Friday, February 16, 2018

MACCIH head quits, accuses OAS of lack of support (Feb. 16, 2018)

The head of the OAS anti-corruption mission in Honduras resigned last night, citing lack of support from the organization and the Honduran government. Peruvian Juan Jiménez Mayor published a letter on Twitter saying he was not received by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro in Washington last month, and defending the MACCIH's work.

Jiménez's resignation came a day after Almagro sent a letter to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández expressing disappointment in the MACCIH's work in the two years since it started, reports the Associated Press.

MACCIH prosecutor Julio Arbizú and judge Daniel Urrutia also presented their resignations, reports La Prensa.

Jiménez said the anti-corruption mission is not receiving the necessary support from the OAS, pointing to lack of staffing and security concerns. He has also pointed to obstacles from the Honduran government. Last month lawmakers passed a law effectively shielding themselves from corruption investigations. A judge immediately suspended a case against five lawmakers based on a MACCIH investigation showing how public funds were stolen using non-profit organizations. (See Jan. 24's post on the "impunity pact," and Jan. 31's on the American University Center for Latin American & Latino Studies' MACCIH monitor.)

MACCIH has denounced the procedure with which this legal change was introduced, and is investigating the case, notes El Faro.

Jiménez also noted that anti-corruption legislation suggested by the mission has not prospered, and that reforms to the penal code actually diminished sentences for corruption, against the mission's recommendations, reports El Heraldo.

Jiménez's letter criticizes lack of OAS support, and also staffing choices. On television, he accused Almagro of not giving Honduras the same level of importance accorded to the Venezuelan crisis, reports El Faro.

On Twitter Arbizú also criticized lack of OAS support and seems to hint at corruption in use of the organization's funds, reports La Prensa.

Jiménez called "on the Honduran people to demand the continuation of the mission and the selection of a new chief of mission that guarantees the seriousness and firmness in the fight against corruption and impunity in Honduras."

The mission was created in 2016, following massive protests denouncing corruption in relation to the management of the country's social security system. (See post for Jan. 20, 2016.)

News Briefs
  • The Honduran government will cooperate with the U.S. to crack down on gangs in the Central American country, reports El Heraldo. A cabinet member revealed that the plan includes the revision of Honduras' criminal legislation, with harsher sentences for gang members.
  • Earlier this week JOH called on the U.N. to investigate whether MS-13 tried to influence November's much questioned election which resulted in his second term. Political opposition leaders have denied the accusations, reports the Associated Press
  • El Salvador's Supreme Court commuted the 30 year prison sentence of a woman convicted of homicide after what she characterized as a stillbirth. Teodora del Carmen Vásquez served over a decade in prison, but judges determined there was insufficient evidence against her. Nonetheless, the judges did not find her innocent, emphasizes El Faro. Abortion is illegal under all circumstances in El Salvador. Two bills that would permit it under limited circumstances, including to save the life of the pregnant woman have not yet been considered by a congressional committee, reports the New York Times.
  • Costa Rican presidential candidates Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz and  Carlos Alvarado Quesada are tied in the latest poll. The two will face off in a second round in April, after a February election that was dominated by a debate over same sex marriage, reports the AFP. (See Feb. 5's post.)
  • The Costa Rican Ombudswoman’s Office reported an increase in violence against members of Costa Rica’s LGBTI community following the first round of presidential elections, reports the AFP separately.
  • The election "results did not definitively clarify whether Costa Ricans want a significant change, or whether, instead, they prefer to see the party in power continue," writes Daniel Zovatto for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. He analyzes a series of trends in the Costa Rican election that are also relevant for the rest of the region, including a high level of uncertainty and volatility, discrediting of traditional parties, fragmentation, and the growing importance of run-off votes.
  • Brazil’s military is expected to take over public security duties in Rio de Janeiro amid soaring rates of violent crime, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Over 10 percent of Brazilian high-ranking politicians, including President Michel Temer, received campaign donations from companies linked to modern-day slavery, according to an investigation by Repórter Brazil. Though receiving the donations is not itself forbidden, "the report provides an insight into how closely connected lawmakers can be with companies and individuals linked to illegal practices," explains the Guardian.
  • Colombia's government said it has discovered that several ELN guerrilla attacks have planned from Venezuela, reports EFE. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Mexico's foreign minister will travel to the Caribbean next month, in a diplomatic effort to woo Venezuelan allies there, reports Reuters. Luis Videgaray is scheduled to visit Jamaica, Grenada and Saint Lucia. Reuters also reports that Cuban diplomats are also scheduled to meet with the Mexican counterparts.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced the reopening of the country's Miami consulate, closed since 2012, in time for exiles living there to vote in April's presidential elections, reports Reuters. It seems to be a sop at pluralism in an election that is internationally repudiated.
  • He also said he would attend April's Summit of the Americas in Peru, despite the host country having withdrawn Venezuela's invite, reports AFP. (See Wednesday's briefs.) "Are they are afraid of me? They don't want to see me in Lima? They're going to see me, come rain, thunder or lightning!" said Maduro. Peruvian Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz hit back, saying "A head of state cannot come to a country without an invitation, so he cannot get to step on Peruvian soil without an invitation."
  • Wall Street investors are stuck in limbo with Venezuela bonds, reports Bloomberg.
  • Haiti has promised an investigation into the sexual misconduct accusations against British charity Oxfam, reports the Associated Press.
  • Mexico's first indigenous presidential candidate Marichuy Patricio is in stable condition after being involved in a traffic accident earlier this week, reports EFE.
  • Lidar mapping is rewriting archeology textbooks about the region. The latest discovery is a Purépecha city in western Mexico, Angamuco, where 100,000 people are believed to have lived around 1000 AD, reports the Guardian. 

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