Diego Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), has announced International Prosecutor Ana María Calderon will lead the transition of the Mission of Support Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Maccih).
Calderon´s appointment comes after the resignation of the mission's former head Juan Jimenez, who cited rising hostility from the Honduran government as well as a lack of support from its parent organization, the OAS, as the reasons for him tending his resignation.
Responding to the resignation letter via Twitter Almagro said, "In spite of the unforeseen and unconsulted nature of this resignation and the difficulties it might bring, @OEA_MACCIH will continue with more profound and significant results against corruption."
In a public resignation letter, Jimenez says Almagro refuse to meet him in Washington two weeks ago after he had traveled there exclusively to hold talks with the secretary-general. Jimenez said he had intended to discuss the corruption cases his prosecutors were pursuing along with the role of government officials and legislators to block the investigations.
In December the mission announced investigations against five Honduran legislators for pocketing money intended for social programs, but all investigations into the budget for those programs were frozen a month later by a Congressional decree with a judge later dismissing the cases.
A New York Times report explains tensions between Almagro and Hernandez reached its highest point on Wednesday, when the OAS secretary general sent a letter to President Juan Orlando Hernández complaining that the mission “had not been able to produce the results and prosecutions of corruption cases that we would have wished and which we owe to the people of Honduras.”
“It was an odd complaint to direct at Mr. Hernández. The president’s allies have worked to sabotage much of the panel’s efforts, freezing proposed legislation to protect witnesses and stalling the enforcement of new campaign finance laws,” New York Times reporter Elisabeth Malkin points.
Leading prosecutor Julio Arbizu and Chilean Judge Daniel Urrutia also handed in their resignations. Arbizu cited disappointment with the OAS’ lack of support as the reason for his resignation but went a step further denouncing corruption within the OAS. Through his Twitter account, Arbizu shared evidence that a former member of the commission, Jacobo Dominguez, whose contract was rescinded on the request of the Honduran people, was still receiving a salary of US $10,000 a month for working with the mission.
"Here is Mr. Jacobo Dominguez's contract, payed with money that should have been for #Honduras, in spite of opposition and explicit rejection by @JuanJimenezMayor and without Dominguez working for Maccih. Who is lying now? An explanation is owed to donors and to Honduras," Arbizu wrote.
Jimenez said he had sent a complaint to the OAS, stating Dominguez no longer work for the mission and should not be on its payroll but he didn’t receive a reply.
Eric Olson, the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Latin American program, told InSight Crime that “the Honduran government has felt uncomfortable about MACCIH from the start” and intentionally went to the OAS because they “thought they could ensure a weak mechanism.”