USIS Washington 

25 February 1999


(Wants interfaith denunciation of the problem)  (682)
By Phillip Kurata
USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- Vice President Al Gore has appealed to the world's major
religions to issue a joint statement denouncing corruption.

Gore made the request February 25 at the three-day Global Forum on
Fighting Corruption, which he is hosting in Washington.

After leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu
faiths spoke about the devastation corruption causes to society and
the soul, Gore said, "All faiths are against corruption .... A common
statement of the world's religious faiths would strengthen the power
of the anti-corruption fighters."

The vice president said modern secular thought, which he regarded as
closely related to atheism, does not deal with corruption in its full
complexity; rather, it dissects problems into their smallest
components and deals with them separately. He said that the separation
of church and state should be maintained, but that the application of
spiritual principles could add a new dimension to the anti-corruption

At a different session dealing with integrity among justice and
security officials, Gore rejected a recommendation from a Tanzanian
delegate to start work on a global treaty to fight corruption. The
Tanzanian delegate admitted that his country suffers from high
corruption and appealed for international aid to fight the problem.

Gore said conditions are not ripe for such a treaty. He said time is
needed to implement the anti-corruption conventions of the
Organization for Economic Planning and Development and several
regional organizations. At some point in the future, an attempt could
be made to weave them together, Gore said.

A day earlier, World Bank President James Wolfensohn and U.S. Treasury
Secretary Robert Rubin threatened to withhold development aid to
countries that squander it through corruption. Gore told the Tanzanian
delegate the United States will work with any country that sincerely
tries to eradicate the problem.

The vice president endorsed a proposal from a delegate from Senegal to
promote a regional African anti-corruption treaty. Gore arranged for
the 15 African delegations attending the conference to hold an
exploratory meeting on February 26, the last day of the conference.

With regard to corruption in the military, experts from Uruguay and
Slovenia said low pay for soldiers is a strong incentive to take
bribes. Juan Rial of Uruguay said, for example, in Nicaragua, the
monthly salary for the president is $13,000, for the army commander,
$500, for an army captain, $280 and for an army private, $50. The
salary disparity should be decreased, Rial said.

Rial said patriotism is not the motive that draws people into the
military in Latin America. Most of the recruits are drawn from low
social strata and their aim is to get a job, not serve the country, he

Rial said he does not see an easy solution to military corruption in
Latin America at a time the role and size of the state apparatus is
being reduced, and government spending is being cut in the name of
fiscal discipline, causing reductions in soldiers' pay.

According to Anton Bebler of Slovenia's Ljubljana University, low pay
and potential for high rewards are strong incentives for military
corruption in Eastern Europe.

Trafficking in human organs, babies, women and drugs through Eastern
Europe would not be possible without border guards being paid to look
the other way, Bebler said. With the advent of multi-party politics in
Eastern Europe, military corruption has been democratized, Bebler
said, citing retired generals who go into politics using their
connections with defense ministries to fill their party coffers.

Mexican Attorney General Jorge Madrazo said corruption is not a black
and white issue. People who engage in the anti-corruption battle in
his country run the risk of losing their jobs and having their family
members killed while those who succumb to the temptation run the risk
of getting prosecuted, he said.

Philip Heymann, a former U.S. deputy attorney general, said no
government anti-corruption campaign can be credible unless it starts
with high-ranking officials.