Venezuela ranked as the most corrupt country in the Americas in 2022, surpassing Haiti and the other authoritarian regimes in the region, Cuba and Nicaragua, according to Transparency International’s 28th Annual Corruption Perceptions Index released this week.
The report ranked Venezuela as the 177th most corrupt out of 180 countries, which made the South American nation the fourth most corrupt country behind only Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan.
Transparency International noted that, in the Americas, the top three most corrupt countries – Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela – are those whose public institutions have been infiltrated by criminal networks and, therefore, “it is difficult to draw a line between public institutions and criminal activities” in those countries.
“Pervasive corruption across the Americas fuels the many other crises facing the region,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “Weak governments fail to stop criminal networks, social conflict and violence, and some exacerbate threats to human rights by concentrating power in the name of tackling insecurity.”
“The only way forward is for leaders to prioritize decisive action against corruption to uproot its hold and enable governments to fulfill their first mandate: protecting the people,” Ferreira advised, a recommendation unlikely to move the government of Venezuela, whose leader, Nicolás Maduro, has a $15 million U.S. bounty on his head for drug trafficking.
In contrast, the countries with the least perception of corruption in the region were Canada, Uruguay, and the United States.
Venezuela has been ruled by an authoritarian socialist regime since 1999 that maintains a fierce grip on all of the country’s public institutions and branches of power. The regime has illegitimately clung to power since 2019 by holding sham presidential elections in 2018 and seizing control of the National Assembly through separate sham elections in 2020.
The nation’s socialist dictator, Maduro, along with high-ranking members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the nation’s military, stand accused by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other international organizations of leading the Cartel de los Soles (Cartel of the Suns), one of the largest intercontinental drug trafficking operations in the region.
Venezuela’s socialist regime maintain extensive ties to other international criminal organizations, such as Colombia’s Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Members of the socialist regime have been directly accused of being linked to international terrorist organizations – prominently, the regime’s oil minister, Tareck el Aissami, who has been accused of having ties to the terrorist organization Hezbollah — whom the Maduro regime has sold Venezuelan passports, which are difficult to obtain for the nation’s citizens, in the past.
Transparency International’s report detailed that illegal business amounted for 21 percent of Venezuela’s entire GDP during 2021. The report also made mention of the grave situation in Venezuela’s mining arc, where criminal groups “exercise vast control over gold mining operations, using extortion and paying off military commanders to maintain their illegal activities.”
The United Nations, through its Independent Fact-Finding Mission, released a extensive report in 2020 detailing the situation of Venezuela’s mining arc, where criminal groups — despite the “considerable” presence of Venezuela’s military — have exercised a fierce control over a large number of mining operations, engaging in serious crimes that range from extortion, amputation, and miners being buried alive, as well as cases of child labor and prostitution.
“These groups are responsible for human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, the killing of indigenous leaders and the displacement of their communities, forced prostitution, and labor exploitation of both adults and children, as well as contamination and other serious environmental crimes,” Transparency International’s report explained.