A global anti-corruption watchdog group has ranked Venezuela near the bottom of its list of 176 countries, in its annual report on perceived corruption.
In a study released Wednesday, Transparency International gave Venezuela a score of 19 on a scale of 0 to 100. The group, which looks at perceptions of issues including bribery and abuse of power, said a score of 0 would be considered "highly corrupt" while 100 would be "very clean."
In a news conference hosted by VOA's Broadcasting Board of Governors, Transparency International's Huguette Labelle was asked what accounted for the country's low score.
"The issue of openness within the country and outside the country is a big issue in Venezuela," said Labelle.
Venezuela scored the same as three other countries: Haiti, Chad and Burundi.
Other Latin American countries that ranked near the bottom were Paraguay, with a score of 25, Honduras at 28, Nicaragua at 29, and Ecuador at 32.
Chile and Uruguay, at 72, received the highest scores out of the 19 Latin American countries in the index. Three countries — Denmark, Finland and New Zealand — topped the list with scores of 90.
Transparency International says no country received a perfect score and any score below 50 indicates a "serious corruption problem." Costa Rica is the only other Latin American country to rank higher than 50, with a score of 54.
Brazil, one of the region's most populous countries, received a score of 43, but Labelle said the country had made significant improvements in recent years.
Cuba received a score of 48 while Mexico received a score of 34. The United States, at 73, ranked just behind the United Kingdom.
The study incorporates data from sources including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.