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Terrorism & Security

And the most corrupt nation this year is.... (+video)

It's a tie between Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia. Elsewhere, bankrupt Greece, one-party China, and various 'Arab Spring' nations stand out in Transparency International's annual rankings.

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Just ask Yang Dacai. As head of Shaanxi Province’s Safety Supervision Bureau, he was called to the scene of a ghastly crash 10 days ago that had killed 36 bus passengers. For some reason, he was smiling inanely in a reporter’s photograph of the scene that went viral on Weibo, and which infuriated internauts.

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Latin America Editor

Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.

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Within a couple of days, he had been identified, and five photographs of him in different circumstances wearing five different luxury watches had been scoured from the Web and posted on Weibo. Where, demanded indignant citizens smelling corruption, had a civil servant earning $1,500 a month found the money to buy $40,000 worth of wristwatches?

Mr. Yang is currently under investigation by the Shaanxi provincial disciplinary body, which is looking into allegations of bribery.

And then there’s the Middle East, which witnessed historic uprisings starting in 2011 in response to repressive and corrupt leadership among other issues of graft, governance, and democratic freedoms. Although some countries, such as Egypt, took promising steps in the aftermath by holding free and fair presidential elections and drafting a new constitution, large-scale protests have taken place over how the constitution-drafting process has played out, as well as President Mohamed Morsi’s decision to call a national referendum on it for Dec. 15. Critics also charge that the draft dodged central issues of concern, as the Monitor’s correspondent in Egypt recently noted:

While focusing on disagreements between Islamists and secularists, the drafters missed an opportunity to address issues like decentralization of power, effectiveness of governance, and corruption.

Others had hoped the constitution would do more to achieve social justice and alter what they say is a state structure that contributes to the growing gap between rich and poor.

Egypt fell by six places in Transparency International’s index to 118th this year, with a score of 32. Other nations that took part in the so-called Arab Spring – which Transparency International sees as tied to public frustration over corruption, reports Reuters – also fell in the ranking, including Tunisia, Morocco, and Syria, which is suffering a civil war. Libya, however, rose in the rankings. (Note: Transparency International made changes to its methodology this year, so the rankings may not be perfect comparisons between 2011 and 2012.)

"We know that frustration about corruption brought people out onto the streets in the Arab world," Christoph Wilcke, Transparency International director for the Middle East and North Africa, told Reuters.

"We've observed that in countries where substantial change occurred they're still struggling to put in place new systems of governance. That's reflected in these scores. The hope hasn't materialized yet in more serious anti-corruption programmes."

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