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Do Argentine’s have a high tolerance for dishonesty ?

Many of Argentina’s neighbours would say that Argentine’s have always had a high tolerance for dishonesty. Now printed on the front page of the most respected newspaper in Argentina it quotes a just released social survey that would suggest they do. After decades of Peronism and more recently Kirchnerism the line between what is right and wrong has been blurred to where much of society works on the edges.

high tolerance for dishonestyNow when the newspapers print everyday evidence of criminal malpractice by the politicians and the surrounding elite, people just shrug their shoulders and think there for the luck of the gods it could have been me. Corruption at the upper levels runs into billions of dollars yet there is never any talk of impeachment. No one goes to jail. There are no sanctions.

Now an updated Argentine survey confirms what everyone knew but would not say out loud.

In Argentina 80% of the population say they live outside the law.

More than 40 percent of Argentines are willing to break the law if they believe they are right; almost 80% think the country “lives most of the time outside the law” and about 90% think that Argentines are “rather disobedient, or dishonest”.

These are some of the most compelling findings of a survey on constitutional culture developed for the by Poliarquía Consultants and International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance), an intergovernmental organization dedicated to promoting and contributing to the quality of democracy.

The willingness to violate the law if they believe they have reason to was chosen by 43% of respondents, while 46% were not willing, 9% answered “depends” and the remaining 2% did not know or preferred not to answer.

The picture is completed by the level of agreement with a series of statements.

73% said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the idea that in society “there is consensus about what is right and what is wrong.”

In line, 84% chose the same options for the notion that “people respect the rules necessary for good social coexistence.”

“To the extent that laws which generate general compliance it appears that individual behavior is a consequence precisely because the lack of clarity on rules recognized” reflected Eduardo Fidanza, director of Poliarquía.

The perception of why the laws are violated Argentina includes several options. For 33%, has to do with “bad functioning of the judiciary”, 30% attributed to “human misbehavior” and another 17% “lack of any punishment”.

Linked to the latter, 63% of respondents said not believe that Argentines are equal before the law; 84% disagreed with the Justice judge people regardless of the money they have, and 78% did not agree with the premise that if he committed a crime, “anyone can go to jail regardless of who they are “.

Also the personification of the tendency to break the law provides interesting data. When asked who violates more laws? and the possibility of choosing more than one group,

74% pointed to “political”; 52%, “the police”; 43% to “officials”; 38%, “the judges”, and 19% to “lawyers”. Only 1% ranked first the government.

In return, amongst the institutions that inspire greater confidence prevailed the public universities, teachers, the Catholic Church, the media and NGOs.

Among the least reliable were the political parties (half said having them untrustworthy), unions (45% chose that option), police (42%) and Congress (27%).

Other three strong conclusions regarding the branches of government: the majority of respondents believed that members of Congress make decisions with little thought (49%) and nothing (26%) in people and that judges are somewhat (41%) or nothing (19%) independent, while 51% awarded them little (36%) or no (15%) regardless of the Supreme Court.

Neither the historical perspective is encouraging. A replica of this survey was done in 2004 showed similar results. “As the first study marginal improvements are observed, but the diagnosis is in effect: a weak link with the law and the conviction that most Argentines do not comply with the law,” said Fidanza.

The credit side, although in the minority, the survey shows some encouraging findings. 60% said they agreed with that, “in general, you can trust people”, and 78% felt that “if you have a problem there is always someone willing to help.”

At the institutional level, 91% felt that the Constitution is important or very important; 71% believed that democracy is preferable to any other form of government and 70% said they prefer a “law-abiding, even if not very strong” versus the inverse alternative, 24% chose the leader.

“Some clear paradox between beliefs and aspirations and the conviction that there is no consensus about what is right and what is wrong remains” concluded Fidanza.

For many people around the world, the rule of law is essential to freedom and is the fabric that keeps society together. Is this the reason Argentine society is so divided ?

With elections coming up in the next few months society will have to make the choice of living in the past or moving to a more inclusive and open democracy. Don’t hold your breath but there are signs of change.

To read the Spanish version click on this link.



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