HomeNewsControversial Legal Reforms in Honduras Continue Country's Anti-Corruption Legacy

Controversial Legal Reforms in Honduras Continue Country's Anti-Corruption Legacy


A package of controversial legislative reforms became law in Honduras this week, further sinking any lingering efforts to combat corruption in the country.

Approved earlier in October, the amendments to the penal code, criminal procedure code and money laundering law officially took effect on November 1. The most controversial change comes to Article 439 of the Penal Code. It now specifies that as part of any action taken against money laundering, the Attorney General’s Office must prove that the specific assets being laundered are directly connected to particular crimes.

Since this package of reforms was presented, it has been met with strong international concerns, including from the United Nations, and warnings that it would severely weaken Honduras’ fight against corruption. 

SEE ALSO: A Death Foretold: MACCIH Shuts Down in Honduras

When addressing the media on November 1, the head of the Special Prosecutor's Unit Against Corruption Networks (Unidad Fiscal Especial contra Redes de Corrupción - UFERCO), Luis Javier Santos, stated that the reforms would “consolidate ... impunity and weaken the fight against corruption, ... we will see the consequences shortly, it’s bad.”

The reforms have been steadfastly supported by a number of deputies from the ruling National Party. One of them, Waleska Zelaya, was previously under investigation for a suspicious million-dollar sale of face masks during the pandemic.

InSight Crime Analysis

These reforms are not surprising. Honduras, mirroring its counterparts in Central America, has moved consistently away from strengthening the rule of law.  

The biggest blow came in January 2020 with the disbanding of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras - MACCIH), an anti-corruption commission backed by the Organization of American States (OAS).

Later in June 2020, the Honduran congress passed a new criminal code lowering sentencing for corruption and drug trafficking cases, among other controversial measures. Although the new measures were originally suspended following complaints from critics who claimed it enabled reduced sentences or jail avoidance for corrupt politicians and criminal allies, the Supreme Court later re-approved them.

Then, in August 2020, a special appeals court dismissed charges against 22 of 26 defendants in the high-profile Pandora case. This had been one of MACCIH’s flagship cases implicating hundreds of former members of congress, and had revealed how deeply entrenched corruption networks are within the national political system.

SEE ALSO: US Senators Seek Sanctions Against Honduras President

All these legal changes have come under the mandate of the National Party, which has governed Honduras since 2010 and has seen a number of its members connected to illicit activities, ranging from drug trafficking to timber trafficking and embezzlement. US prosecutors have accused President Juan Orlando Hernández of protecting drug traffickers in exchange for drug money, though he has denied those charges.

As warned by the head of the Investigations and Case Monitoring Unit of the National Anticorruption Council (Unidad de Investigaciones y Seguimiento de Casos del Consejo Nacional Anticorrupción, CNA), Odir Fernández, when discussing the latest legal changes, Honduras “is reaching a point of no return it if does not choose the next congress wisely."

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


In a Paraguay border state, drug traffickers and dirty politicians find common ground, and political fights spill into the underworld.

COCAINE / 16 FEB 2021

Cortés is a major organized crime hub. Vast quantities of drugs, arms, and contraband pass through the department’s busy Atlantic…

AUC / 11 MAR 2022

Alleged drug trafficker alias "Memo Fantasma" or "Will the Ghost," was formally charged during a March 9 virtual audience, of…

About InSight Crime


Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…


Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…


World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…


InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…


Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…