Four questions for MACCIH, OAS-backed anti-corruption body in Honduras

On Monday February 22, 2016, the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) officially presented itself in Honduras. MACCIH is a hybrid mechanism, backed by the Organization of American States (OAS), which was created to assist Honduran institutions tasked with the prevention of corruption and impunity. The establishment of MACCIH is a drastic measure; an admission that the Honduran State, for whatever reason, is unable to adequately investigate and punish corruption cases. But for those who have followed the situation in Honduras, this is no surprise.

The country suffered a coup d’état in June 2009, which further weakened Honduras’ already frail institutions. It caused a severe deterioration in the protection of human rights, and increased poverty and inequality. Violence shot up to 85.5 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012, according to the National University’s Observatory of Violence (although the UN Office on Drugs and Crime even registered 90.4 intentional homicides that year).

Six years after the coup, the situation remains dire. According to a recently published report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Honduras continues to suffer from high levels of violence and organized crime, attacks on human rights defenders, militarization, growing inequality, and a lack of judicial independence. (And its highly criticized Supreme Court selection process does not bode well for the future.)

This situation is, unfortunately, not unique in the region. In the countries that compose the Northern Triangle of Central America—Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras—levels of (organized) violence are high, government institutions are weak, and corruption and impunity are rampant.

Guatemala found its own way of attacking these problems. Following civil society initiative, the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was created. After some eight years of operation that had ups and downs, CICIG has recently shown impressive results: it has rolled up crime rings run by notorious criminals and State officials, and has brought to light enormous corruption scandals, for example in the customs authority, in which the highest authorities of the country were involved. This led to the resignation of both the President and Vice-President, both of whom are currently imprisoned, awaiting trial.

The reactions in Guatemala’s neighboring countries were almost immediate: citizens in Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras called for the creation of similar entities in their countries. However, governments have been reluctant to accede to these demands. No initiative has been taken in Mexico, and El Salvador has only agreed to a U.S.-sponsored anti-corruption program. But in Honduras, following a scandal that involved the embezzlement of social security funds (that were, moreover, allegedly used to finance the governing party), national protesters called for the establishment of an investigative body similar to CICIG, to take on corruption in the country.

On September 28, 2015, the Secretary General of the OAS and Honduran President Hernández announced the creation of MACCIH to assist Honduran institutions in preventing, investigating and punishing corruption. Continue reading

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