April 20, 2016
Today, The New York Times published a letter to the editor from AJS-Honduras President Carlos Hernandez. Below is the text of the letter, which can also be read on the Times’ website.
Fighting corruption in Honduras
Re “An anti-corruption charade in Honduras” (Opinion, Feb. 16): Alexander Main made valid points but neglected to mention important advancements in the fight against corruption by Honduran nongovernmental organizations — advancements that make the success of the initiative by the Organization of American States much more likely.
I lead the Association for a More Just Society, the Honduran chapter of the nonprofit organization Transparency International. In the last two years, our work has resulted in the arrest of 95 individuals involved in major corruption cases. The reforms we’ve pushed for against corruption in public education have nearly doubled the number of days students spend in class. At least 29 major drug traffickers have been arrested, contributing to a 23 percent drop in homicide rates. My country is no longer the most violent in the world.
The O.A.S. initiative offers no silver bullets, but with oversight and support, it presents an opportunity to strengthen our government systems. We have hope that anti-corruption efforts will make a difference — because ours already have.
Carlos Hernández Tegucigalpa, Honduras
The letter was published in response to an opinion piece run by The New York Times that was critical of anti-corruption reform efforts in Honduras. While points in the opinion piece were accurate, the picture it painted was incomplete.
Corruption does continue to occur in the highest levels of the Honduran government. But these injustices have mobilized Honduran civil society around high-level reforms that have led to dramatic advances in the government and justice system. Just one example: in the past two years, the Attorney General’s office has earned 50 guilty verdicts in corruption cases – more than the previous 19 years put together.
The article was pessimistic of a new international anti-corruption force in Honduras organized by the Organization of American States (OAS). The effort, called the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH, by its Spanish initials), is not a certain success. But it is a certain opportunity to fundamentally shift the cycle of corruption, impunity, and violence in Honduras.
Ultimately, such a shift must be led not by groups like the OAS, the UN, or any foreign country — but by Honduran citizens and civil society, including groups like AJS. The OAS’s new effort in Honduras has its flaws, but serious corruption fighters view its arrival as an opportunity for progress before pessimism.
The original opinion piece in The New York Times stated, “Congressional oversight may be the only guarantee that due diligence is done” — a quote that is only partly right. It overlooks the important role that civil society organizations play in Honduras; organizations like AJS are committed to just such oversight and we are already seeing a difference.
Hondurans are already pressuring their government from within, and what’s direly needed is a sustainably equipped criminal justice system in Honduras.
The fight against corruption is costly, and it has claimed the lives of brave individuals, including from AJS — but we will continue the fight with tenacity and hope. Whoever wants to join us, including the OAS, is welcomed to do so.