LatinNews Daily - 30 May 2022

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HONDURAS: Decree bolstering anti-corruption unit stokes controversy

On 27 May Honduras’s 128-member unicameral congress approved a decree which authorises attorney general office (AG)’s specialised unit against corruption networks (Uferco) to proceed in high impact cases without the AG’s authorisation.


Approved by 69 votes, the decree has the backing of Honduras’s new President Xiomara Castro and her ruling Libertad y Refundación (Libre) which swept to power in November 2021 on a pledge to fight corruption. These promises have so far seen Castro’s predecessor Juan Orlando Hernández (Partido Nacional, 2014-2022) extradited to the US to face narcotrafficking and weapons related charges, among other things. However, the decree is proving contentious amid claims that such a move requires a constitutional reform which would require a two thirds majority.

  • The decree has been questioned by the head of the AG, Oscar Chinchilla who tweeted that the move required a constitutional reform – a view shared by others such as well-known political analyst Raúl Pineda. The local media has cited doubts raised by representatives from civil-society groups such as Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa (ASJ), the local chapter of anti-corruption NGO Transparency International (TI) which, while applauding efforts to strengthen the fight against corruption, question the constitutional nature of the decree.
  • The clear efforts to assign Uferco additional powers comes as the integrity of Chinchilla, whose term ends in 2023, has been questioned by legislators as well as civil-society activists such as Gabriela Castellanos, executive director of national anti-corruption council (CNA), a civil-society umbrella group. On 11 May a congressional committee called for Chinchilla to face action, along with Rolando Argueta, the head of the supreme court, for their handling of extradition cases. Speaking at an international forum on 12 May Castellanos dubbed the two the “duo of impunity” in Honduras.
  • Chinchilla’s name featured in the trial last year in the US of former drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes which implicated Hernández. A US Department of Justice (DoJ) statement dated 22 March 2021 announcing the guilty verdict regarding Fuentes cites Hernández as allegedly saying that Chinchilla would “help protect” Fuentes’ drug trafficking activities.

Looking Ahead: The fight against corruption in Honduras is likely to come under scrutiny for other reasons, following the 27 May murder of prosecutor Karen Almendares in Nacaome, (Valle department) who was shot dead outside her home by unknown perpetrators. Her murder has prompted outrage locally and abroad.

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