Waste: Transparency International has named Venezuela the most corrupt nation in the hemisphere, matching Haiti and besting the likes of Paraguay and Nicaragua. With a $1 trillion oil windfall, that's lots of graft.
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez ushered in the era of high oil prices in 1998, slashing output and earning the country a cool $1.125 trillion windfall as oil prices shot from $9 a barrel to more than $100.
That's bizarre, given that Venezuela remains a crime-ridden hellhole, whose vast slums and impoverished people offer not a scintilla of evidence of any spreading prosperity. Other countries, even lousy ones such as Ecuador, have spiffed up their cities using oil revenue.
Not Chavez's Bolivarian government. Despite claims to have spent $300 billion on social programs, it offers citizens only more poverty.
That raises questions about just where the money went, and the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranked Venezuela at 165 out of 176 countries this week, offers useful clues.
TI reports that bribery, embezzlement, patronage, nepotism, conflict of interest and procurement padding in the public sector are the big sources of corruption.
All of these are crimes committed in the dark, the antithesis of transparency, and Chavez has expanded the public sector more than 25% during his regime.
No wonder so many billions are missing.
Venezuela's budget is secret, its oil earnings are secret, its electoral mechanisms are secret, and its media are largely under government control. Whistle-blowers are hit with draconian punishments. As for the health of the president, who apparently is dying of cancer — well, that's a secret, too.