The system of government is known as kleptocracy that, instead of seeking the common good, is focused on the enrichment of its own leaders, for which it takes advantage of public resources.
The kleptocracy, therefore, implies the institutionalization of corruption and theft for the benefit of the rulers. This type of system appeals to clientelism, nepotism and other mechanisms to plunder the state.
Patronage is understood as the methodology put into practice by any person with power, such as a ruler, when he grants certain benefits to others with the condition of receiving something in return, especially favors, submission or ideological support. In the specific case of politics, where this term is used a lot, candidates for public office can rely on patronage to get more votes.
Another of the concepts related to kleptocracy mentioned in the first paragraph is nepotism; It can be defined as the preference that certain public officials have when granting jobs, since they choose their loved ones, such as their family and friends, regardless of whether they have the necessary skills. In countries where kleptocracy does not reign, nepotism is considered a form of corruption.
Although acts of corruption and illegal actions can be recorded in all government systems, what distinguishes the kleptocracy is the extension of these practices to all areas and as the essence of the regime. This particularity guarantees impunity, since there is no sector of power that is exempt from crime. If the Executive Branch controls the Legislative Branch and dominates the Judicial Branch, the kleptocracy can take hold and perpetuate itself.
Among the most common practices of a kleptocracy are the diversion of funds from the national budget (the money is not used for what it should be used) and tax increases (which allows the government to have additional funds without having to provide a direct consideration). The rulers who get rich, meanwhile, usually have front men and bank accounts in tax havens so that it is not easy to prove the crimes.
The concept of figurehead is used in various fields, such as psychology, literature and law, to refer to the individual who impersonates another at the legal level, giving him his identity completely including his name and signature, or representing his social role on a legal plane. In the context of kleptocracy, a front man is someone who lends his person to the execution of fraudulent businesses in exchange for certain benefits, such as tax evasion. It should be noted that in Uruguay and Spain, for example, this figure is not considered illegal.
A system as corrupt as a kleptocracy often causes serious damage to the country. Theft and misuse of public money destroy the economy, creating unemployment. Social problems, in turn, are not adequately addressed by the rulers. This is how poverty, violence and other scourges multiply.
From a historical point of view, Latin America and Africa have been the parts of the world where more cases of kleptocracy have been registered. On the other hand, certain analysts use the word “kleptocracy” to negatively criticize the political processes through which large companies manage to influence the political environment of a country.
The American activist Ralph Nader used the term “kleptocracy” to describe his own country during the 2000 elections, giving it the sense mentioned in the previous paragraph. It is worth mentioning that in this case it is more correct to speak of plutocracy, the organization of a society according to which the richest are those who control the government.