Large Torchlight Marches (Marchas de las Antorchas) have been going on every night in different cities in Honduras for at least the last three weeks.
Participants have called for three things: an end to impunity, the establishment of an International Commission against Impunity, and the resignation of Juan Orlando Hernández, President of Honduras, due to corruption in his election campaign.
The Partido Nacional has admitted that the election of Hernández was funded in part by resources diverted from the IHSS. Nonetheless, both the party, and the government it controls, are against Honduras calling for an International Commission against Impunity.
That’s the word from Ebal Diaz, a Honduran presidential advisor.
These commissions, organized by the UN, have been effective in other countries where they’ve been formed, such as Guatemala.
Honduras doesn’t need one because, according to Diaz, “We’ve already contained the corruption.”
Diaz goes further, calling the Guatemala commission ineffective. He relates that it has cost $150 million over its seven year life, and successfully brought and prosecuted only four cases of corruption or impunity.
“Is this an alternative for the country? There are the numbers; they’re not something we invented. So the Honduran people need justice…When? In three years? In 5 years? or now? We’re looking for solutions now by strengthening our [government] institutions.”
Diaz suggests the government might accelerate its pace of cleaning up corruption and implementing training.
These actions, however, do nothing to capture and prosecute those who perpetrated the crimes, something Diaz fails to address.
The recent Congressional Commission which reviewed a series of corruption cases involving the IHSS, INPREMA, and the IP, and the assassinations of notable government officials like Alfredo Landaverde, was relatively useless.
It served only to confirm what everyone already knows: the Public Prosecutor’s office is barely investigating these cases of corruption and impunity, some of which have stretched on for more than seven years in the investigative state. While it might eventually bring charges against those immediately responsible, it likely will not pursue those who planned and directed the crimes. From that perspective, then, even with the “numbers” Diaz cites, a commission like that in Guatemala would be an improvement.
The level of corruption and impunity in Honduras is hard to believe. In fact, even as the Congressional report was being released, the lead on the congressional committee, Mario Perez, was being identified in the Honduran press as a drug trafficker, based on Honduran government documents from 2012.
Impunity reigns in Honduras not because the Public Prosecutor’s office is incapable of pursing these crimes. It has been endlessly trained under US and European foreign aid programs in investigation and prosecution of organized crime.
To pursue these crimes is neither politically expedient, nor good for a prosecutor’s longevity. No government program will address either of these risks.
The previous Prosecutor against corruption, Roberto Ramirez Aldana, who had headed the IHSS investigation from the start, recently took an extended leave to assume a government post as Honduras’s Ambassador to UNESCO. He did so because the Honduran Military Intelligence agency informed him of credible death threats against him and suggested he leave the country.
One of the trails of corruption leads directly to the currently ruling Partido Nacional. But the current Public Prosecutor, Oscar Chinchilla, was appointed by that party, while Juan Orlando Hernandez was the President of Congress, during the presidential term of Porfirio Lobo Sosa. Chinchilla sets the priorities for the office. He’s focusing the department on corruption during José Manuel Zelaya’s term as president, largely ignoring more recent corruption that can be linked to his own party.
Arturo Corrales, Honduras’ Foreign Minister, has said Honduras will not ask for an International Commission against Corruption from the UN.
Rigoberto Chang Castillo, currently Minister of Justice, the Interior, and Decentralization, went further: he made up a criterion for when such a commission is necessary: “Only when there’s a high degree of ingovernability”. Chang Castillo claims that “Honduras isn’t worthy” of such a designation. These kinds of commissions, he continued,
“uniquely can be asked for by the government of the Republic when the country is in a state of ingovernability and there is no confidence in the institutions of the State….This is requested when the Judicial system has collapsed.”
The irony is, Chang Castillo precisely describes the Honduras that the Torchlight Marchers see.