Honduras will establish an anti-corruption mission with the help of the Organization of American States (OAS), raising questions about whether this new initiative can replicate the success -- and avoid the pitfalls -- of the United Nations-backed anti-impunity body in Guatemala.
In a ceremony with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on September 28, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almargo, announced the creation of the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH by its Spanish initials). A "jurist of international renown" will reportedly lead the commission.
The MACCIH's efforts will focus on five areas, including:
- Creating an international group of judges and prosecutors, who will oversee investigations at Honduras' Attorney General's Office, known as the Public Ministry.
- Producing a "diagnosis" of the current state of Honduras' judicial system, with help from intergovernmental research group the Center for the Study of Justice in the Americas (CEJA by its Spanish initials).
- Ensuring Honduras complies with the OAS treaty aimed at tackling corruption.
- Implementing the OAS's previous recommendations for improving security in Honduras.
- Creating an observatory made up of academics and civil society representatives, who will oversee and promote the implementation of judicial reforms.
The mission as whole will have an initial authorization period of two years.
The MACCIH has been in the works for months. President Hernandez first proposed such a body in July of this year, and asked for formal support from the OAS in mid-September. In June, thousands of protestors took to the streets in Tegucigalpa to demand an anti-corruption commission for Honduras, similar to Guatemala's International Commission Against Impunity (known as the CICIG).
The CICIG, which was set up by the United Nations in 2007, was instrumental in exposing a corruption scheme that ultimately resulted in the downfall of former President Otto Perez Molina.
InSight Crime Analysis
The MACCIH represents a key step in the right direction for anti-corruption efforts in Honduras, but it faces many of the same structural limitations that have plagued the CICIG. Should the MACCIH become too dependent on support from international experts -- who can be expensive to maintain for an extended period of time -- this could discourage investing resources into training up local judges and prosecutors.
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The proposed two-year time frame for the MACCIH's initial operations is also cause for concern. This is an extremely narrow window to get anything done, let alone secure the results that will be needed to justify the mission's existence. In Guatemala's case, the CICIG has faced multiple, drawn-out political battles over extending its mandate, draining energy that could have been better spent elsewhere.