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Criminal law persists in the battle against corruption in Venezuela

Corruption is defined as the improper use of public and private resources for the benefit of a group of people or individuals involved in positions of power. Its effects have repercussions in political, social and economic environments, and affect the security of institutions, organizations and societies in general. Therefore, it is the responsibility of governments and legal representatives to advocate in the fight against these criminal practices. In that sense, in this article we will talk about the implications of the criminal law for fighting corruption in Venezuela.

Background on the fight against corruption in Latin America and the Caribbean

Most Latin American countries have been permeated by criminal practices associated with corruption. One of the main causes is the relegation of effective reforms to combat this crime, as it is considered a low priority in many governments. In fact, until 2010 the anti-corruption movement enjoyed greater popularity and governmental attention, but has been pushed into the background over the years.

But in Latin America the anti-corruption landscape is very diverse in the areas of legislation, authorities and implementation. According to the Latin America Anti-Corruption Assessment 2021-2022In the cases of Peru and Mexico, there is a strong institutional weakening due to the lack of independence of the authorities in charge of these procedures. As in Guatemala, pressures on the various independent justice actors undermine efforts to enforce justice in the country.

In the case of Uruguay and Chile, two of the best positioned countries in the fight against corruption, it is interesting to note that although their legislative frameworks are not the most robust, the implementation of measures is effective. This is the result of the independence and capacity of the organizations and institutions, as well as the political will they maintain.

Current context of corruption in Venezuela

Venezuela is a country in the midst of a very complex political and economic crisis. In fact, according to a Transparency International reportIn the region, this is one of the most corrupt countries in the entire region, accompanied by Nicaragua and Haiti. Due to the perceived levels of corruption in public institutions controlled by the State. In fact, it is only surpassed by countries in conflict such as Somalia, Syria and South Sudan.

But although Venezuela remains in this position, it has shown slight improvements since 2021, thanks to the legal efforts of various participants. Such is the case of the Public Prosecutor's Office and the arrest of more than 3,800 public servants who have been appearing for various crimes related to the public authorities of the country. In addition to having made two legal reforms in the Organic Law against Corruption, in the search for harsher penalties for those involved in these crimes.

Criminal law fights corruption in Venezuela

On March 31, 2022 the National Assembly approved the partial reform of the Organic Law against Corruption, modifying 27 articles. It stiffens the sanctions against offenders, using measures ranging from suspension without pay, fines, up to a judicial sentence dictated by a judge. Being object of public discussion, due to the fact that it applies the same formula used by the executive to contain this crime. Without guaranteeing new measures, both educational and legislative, that could really have an impact on the origin of the problem.

Among the changes that were executed in these articles we have that the new article 38 defines the penalty for public employees who do not submit their sworn statement of net worth. Increasing the sanction to a fine from 100 to 1000 tax units according to the official exchange rate of the highest value currency published by the Central Bank of Venezuela. And adding up to 18 months of suspension without pay, replacing the 12 months that had been established in the past.

Similarly, prison sentences for employees who directly incur in the crime of corruption are changed, increasing the period from 3 months to one year to sentences of 3 and 6 years of imprisonment.

Implications of corruption in the lives of Venezuelans

It is difficult to establish specific consequences of corruption in Venezuela, but this crime has many effects on today's society. Because the large amounts of money that are diverted into unscrupulous hands are usually directed towards health services, welfare, education, roads, among others. When affected by the loss of resources, most of the consequences range from loss of life due to the interruption of basic services, to the massive exodus of population in search of a fairer and more dignified life in less corrupt countries.

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