Foreign Policy Blogs

Corruption Never Fades in the Absence of Justice

When looking into the political history of many of the world’s most complex issues, often there is a strong sense of injustice in communities on both sides of a conflict. Injustice comes from the belief that one group or individual has a disproportionate amount of power, and abuses that position to its benefit, its family’s needs, or the needs of its interest group or political party.

In societies with little corruption, once the creation of unjust mechanisms and institution becomes entrenched, it is almost impossible to return  to a system of balanced and equal justice. In some cases, revolutionary ideals can change a corrupt system, but more often than not it leads to extreme violence and a new system that takes on their own forms of corrupt practices.

Politicking in the modern era reflects many of the same tactics that could rightfully be seen as spurning on absurd religious ideals of the past. Civil discourse has taken generations to develop as a means to have civil conflicts with fellow citizens with a difference of opinion.

This tradition is increasingly being lost. Modern political dialogue seeks to label an adversary as inherently evil. If someone is “evil”, then all ideas must come from a place where the individual, their family or group are acting against the greater good of the society. If the corrupt can claim their adversaries are corrupt, then there is no perception of justice. When every conflict great and small is taken in terms of good vs. evil, no progress can be made and corruption becomes more of a nuance than a lack of accountability.

With such a system in place, corruption will never face justice as powerful groups in black and white societies benefit the most when there is no room for truth and civil discourse. With entrenched corruption, it is inevitable that a nation’s finances will wane and debt will grow. Those in power act according to their self-interest, and if challenged by others in society, they promptly label their challenger as evil, discrediting him or her.

For generations in Colombia, revolutionary groups have claimed that their narco-business was a form of resistance against a corrupt government. The revolutionaries killed many innocent people, and the response by the government also produced civilian causalities.

In Mexico, with the current government being seen by many as not only being inherently corrupt, but having knowledge and perhaps a role in the death of dozens of protestors, the view is that an evil government gives rise to a Robin Hood. Justice is therefore seen as the only alternative, often by any means necessary. Sean Penn and other journalists who engage with narco traffickers take the position that, if they operate in a system where the government itself is inherently corrupt and unjust, then the alternative must be in some sense a righteous one. Often this impression leads to the death of many innocents, at the same time converts the narrative into one of justice against evil.

While this narrative is not unique to one region of the world, it divides discussions into those of “us vs. them.” It promotes not only the status quo, but often hurts those who need justice the most. In the big discussion of El Chapo and the Mexican government, the citizens of Mexico are almost never mentioned.

In a debate between Republicans and Democrats, the distain each side feels towards the other will do more to give rise to added corruption by an elite that has little regard for the people they wish to govern.

In Brazil, corruption scandals have triggered historic debt levels and suffering for its people, leading two million people to take to the streets and demand justice. If there is a method to dispel the dominant narratives, justice can perhaps relinquish the ills of corruption. However, this may only occur when finances are in shambles and debt is affecting each citizen personally. This is happening in Brazil, and only after there were no other choices left.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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