Corruption Continues to Plague Honduran Government

In September, Insight Crime reported Honduras is now “one of the most corrupt and mistrusted [countries] in Latin America.” Transparency International’s latest corruption perception index gives Honduras a score of 29, coming in at 126th place. In fact, corruption has so profoundly dominated the current administration that any report on the current political situation in Honduras is really just an analysis of corruption within the government and the public’s resulting distrust. 

A recent CID-Gallup poll indicates President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s maintains an approval rating of 53 percent. However, in mid-2015 there were protests calling for his resignation, which was largely due to the Social Security Institute (IHSS) embezzlement scandal -- US$15.5 million were stolen from healthcare funds, which left hospitals without money to stock various medications, directly causing 3,000 patient deaths. Hernandez partook in the embezzlement, admitting in May 2015 his presidential campaign fund had mysteriously received $3 million lempira (US$ 133,326.21) from an account that funded the national health plan. As we head into 2016, two of Hernandez’s greatest challenges will be refunding the IHSS and disassociating himself from this scandal.

The current distrust of the government is also the result of several other corruption cases. In July, the president was accused of nepotism for appointing his sister as Minister of Communications and accused of lying for repeatedly denying it to protesters. The government is also facing fraud accusations for refusing to prosecute over a dozen soldiers who tortured, raped, and killed six civilians from December to January. The president also allegedly laundered large sums of public money to help finance his friends’ local political campaigns throughout 2015. These corruption accusations remain very relevant today, as protesters continue to cite them as reasons to dethrone the president.

While these political corruption scandals from 2015 remain relevant, January has already seen new ones, the most significant case being the new tax code Hernandez proposed on 1 January 2016. Though the proposal would simplify paperwork and attract more businesses, it would also turn the Executive Revenue Office (DEI) abusive. The plan would allow the DEI to set the amount of money a business owes, declare it legitimate, raid the business, and confiscate its goods and documents, all without court approval. Even worse, if the business disagrees with its alleged dues and wants to file a lawsuit, it must first pay the alleged debt in full and wait two years, enough time for a company go bankrupt before ever hearing from the office.

The second political corruption case of 2016 concerns the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), which Honduras and the OAS approved on 19 January. The new legislation mandates the MACCIH operate directly under Honduras’ prosecutor and the Supreme Court, both of whom are closely tied to the president. The public believes the MACCIH can only be free of corruption if it operates independently of the prosecutor and judicial branch, and protesters are voicing their concerns in massive marches throughout the capital.
Not only are corruption allegations involving tax reform and the MACCIH shaping the current political situation in Honduras, but also corruption scandals from 2015 are continuing to play an important role in today’s politics, as the current public distrust of the government is a direct result of these scandals.