Medvedev Proposes Reform: Russians Suspect Empty Promises

Vladimir Putin, center, attends President Dmitri Medvedev's state of the nation address. / REUTERS

In a bid to quell public anger that erupted in mass protests throughout Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev is proposing a set of political reforms that include measures to reduce corruption by public officials.

The bulk of the measures Medvedev proposed are aimed at loosening the Kremlin’s tight grip on power, which intensified under the policies of his predecessor and probable successor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Medvedev offered a number of election reforms that would give average citizens more of a voice in the political process.

For two weeks now,  protestors in Moscow and St. Petersburg have braved winter’s chill  to speak out against December elections that they said were rigged. Among Russians, there is great cynicism over whether Medvedev’s measures go far enough, or whether they are merely empty promises from a lame-duck president.

In Russia, as in so many countries, corruption and power go hand in hand.  Reformists end up in jail. Well-connected oligarchs enrich themselves through the sale of state assets.  Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranks Russia on par with  Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

Medvedev has tried to style himself as an anti-corruption reformer.  In his statement, he called for an independent public television channel to counter the state-run media, and last year he introduced a document called the National Anti-Corruption Strategy.

Poised to leave office as Medvedev is, it is hard to tell whether his statements are more than wishful thinking.

Sweep to Medvedev calls for reforms

Is Putin the richest man in Europe?  Rumors abound that he is worth $40 billion.  The Guardian in London reports that the Russian government disclosed that he made  $557,744 over the past four years as prime minister, has two modest apartments a couple of vintage Volgas and a 2009 Lada.  Considering that the Russian electorate is increasingly fed up with Putin, the timing of this pre-election release of information showing only modest finances is curious indeed.

Sweep to Vladimir Putin’s Wealth

Mexican navy seized leaders of "Los Zetas" and massive weapons caches earlier this month. / REUTERS

Talk about drastic measures: The entire police force of the violence-plagued city of Veracruz on Mexico’s Gulf Coast has been fired. More than 800 police officers and 300 other administrative employees were laid off.

Out with the police and in with the navy, which will now replace the sacked police officers.

The Veracruz state government says it wants to root out corruption by scraping the entire police force and recruiting a new force with stricter standards.

Veracruz has been plagued by gang attacks in Mexico’s drug wars, particularly from the ruthless Zetas.  Last September, 35 bodies were found dumped in the city. The announcement of the police-to-navy switch also came on the same day that soldiers and police killed 22 people in attacks on drug cartels in a number of Mexican cities.

Veracruz is the first Mexican state to take such a drastic action.  More than 45,000 people in Mexico have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006, when the government began to crack down on the country’s powerful drug-cartels.

Sweep to Corruption sees Mexican cops sacked

India is in the midst of a hot debate in Parliament over sweeping anti-corruption measures.

As that takes place, Transparency International India has surveyed 7,500 people to ask just who is the most corrupt in that country.  The answer: Politicians and police came up as the most corrupt institutions. The survey found that more than one in three public officials sought bribes just to do their jobs: To speed up paperwork or provide basic services.

India’s economy is rapidly growing, lifting many people out of poverty and into the middle class.  As the country gets wealthier, so do the corrupt.  The survey found that people at the highest end of the wealth scale were more likely to pay bribes than those at the bottom.

 Sweep to Politicians, cops most corrupt survey



Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is president and executive editor of 100Reporters, and the founder and co-director of the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, the United States' only investigative film festival.