By Carlos Alberto Montaner
I know few Latin American peoples that take the elections with such passion. On July 5, Dominicans will go to the polls. Fortunately, the elections have been refined year after year, to the point that the World Electoral Freedom Index (WEFI), which measures what happens in 198 countries and considers 55 parameters, gives the Dominican Republic one of the highest positions in the world.
The Index is published annually in Spanish and English by the Foundation for the Advancement of Freedom, led by Juan Pina from Madrid, with the sponsorship of the Human Rights Foundation of New York and the academic collaboration of the Autonomous University of Nuevo León, Mexico. In my opinion, the remarkable qualification that Dominicans receive is not unrelated to the work of that country’s Central Electoral Board.
This is very important. Democratic apathy is the consequence of doubt about the fate of the vote. Perhaps the enthusiasm of the voters is directly related to the certainty that their vote will be counted. But there is another much more urgent matter in the country–the need for honesty in the administration.
In the Dominican Republic, it is not possible to continue stealing with impunity. People are tired of seeing certain politicians and officials who come to power with a modest net worth and a few years later they have sumptuous houses and all the symptoms of wealth. Some ride in luxury cars, yachts, and helicopters.
Transparency International (TI) is a German foundation that measures corruption in different countries. Given the natural discretion of criminals and the secret nature of cheating, the only way to do it is by applying more or less scientific methods of “perception” of corruption as viewed by the society that suffers it. According to TI, the Dominican Republic ranks 137 out of the 198 nations surveyed. The most honorable are the Scandinavians, although among the best twenty are the usual suspects–the Netherlands, England, the United States, and a not-so-long etcetera.
The Dominican Republic gets a score of 28 out of a total of 100. The best 20 countries receive more than 90 or 80. It is assumed that with less than 50 there is a serious problem that incapacitates the country to fully develop. There are at least three Latin American countries that pass this test–Uruguay, Chile and Costa Rica. But the worst of all countries, behind the rest of the world, is Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela. More than a nation, it is a dunghill.
The damage caused by corruption is obvious. It stops investments and, even more serious, generates the attitude that there is no point in striving to give the consumer good price, quality and promptness, the basic elements of a healthy market, because the key to success is having a good relationship with the corrupt politician or official.
What is not so clear is how to stop or reduce corruption. Traditionally, the State is the best and fastest source of income for the unscrupulous, especially considering that we come from absolutely tolerant customs with dubious forms of behavior. Hernán Cortés, for instance, was “rewarded” with the tribute of twenty thousand Indians for having defeated the Aztecs. The Spanish Crown, in times of hardship, that is, almost always, sold positions in the colonial structure to the highest bidder.
It is not even enough to pay high wages to public employees. You can always expect more. Some countries have experimented with offering special remuneration to those who save money from the budget. I don’t know. That is usually dangerous. What is undoubtedly "working" is the transparency in the administration, a fast and effective judiciary that punishes violations of the law, and a robust market within civil society that allocates resources in a convenient manner. In the US, for instance, it is much more profitable to be president of a large corporation than to run the country.
What will happen in the July 5 elections? According to the polls, the economist Luis Abinader will win in the first or the second round at the head of a group called "Modern Revolutionary Party", which is an oxymoron, since if it is revolutionary, it cannot be modern and vice versa. (I suppose it is called like that to avoid being too far from the group from which it came, the “Dominican Revolutionary Party”)
Fortunately, President Danilo Medina, leader of the "Dominican Liberation Party", did not run. It was better for his personal glory. In the country some say that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dissuaded him when Danilo was thinking of running. The task for everyone is to start a great debate on corruption. If I were Abinader, my administration would begin there. ©FIRMAS PRESS Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is Sin ir más lejos (Memories), published by Debate, a label of Penguin-Random House.