Kleptocracy: Definition, Features, Types, Pros & Cons

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Kleptocracy: Definition, Features, Types & Examples


Kleptocracy is a form of government which is characterized by the systematic and institutionalized theft of public funds and goods by its elites.

In a kleptocracy government, rulers and like-minded elites engage in robbery in a normalized way. To such an extent that there is an institutionalization of corruption. In democracies, theoretically, the income and money obtained after government tax collection is reinvested in the form of public services.

The logic that a kleptocracy follows is not the one recently mentioned. It is true that it is impossible to steal all the collection of a country, but it is carried out, with the purpose of personal enrichment, the looting of a large part of it from the population.

It cannot be said that it is a form of government per se, but rather it is a defining characteristic of the regime. That is, a regime can be authoritarian, totalitarian, democratic, etc. We will say that any of these regimes is a kleptocracy if the corruption has reached such a point that it is carried out in an institutionalized and routine way.

The country that suffers from kleptocracy, with the passage of time, falls into economic decline. This, given that the State is at the service and subjected to the looting of the rulers, the economic variables tend to be negative. In addition, these countries tend to appear very high in the rankings of the most corrupt nations.

Features of Kleptocracy

A series of characteristics are common to all kleptocracy:

  • The country’s government and economic elites are dedicated to stealing public money.
  • Theft is done by diverting the funds to other countries to avoid being discovered by their own fellow citizens.
  • The taxes are often high, or rise during the period in which government prime kleptocracy, in order to subtract a greater amount of money.
  • Corruption is institutionalized, that is, it is practiced regularly and is part of the normal functioning of the regime.
  • Impunity for those who steal funds. This is because the executive branch exercises tight control over the judicial branch.
  • Use of the figure of the figurehead. All these illegal operations are carried out by a front man. Who charges a commission for putting all these transactions in his name.

Types of Kleptocracy

The kleptocracy uses all the tools and forms in which political corruption manifests itself:

  • Embezzlement: It is the most illustrative crime of what corruption means. It refers to the misappropriation of funds that do not belong to the person who steals them.
  • Prevarication: It refers to passingjudicial sentences not in accordance with the law, knowingly.
  • Bribery: It is the bribery of public officials and administrators.
  • Influence Peddling: It consists of obtaining benefits through personal relationships with power.

As we see, in a kleptocracy, all the possible ways in which corruption manifests itself are present. Since justice is controlled and subject to the orders of the executive, a free way is established to loot the country and the institutions.

Examples of Kleptocracy Government

Here are some examples of territories that have a kleptocratic system:

  • Suharto’s Indonesia: After gaining independence from the Netherland and expelling Sukarno, the country’s first president, Suharto took power with the support of the United States and remained in charge of the country’s presidency for thirty-two years. During all these years, the Indonesian president dedicated himself to plundering the country with such force that, in 2004, Transparency International estimated the total stolen at more than 15,000 million dollars.
  • Bolivarian Venezuela: Diosdado Cabello, Nicolás Maduro, María Gabriela Chávez or the late Hugo Chávez, are some of the billionaire leaders of Bolivarian Venezuela. With the total intervention of the economy by the State, and the implementation of expropriations and nationalizations, Venezuela has plunged into a spiral of poverty from which it does not seem to be able to escape. Instead, national leaders hoard multimillion-dollar fortunes thanks to the plundering of the country’s resources. At the same time, the population has very difficult their daily subsistence under the great inflation and the scarcity that plagues the country.
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