Poster Paper: Trust-based Corruption Networks: A Comparative Analysis of Two Municipal Governments

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elizabeth Perez Chiques and Oliver D. Meza, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas

Contrary to most of the literature on corruption, which focuses on the effect of corruption on citizens’ trust in government, this paper explores the role of trust— as facilitator of, or binding within— corrupt networks: What is the role of trust in the maintenance of corrupt networks? Of trust as a facilitator of different types of public corruption? And how is the basis of trust reflected in the logic of corruption and with which effects? Based on a mixed-methods approach, including the analysis of in-depth interviews in two Latin American settings that exhibit normalized and systemic corruption, we identify and analyze two types of trust that are found to be instrumental in binding actors in informal, often corrupt networks: trust based on political affiliation and personal relations (“confianza”) and trust based on complicity, or on the co-participation in illicit activities. Preliminary analysis suggests that the basis of trust and the dynamics that arise thereof, have different effects on the functioning and stability of the informal networks, which, in turn, are reflected on the corrupt arrangements these potentiate. We find that networks that rely on politically-based trust result in more stable and predictable corrupt arrangements, while networks that rely on complicity-based trust are more fragile, resulting in unpredictable and more disorderly corrupt arrangements. This is consistent with the literature that argues that organized corruption provides stability and greater levels of certainty and is more conducive to growth than the high levels of uncertainty characteristic of disorganized, uncoordinated corrupt environments. Understanding the bases that bind actors within corrupt environments, is important for understanding the different ways in which corruption is configured, including the internal rules and prevailing logic within networks.