people are opposed to the government.”

“In the case of the involvement of the military, society must be made aware of the perils it brings.  Such perils come when soldiers leave their functions to dedicate themselves to civilian duties.”

Pedro García Otero Pedro García Otero

Pedro García is the Spanish managing editor of the PanAm Post. He is a Venezuelan journalist with over 25 years of experience in local newspapers, radio, television, and online media. Follow him @PedroGarciaO.