Honduras lawmakers urge president to shut down anti-corruption body

FILE PHOTO: Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks during a news conference at the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera/File Photo

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduran lawmakers allied with President Juan Orlando Hernandez have voted against renewing an agreement with the Organization of American States (OAS) to extend the mandate of an anti-corruption body.

The Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), which was formed in 2016 and has tackled public graft and illicit campaign financing, will end its term in January 2020 if Hernandez does not renew its mandate with the OAS.

On Tuesday evening, 70 lawmakers of a total of 128 in the single-chamber Congress, most of them from Hernandez’s party, voted in favor of a petition to end the mandate. The petition said MACCIH officials “violated rights, guarantees and constitutional principles.”

One complaint put forward by lawmakers is that MACCIH has revealed the names of people it is investigating while the cases are still pending, and that is has illegally obtained official documents.

The vote is non-binding. Most Hondurans support the work MACCIH is doing, according to a recent poll.

MACCIH has presented 12 corruption cases. Its work led to a 58-year prison sentence for former first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla, the wife of former President Porfirio Lobo, for fraud and misappropriation of funds.

Lobo himself is also under investigation for alleged money laundering, and lawmakers have also been investigated by the MACCIH.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Tom Brown