In the run-up to Venezuela’s presidential election, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles’ aid and a National Assembly deputy, Juan Carlos Caldera, had to step down after a video was released showing him taking $9,300 from a blurry figure.
While Caldera maintains that Luis Pena, aide to shipping magnate Wilmer Ruperti, had just made a donation to Caldera’s mayoral campaign, government officials accuse him of being bribed in exchange for political favors related to Mr. Capriles’ campaign.
The presidential election is just weeks away, and the margin between incumbent President Hugo Chavez and Capriles, his closest rival, seems to be shrinking, now to less than 10 percent. Capriles quickly expelled Caldera from his team and made a strong stand for more government transparency.
Rampant corruption, fueled by a growth in the public sector, have been the signature of Chavez’ 14 years in office. Transparency International ranks Venezuela 172 out of 183 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index, tied with Burundi and Equatorial Guinea.
The Chavez government has faced numerous challenges related to corruption, including a bridge collapse in Caracas, a refinery explosion that killed 42 people, and a Madrid court indictment of Spanish officials linked to ship-builder Navantia for sales in 2005 that included alleged payment of $55 million in “commissions” to former Venezuelan Navy officials.
Here’s the video:
Maria Dolores Hernandez J. is a researcher for the membership area of the FCPA Blog.