Putin Tries to Claim Anti-Corruption Movement as His Own

He'll be around for awhile: The Uzor weaving plant outside St. Petersburg churns out tapestries of Vladimir Putin. / REUTERS

To his critics, Russian Prime Minister and presidential frontrunner Vladimir Putin is the problem, not the solution, to corruption. Just the same, he has come out as a full-throated opponent of corruption, in a new plank to his campaign platform.

Writing in the Kommersant business daily, Putin said that a transparency movement sweeping the country should become a “national cause” and that everyone – “authorities and opposition” – bears responsibility for halting corruption.

Putin’s essay, the fourth in a series that defines his campaign, came as tens of thousands braved below-freezing temperatures and snow in Moscow to protest his planned return to power, charging that Putin represents repression and rigged elections.

His essay proposes to open administrative courts to hear individual complaints against officials, greater disclosure of court hearings and “huge salaries for [some] government officials” who agree to “absolute transparency” that would include their family spending.

The former KGB chief also offers to open the legislative process to Internet activists–in exchange for their anonymity. (Given the tendency of Putin’s rivals and critics to land in jail or the grave, the proposal seems unlikely to spark a rebirth of democracy.)

Putin is expected to win election to a six-year term.  He had served as president from 2000 to 2008, until he was prevented for running again by term limits. His hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev then became president and is now stepping aside, allowing Putin to run again.

Transparency International ranks Russia as more corrupt then such perennials on its list as Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Sweep to Putin ponders corruption, Internet democracy in new article

“Baby Doc” Duvalier is in big trouble – and should be, according to a Canadian professor and expert on Haiti.

In an opinion piece in Toronto Star, Jorge Heine, a governance professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, said that how Haiti handles Jean-Claude Duvalier, who has been charged with corruption, is a test for whether the country can stand up to the kind of impunity the Duvalier family represents.

Baby Doc was Haiti’s “president for life,” even though his tenure only lasted from 1971 to 1986.  He returned after fleeing Haiti – a country which saw 30,000 people killed or “disappeared” during his regime and an estimated $300 million to $800 million lost to embezzlement.

Right now, Duvalier has been saying he may well run for president. Not so fast, says Judge Carves Jean, who ruled that Duvalier should stand trial on corruption charges. Even though Duvalier is not charged with human rights violations, Heine said the corruption charges are a step in the right direction.  Comments by Haiti’s current president, Michel Martelly, hinting that he might pardon Duvalier – comments that he later backed away from – raise questions about how big that step might be.

Sweep to Jean-Claude Duvalier should be tried for more than corruption

A seagull perches on a statue covered in snow at St. Peter's square Saturday. / REUTERS

The Vatican is fighting back against corruption charges – and in a way that only stirs the pot of intrigue.

Four Vatican clerics said in a statement that corruption charges leveled by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Holy See’s current ambassador to Washington, are “either the fruit of erroneous evaluations or based on fears not backed up by proof.”

Vigano was transferred to Washington over his objections, after he wrote to Pope Benedict to complain of corruption in awarding contracts at the Vatican, where he held a top-level management position.

Reuters reported that the Vigano’s letters, which were leaked to the press last month, “read like a Renaissance drama of court intrigue, rivalry and petty bickering that have embarrassed the Vatican.”

Vigano has remained silent as cardinals, bishops and monsignors have taken to a very public spat over his allegations.  Among those defending the Vatican were a cardinal and an archbishop who is to be raised to cardinal this month.

Given the fact that the Vatican has survived for more than a thousand years – and through scandals far worse than this – perhaps the officials who are upset should take a long view.

Sweep to Vatican officials contest corruption charges

Leslie Wayne

Leslie Wayne

Leslie Wayne, former senior editor at 100Reporters, is an award-winning business reporter, formerly at The New York Times. Ms. Wayne joined The Times in 1981 and has covered Wall Street, banking industry regulatory reform, municipal finance scandals and, most recently, the aerospace and military industries. Ms. Wayne has an M.B.A. in finance from Columbia Business School and was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economic Journalism.