A new report says that an anti-graft body in Honduras has secured prosecutions in only a small fraction of the cases it has investigated in recent years, illustrating the weakness of Honduran institutions when it comes to anti-corruption measures.
Honduras' National Anti-Corruption Council (Consejo Nacional Anticorrupción – CNA) initiated a total of 67 investigations into corruption between 2014 and 2017 but secured prosecutions in just 10 of them, according to a February 22 report from the organization.
The CNA was created by a 2005 law with the stated objective of supporting the government's anti-corruption efforts. Representatives from 12 groups, some of which include members of the country’s economic elite, run the CNA.
Among other things in the report, the CNA presented eight specific investigations into public contracts given to private businesses in Honduras in 2017 alone, which cost the state over 195 million lempiras (more than $8 million) in losses.
One of the cases highlighted in the report is the alleged diversion of 12 million lempiras (more than $500,000) of public funds into a personal account of former first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo, the wife of former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo. According to the report, Bonilla de Lobo transferred 12 million lempiras in public funds to a personal account just days before the end of her husband’s term as president.
Former President Lobo has been accused of corruption and accepting bribes from the powerful Cachiros drug trafficking network in Honduras. While Lobo has denied these allegations, the country’s internationally-backed Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras – MACCIH) is reportedly closing in on the former president’s alleged criminal activities.
In total, the CNA report found that corruption networks in Honduras cost the state 2.9 billion lempiras (nearly $125 million) in losses between 2014 and 2017.
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The recent report provides further evidence that domestic institutions in Honduras lack the ability to effectively combat corruption, underscoring the importance of independent bodies like the MACCIH in tackling graft in the Central American nation.
Although the CNA's role is ostensibly to root out corruption in Honduras, its own report shows that it has had little impact. As freelance journalist Sandra Cuffe explained on Twitter, this is likely because the institution itself is beholden to elite interests that could be involved in corruption.
“The CNA is so full of powerful business and political interests that it's almost hard to think of an institution worse positioned to do any kind of impartial investigation into corruption networks in Honduras,” Cuffe wrote.
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The failure of homegrown Honduran institutions to score lasting victories in the fight against graft was a major reason for the establishment of the MACCIH. And in other cases, namely Guatemala, independent anti-graft bodies have made significant progress in addressing widespread corruption and impunity.
However, MACCIH head Juan Jiménez Mayor recently resigned due to what he claimed was a lack of support from the Organization of American States (OAS), the mission’s parent institution, as well as consistent pushback from elites opposed to its anti-corruption efforts. The resignation raised doubts about the future of anti-graft initiatives in Honduras, where the current President Juan Orlando Hernández is himself facing corruption allegations following a victory in last year's election that was marred by reports of fraud.