Honduras ends mandate for anti-corruption body

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras on Friday effectively ended the mandate of an anti-graft body backed by the Organization of American States (OAS), dealing another setback to the fight against corruption in the region.

In a statement, the Honduran foreign ministry said the government and the OAS had failed to agree on a renewal of the mandate for the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH).

It said there had been discontent in some sectors of Honduras about its perceived overreach.

The OAS criticized the decision and defended its record in the troubled Central American country.

“During its operation, the mission actively and successfully collaborated with the Honduran institutions to face the endemic problem of corruption in the country,” the statement said.

“Unfortunately, the Honduran government’s position has been to not to join us.” The current mandate expires on Jan. 19, 2020.

Honduran lawmakers allied with President Juan Orlando Hernandez voted last year against renewing the mandate for the agency, which was formed in 2016 and has tackled public corruption and illicit campaign financing.

Pressure has been mounting on Hernandez. Last year, a U.S. jury found his brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, guilty of conspiring to import cocaine, illicit weapons possession and lying to U.S. authorities.

During the trial, witnesses also alleged that Hernandez pledged to protect his brother from extradition and called for bribes to secure power for himself and the ruling National Party. Hernandez denied the allegations.

Hernandez was sworn in as president two years ago after an election the OAS said was marred by irregularities, and called for a new vote.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Sandra Maler