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HONDURAS
Toward strengthening the fight against corruption
Héctor Maradiaga, Jennifer Ávila
11/20/2015
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OAS-endorsed Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity launches.

In May 2015 a wave of indignation broke out in Honduras, following Guatemala, as a result of corruption scandals involving the ruling party. The main demanding public organization was the establishment of an International Commission Against Impunity in Honduras (CICIH), similar to the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations funded investigatory body that brought down President Otto Perez Molina and started an independent legal process against him, along with his principal officers.

However, the Honduran government, headed by Juan Orlando Hernández, of the National Party — political organization questioned for its possible involvement in the embezzlement at the Honduran Institute of Social Security (IHSS) — has submitted other proposal outside the scope of the citizens’ demands. These proposal is supported by the Organization of American States (OAS), the European Union and civil society organizations funded by the United States.

This is the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), a proposal for accompaniment and combat against corruption that emerged as a result of the dialogue between the OAS, the Honduran government and the Indignant Opposition which took place in August and September.

Hernández said at the signing of the support agreement with the OAS, on Sept. 29 in Washington DC, that the MACCIH is the result of an comprehensive dialogue process and the first step to strengthen the fight against corruption. Despite criticism, with this proposal in hand the president promised to implement a transparent process for election of new judges to the Supreme Court — who will serve for the next seven years, starting in 2016 — and to enforce the law equally to everyone as part of the fight against corruption and impunity.

The MACCIH, which was installed the first week of November and will have a term of two years, will be coordinated by the OAS Secretariat for Political Affairs and will be led by an internationally renowned lawyer who will report progress to the OAS. Moreover, the MACCIH will work in five areas, including the designation of a group of foreign judges and prosecutors who will supervise, advise and support investigative bodies, facilitate prosecution for corruption, formulate a diagnosis on the Justice system, and help develop a Justice Observatory composed of academic organizations and civil society.

Concerns about MACCIH
However, the proposal does not have the support of the majority of indignant citizens. Coming from a government accused of participating in one of the largest acts of corruption in recent times, and coming from the OAS, which was been criticized by popular organizations for its weak role that endorsed the coup that Roberto Micheletti carried out against former president Manuel Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) in 2009. Given this, the people wonder if this proposal is just a dragged-out path to the 2018 elections in which Hernández apparently will seek reelection.

Plagued by violence and inequality, Honduras has seen severe corruption cases that are expressed through the looting of state institutions. Among the highest-profiled cases in recent years are corruption in the Teachers Pension Institute, Honduran Telecommunications Company, National Electricity Company, and the case that unleashed the wave of indignation, the IHSS, which was embezzled by more than 7 billion lempiras, about US$ 350 million.

According to research by the Coalition of Organizations for Justice, some 2,800 people have died due to lack of medicines, supplies and essential materials for medical care as a result of the IHSS embezzlement.

Miguel Briceño and Ariel Varela are among the leading representatives of the so-called Indignant Opposition, who were summoned by the OAS to participate in the dialogue in which they presented their demands and also their suggestions.

Initially there was a small degree of hope and some expectation for the proposals of these organizations, but over the months the perception changed, and now the indignant leaders consider that both the dialogue and the proposals of the OAS and the government were only a dilatory tactic to demobilize the popular discontent.

Regarding the MACCIH, Varela said to Latinamerica Press that “we have been open to options, one of them is the OAS proposal, but we see many gaps in them, some gaps that do not give us confidence. Also it proposes [the involvement of] a group of foreign judges and prosecutors, but they come to advise the Public Ministry, not to investigate, not to act as if it were a CICIH. All this does not give credibility and we do not believe that the proposal is a solution to corruption and impunity.”

Another one of the representatives of the movement is Fernanda López, who believes that the OAS proposal has no power to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.

“We can face corruption with an independent international commission of jurists, like in Guatemala, that, in addition to having control over investigations, can exercise the power to give basic training to national lawyers and strengthen the institutional framework,” she told
Latinamerica Press.

Independent justice
For analyst Eugenio Sosa, the MACCIH proposal came at a time of demobilization of the protests and helped the government to take control of the situation. Additionally, he told Latinamerica Press “that the Indignant Opposition’s rejection of MACCIH has to do with a perception that the national institutions are unable to renew themselves and that is why the indignant ask for a CICIH so that it can act independently within the framework of research and law enforcement.”

“The citizen’s point of view is that there is a need for an intervention and international aid to combat impunity because the government no longer inspires trust and instead offers flawed processes to combat corruption,” he added.

But not all are opposed to the proposal of the OAS and the government. Civil society organizations such as the Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ) support the initiative which they call an effort to combat corruption.

“We support any initiative to combat corruption, especially the popular outcry for international assistance,” said Omar Rivera, director of APJ, to Latinamerica Press.

However, he added that they “will not support proposals that serve as a cover-up and do not provide results for the fight against corruption and impunity. But, if the process is not independent, there will be no results and there will be no successes like in Guatemala.”

Aside from the CICIH, the Indignant Opposition has submitted proposals to combat corruption, one of which is the opening of democratic spaces that would allow the restructuring of the institutional framework and the establishment of a new framework that is independent and autonomous to enforce the law. They also propose the constant mobilization of civil society in an articulated manner and with coherent strategies.
  —Latinamerica Press.


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Indignant citizens distrust government proposal to deal with corruption. (Photo: Rodolfo Sabillón)
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