Honduras: MACCIH Still Trying

By Aída Romero Jiménez

MACCIH Feb.22.2019

Luiz Antonio Marrey, Special Representative of the Secretary General, Spokesperson of the MACCIH / Flickr / Creative Commons

MACCIH, the OAS-sponsored mission to support the fight against corruption and impunity in Honduras, continues to investigate cases but with a lower profile than one year ago– and under growing political pressure.

  • Without MACCIH, most observers believe, cases like La Caja Chica de la Dama – for which ex‑First Lady Lobo is awaiting trial in prison – would not have developed. MACCIH is also credited with shutting down the Red de Diputados, a network of Congressmen accused of misappropriating government funds; the Pacto de Impunidad o Fe de Erratas, legislation that effectively shielded Congressmen involved in the Red; the Pandora case, which accused 38 lawmakers of stealing funds from the Ministry of Agriculture; and serious charges against former President Lobo’s brother.
  • Although MACCIH provides important leads and analytical capacity to UFECIC, the special prosecutor unit created to investigate corruption cases, its most valuable support comes from the political cover it provides as an internationally sponsored entity. It is often the public face of anti-corruption efforts in the country, even though Luiz Antônio Guimarães Marrey, the spokesman since last June, and his deputy have significantly scaled back their use of social media since the previous spokesman, Juan Jiménez Mayor, irritated the government with his public profile.

MACCIH’s successes have provoked resistance and, at times, a strong backlash from powerful sectors that feel threatened by its work, not unlike what has occurred with the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).  When Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales banned the head of CICIG, Iván Velásquez, from returning to the country, several Honduran Congressmen were quick to state that the MACCIH mandate similarly had to be revised, and that its involvement in investigations had to be reigned in to ensure it was not overstepping its limits.  Echoing CICIG’s critics in Guatemala, they also alleged that MACCIH was violating the country’s sovereignty.

  • The Honduran Constitutional Court was already gunning for MACCIH when it ruled in May that UFECIC was unconstitutional. (UFECIC has continued its investigations without further interference, but local observers believe this could change at any moment.)  Congress has also redoubled efforts to reform Article 115 of the General Law of Public Administration to effectively shield itself from Public Ministry investigations into their handling of public funds.  Legislators want to transfer authority for such inquiries solely to the Supreme Auditing Tribunal, which civil society actors claim is sympathetic to the Congressional leadership.
  • The lack of judicial independence has remained a serious obstacle. In a high percentage of cases that go to trial, the charges have been reversed or downgraded, signaling just how fragile and corrupt the Honduran justice system is.

MACCIH’s progress in fulfilling its mission makes it vulnerable to attack and, possibly, non-renewal when its mandate expires in January 2020.  MACCIH spokesman Guimarães Marrey said in December that 11 new cases will soon be announced.  Many Hondurans hope that President Juan Orlando Hernández will be among the targets, on the assumption that he was aware of or involved in drug trafficking operations for which his brother, Tony, is under arrest in the United States.  Whether that happens or not, pressure on MACCIH is unlikely to abate.  Guimarães Marrey earlier this month re-released a draft “Effective Collaboration Law” – MACCIH’s main legislative priority – allowing plea-bargaining in return for accurate information leading to prosecutions.  Legislative opposition to the proposed legislation is strong, and its prospects – like MACCIH’s – remain uncertain.

February 22, 2019

*Aída Romero Jiménez is a team member of the CLALS project Monitoring MACCIH and Anti-Impunity Efforts in Honduras.

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3 Comments

  1. Dario Martinez

     /  March 16, 2019

    Hi Aida, thanks for the great article! It gives a clear picture of Honduran politics and the value of the MACCIH. For as long as I can remember, politicians have promised to reduce poverty, and corruption to win elections. However, they are somehow never held accountable for their actions. I agree with you and think that the MACCIH is highly valuable because it changes these dynamics.

    The MACCIH provides two things that the country desperately needs: more transparency and more accountability. It brings to light the government’s mismanagement and corruption. Also, it exerts pressure to make whoever breaks the law face the consequences of their actions.

    Interesting, the people that are fighting to shut down the MACCIH are the same people that for years benefitted from the inefficient system. If we are not engaged and supportive of the MACCIH, these people will prevail.

    Congrats again on your article!!

    Un Abrazo,

    Dario

    Reply
  2. Dario Martinez

     /  March 16, 2019

    Hi Aida, thanks for the great article! It gives a clear picture of Honduran politics and the value of the MACCIH. For as long as I can remember, politicians have promised to reduce poverty, corruption, and the lack of transparency to win elections. However, they are somehow never held accountable for their actions. I agree with you and think that the MACCIH is highly valuable because it changes these dynamics.

    The MACCIH provides the two things that the country desperately needs: more transparency and more accountability. It brings to light the government’s mismanagement and corruption. Also, it exerts pressure to make whoever breaks the law face the consequences of their actions.

    Interesting, the people that are fighting to shut down the MACCIH are the same people that for years benefitted from the inefficient system. If we are not engaged and supportive of the MACCIH, these people will prevail.

    Congrats again on your article!!

    Un Abrazo,

    Reply
    • Dear Dario, Thank you for your comment. Indeed, the indignant calls from some politicians and businessmen, claiming that MACCIH is interfering with the country’s sovereignty, are a blatant attempt at maintaining the status quo which only benefits the elites. We must all push for MACCIH to continue and be strengthened, and support the efforts of other organizations, like the CNA. En el arca abierta, hasta el justo peca.

      Un abrazo, Aída

      Reply

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