Thousands of Honduran protesters and organizations of civil society are demanding a U.N. led commission against impunity to battle against government corruption in their country. Reports that President Juan Orlando Hernadez's National Party received about $90 million in funds skimmed from Honduras' Social Security Institute (IHSS).
About 20,000 marchers in Tegucigalpa on Friday marched from a hospital to the local UN building, carrying torches to symbolize the 2,800 patients they say died due to lack of medications, a result of the $300 million stolen from the IHSS, reports AFP. Protesters also demanded the president's resignation.
Political opposition leaders, including former President Manuel Zelayas (ousted in a 2009 civil-military coup) and Salvador Nasrala of the Anticorruption Party attended the march, which was convened through social media, reports El Heraldo. Marches in other localities around the country were planned for the weekend.
Hernandez (referred to by the protestors by his initials, JOH) admitted last week to accepting funds from companies involved in the IHSS scandal, though he minimized the amounts in question and called for a thorough investigation into the affair.
Alianza para la Paz y la Justicia (APJ), Asociación para una Sociedad Más Justa (ASJ), and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (UNAH) are making the case that Honduras should be aided in fighting corruption with a similar body to the U.N.'s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Representatives of the organizations met with the Attorney General Óscar Chinchilla, reports El Heraldo.
The CICIG was set up in 2007 after Guatemala asked for help in investigating serious crimes. Its staff of police and prosecutors from 25 nations has helped bring 161 public officials to trial for corruption, and uncovered the twin corruption scandals that have jeopardized President Otto Pérez Molina's administration. (See last Monday's briefs.)
In a forum last week the organizations of civil society made the case that Honduras' most important problem is high levels of corruption generated by criminal organizations operating from within state entities and national businesses, draining national funds and limiting development opportunities. An APJ investigation found that only four percent of crimes in Honduras are convicted, meaning there is a 96 percent rate of impunity, reports Proceso.
Several arrest warrants for government officials and politicians will be released shortly, reports La Prensa. One might be aimed at the adjunct prosecutor Rigoberto Cuéllar, who is being accused of accepting bribes in exchange for stalling the IHSS investigation, reports La Prensa.
A much awaited Congressional report on 12 corruption cases -- including the IHSS -- was released last week, but had no new information, according to La Prensa. The Public Ministry has opened 21 lines of investigation in the IHSS case, according to the report, six are being tried and 14 others are still under investigation. The report urged further investigation of private companies that sold overpriced ambulances to the IHSS and quicker arrests of those accused of taking the funds.
On Friday the Foreign Minister, Arturo Corrales, made the case that Honduras has already requested and cooperated with international assistance from the OAS, Colombia and Chile regarding impunity. Honduran officials have also recognized that impunity is a problem he said, according to La Tribuna.
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