Saturday, December 3, 2022
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Carmen P. Flores

José Ugaz: ​"Corruption does not respect ideologies"

Editor of TEJ. Journalist

The fight against corruption has cost the illustrious Peruvian jurist José Ugaz more than one problem. It is not easy to oppose the political and economic powers of their country... For fourteen months he was in charge of the Ad-Hoc Prosecutor for the Fujimori-Montesino case, the most significant case in Peruvian history, in which he sentenced more than one hundred and twenty key characters of this era, starting with Alberto Fujimori himself.

Jose ugaz alchetron 2

José Ugaz, has a broad curriculum. Has worked in the Institutional Integrity Department of the World Bank, in the Council of the International Anticorruption Conference and in Transparency International, of which he was president for three years.

Mr. Ugaz, do the political powers encourage connivance with corruption?

In cases of widespread and systemic corruption, what the US researcher Sarah Chayes calls corruption as "Operating System" occurs, That is to say, it is not a problem of deviant individuals, but rather a perversion of the system of government, in which sophisticated networks, including political powers, crossing sectorial and national borders, for individuals' benefit at the expense of the common good. There is an interrelation between representatives of the political class, high level public servants , a business elite and criminal organisations. From that perspective, political powers are part of the operating system of corruption.

In countries where widespread corruption has not taken over, or do not suffer from systemic corruption, there are normally sectors of the political powers that act as allies of corruption, when they are not part of the corrupt networks themselves. Spain is a good example of this situation, as evidenced by recent scandals such as the financing of the PP, or the Pujol case.

Is corruption installed in all regimes?

It depends on the situation of each country and its types of government. According to the latest version of the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, two-thirds of the planet is severely affected by corruption. However, there are examples such as Hong Kong, Botswana, Uruguay, the Scandinavian countries, among others, in which there has been no penetration of corruption in government systems.

Who is more corrupt, the Right, or the Left?

Corruption does not distinguish between ideologies. As Professor Klitgaard points out, it is like AIDS: it does not distinguish between social status, gender, age, or ideological option. The Lava Jato case is the irrefutable proof that corruption penetrates both to the Right (Temer, the great construction entrepreneurs, Toledo, Martinelli, and so on), and to the Left (Lula, Kirschner, Maduro and their gang, Ortega, and so on).

Corruption has to do with the abuse of power, the forefront of personal benefit over the common good, anguish, and in many cases, with dysfunctional systems in which power groups are organized to obtain benefits for themselves and theirs.

What role do businessmen play in political corruption?

Many business elites lend themselves to the corruption game are part of corrupt networks. Normally public corruption requires private agents who hang around with rings of politicians or civil servants to the benefit of each other. In some cases they are promoters of corruption, in others, good companions.

There are also business sectors that, faced with the extortion that corruption implies, victimize themselves and prefer to acquiesce to corrupt practices. 

Finally, it also happens that sometimes some entrepreneurs are put into a situation of defenselessness in which they can do little or nothing against corruption at the risk of disappearing as a business or even be at risk physically.

Why has corruption not beem eradicated in consolidated democracies?

"Corruption zero" is a utopia, because in its origin, this is a practice inherent in human nature, ambition. In the case of consolidated democracies, corruption appears as a practice of deviant groups or individuals, as happens with other criminal phenomena.

Why is it impossible to eradicate corruption in Mexico and Venezuela?

In the case of these countries, as in almost all of Latin America, the high levels of corruption have to do with the pattern of Spanish colonization, based on patronage and extractivism, systems focused on obtaining profits for the few at the expense of the many. In many of the countries of our region, corruption has permeated its structure, is part of the system and therefore forms part of the exercise of power and the operating system.

In countries with authoritarian regimes (Venezuela, Nicaragua) or permeated by systemic corruption (Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Brazil, and so on), corruption tends to be greater due to the concentration of power, lack of transparency, lack of functioning of institutions of control such as justice systems, police, and so on. All in all, in those cases there is a kidnapping of the State by corrupt elites or dictatorships.

Who pays the consequences of corruption?

In the end, everyone pays for it, because corruption ends up deteriorating living conditions, generates violence, inequity, lack of stability and governability, and so on.

However, those who pay the highest price in the end, are always the poorest or most vulnerable sectors of society.

What role does the fight against corruption play International transparency?

Transparency International is a coalition that brings together national organisations from more than 114 countries. It carries out local action through its chapters and also global action as an international movement.

There are multiple forms of advocacy developed by Transparency International, from campaigns denouncing specific cases of corruption, practices that should be eradicated or changed, to proposals and development of tools to increase transparency, access to information, citizen participation in the audit of the exercise of power or public expenditure, and so on.

TI carries out its action in multiple fields, such as education, the private sector, justice systems, community work, public spending, governance, and so on.

What did your time as president, mean for you for Transparency International?

It has been an invaluable experience. It has allowed me to acquire a global vision of the dimension of corruption and the tremendous damage it is causing in the contemporary world. I have been able to experience in real time the impact of the widespread corruption in the human rights of vast impoverished majorities of the third world and the dysfunctions and distortions that it generates even in developed countries.

However, it has also allowed me to see a tremendous energy in citizen sectors increasingly aware of the damage caused by corruption, those who are mobilizing themselves in thousands and millions around the world to demand change, say enough to impunity and to demand a dignified, just and charitable life, in which a few are not those who enrich themselves at the expense of the majority.

What was the cost for you of the proceedings against Fujimori, Montesinos and their collaborators?

Fighting corruption, whatever its nature, always generates a cost. In my case, the corrupt forces, which always put up strong resistance, conduct intense defamation campaigns and "character assassination", trying to send the message that nobody is legitimized in a country like Peru to fight against corruption because "we are all corrupt." 

There was also a threat of kidnapping one of my children and a bomb installed in my vehicle that finally did not explode.

However, putting the experience into perspective, the positive experience has been much more valuable by the recognition of general public expressed, the support of institutions and serious media that supported our work to the end.

Do you think that the fight against corruption is lost?

No, I think we can keep it under control so that it does not affect the lives of millions of people, particularly the poorest, as has happened in several countries. In this spectrum of "good and bad aspects" that the widespread corruption in our time presents, highlights that is a great hope: citizen mobilisation, breaking with situations of historical impunity, the reaction of justice systems in several countries, and so on.

The challenge is make these anti-corruption efforts sustainable. I am an optimist, I think it is about cumulative processes, and that with the effort of many in time we will build a world in which corruption is not an obstacle to development, peace and happiness of t



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