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 effort. 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 said. 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.