October 30, 2015
The Honduran Property Institute is silently decaying. That is the conclusion of the Association for a More Just Society’s (AJS) investigations into corruption and politicization in the government institution charged with granting land titles to the most vulnerable in Honduras.
What does a land title mean? It means people who have little more than the land they live on are no longer subject to unscrupulous supposed landowners who use their strong men to charge “rent”, with the constant threat of eviction. It means having something of value to pass on to their children and grandchildren.
But thousands of Hondurans don’t have a land title because the Property Institute has become so corrupt it can barely function.
AJS’s investigations (published in one of Honduras’ most popular newspapers) showed that politicians were giving out land titles to the poorest of the poor in order to win their votes in elections. They paid little attention to the fact that the land they were titling was nearly on top of the airport runway, risking the lives of the people living there, and of airplane passengers.
In addition, Property Institute officials are accused of giving titles to desirable government land to private citizens for a bribe—stealing from the Honduran government for their own interest.
The politicization and corruption are so egregious that the Property Institute is currently facing about 50 million dollars in lawsuits from people who have been hurt by it.
As AJS lawyer Ludim Ayala says, “Politicians use the Property Institute basically as a pot of free money. They know no one will speak up because getting titles is such a complex topic. It’s a silent corruption.”
AJS is helping to break the silence. The government has already hired a private auditing firm to look at all the claims of corruption in the Property Institute, has fired the board of directors and hired new more qualified members, and has promised to submit staff to tests to make sure they are qualified for their jobs.
AJS is committed to working with the government to build a healthy Property Institute that can provide what AJS lawyer Ludim calls, “a basic right to own property.”