A congressman in Honduras has blamed a prominent Honduran NGO for the decision by members of the US Congress to request an investigation of his alleged ties to drug traffickers, highlighting how elites often employ tactics of diversion and delegitimization when put in legal jeopardy.
In an August 2 interview with the television news channel TN5, Óscar Nájera, a long-serving congressman from the department of Cólon, reacted to the request from the US Congress by criticizing the Association for a More Just Society (Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa - ASJ), a Honduran civil society group that has worked with InSight Crime and that serves as the local chapter of Transparency International.
Nájera, who belongs to the governing National Party (Partido Nacional), accused ASJ's leaders of spurring the move by the US Congress. The congressman denied wrongdoing, and called the group "truly shameless."
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The broadside came in response to an August 2 letter signed by several members of the US Congress that requested that President Donald Trump consider sanctioning six individuals accused of participating in corruption in Central America, including Nájera.
The letter cited evidence suggesting Nájera had a corrupt relationship with the Cachiros crime group, a largely dismantled organization with a stronghold in Colón that was once a significant player in the international drug trade.
ASJ responded on August 6 to Nájera's rhetorical attack by releasing a statement condemning his comments.
"The actions of Congressman Nájera encourage hatred and animosity by those who, like him, are being accused of having committed unlawful acts or are being prosecuted by judicial bodies in Honduras and abroad," the organization wrote.
InSight Crime Analysis
Nájera's response to the move by the US Congress fits into a broader pattern of elites accused of corruption trying to muddy the waters by impugning the reputations of others.
InSight Crime knows firsthand what this looks like. Enrique Rais, a Salvadoran businessman whose name appeared in the recent letter from Congress, unsuccessfully sued InSight Crime Senior Investigator Héctor Silva Ávalos for defamation after Silva published articles about Rais' alleged involvement in criminal activities.
SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime
Elites have also taken these types of counteroffensives online, utilizing "armies of trolls" to propagate messages aiming to discredit the work of those fighting against corruption and to sow doubt about the veracity of allegations against them.