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Venezuela among the most corrupt countries in the world

Venezuela (138), Ecuador (138) and Haiti (163) are among the countries with the highest corruption index, said Transparency International in its 2006 report, published on Monday.

Chile, ranked 20 together with the United States and Belgium, is the least corrupt Latin American country. Spain occupies the 23rd position, followed by Portugal (26) and Uruguay (28), AFP explained.

Brazil (70), Mexico (70) and Argentina (93) are at the middle of the new rank published by TI.

In contrast, Finland is the country where businesspeople and foreign experts are less hit by corruption, said TI -a non-governmental organization studying the links between corruption and poverty.

"Corruption traps millions in poverty," said Transparency International Chair Huguette Labelle in a press release.

 "Despite a decade of progress in establishing anti-corruption laws and regulations, today's results indicate that much remains to be done before we see meaningful improvements in the lives of the world's poorest citizens."

The 2006 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), comprising 163 countries, scores countries on a scale from zero to ten, with zero indicating high levels of perceived corruption and ten indicating low levels of perceived corruption. It bases on reports from the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and independent organizations.

Seventy-one countries -nearly half- scored below three, indicating that corruption is perceived as rampant. Haiti has the lowest score at 1.8; Guinea, Iraq and Myanmar share the penultimate slot, each with a score of 1.9. Finland, Iceland and New Zealand share the top score of 9.6.

Also among the 10 least corrupt countries are Norway, Australia and the Netherlands.

According to TI, almost three-quarters of the countries in the CPI score below five (including all low-income countries and all but two African states) indicating that most countries in the world face serious perceived levels of domestic corruption.

Countries with a significant worsening in perceived levels of corruption include: Brazil, Cuba, Israel, Jordan, Laos, Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and the United States. Countries with a significant improvement in perceived levels of corruption include: Algeria, Czech Republic, India, Japan, Latvia, Lebanon, Mauritius, Paraguay, Slovenia, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uruguay.

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