Monday, February 8, 2016

Suborning the Honduran Congress

With the next round of voting to be held Tuesday, Radio Globo's David Romero Ellner has brought to light evidence of an elaborate con that funnels funds from the government to a trade association, and there to Congress members from opposition parties allegedly to vote for National Party Projects, including for their slate of candidates for the Supreme Court.

Reporter David Romero Ellner of Radio Globo is no stranger to conflict.  He was almost the first to publicize the IHSS scandal and to report its links back to the National Party and the Juan Orlando Hernandez election campaign.  He's currently awaiting sentencing having been found guilty of slandering a prominent National Party member in a trial conducted by the Supreme Court.

The con begins with a lawyer, supposedly named José Napoleón Panchamé.  He can't be found.  He supposedly contracted with the Associacion Nacional de Productores e Industriales de Barrios y Colonias de Honduras to fund projects Panchamé tells them to.  Romero has a copy of the contract they signed.  Romero alleges the funds come from the Tasa de Seguridad, the Oficina de Obras Sociales, and the 3 percent ISV tax.  The funding was actually used to pay Congress members from mostly opposition parties to support National Party projects.  In December alone, the Association issued 20 million lempiras ($952,000) in checks to Congress members.  However, there is also a check for 700,00 lempiras ($33,333) to Panchamé.

The news first broke last Wednesday (February 2) when Romero told Radio Globo listeners that Congressman Agusto Cruz Asensio of the Partido Demócrata Christiano (DC) and Dennis Sanchez of the Partido Libertad y Refundación (Libre) received checks drawn on the Banco DAVIVIENDA from the account of the Asociacion Nacional de Productores, a group Romero identifies as a front organization that channels funds from the National Party.  Cruz Asensio's check was for 99,800 lempiras ($4752) while Sanchez received 224,550 lempiras ($10,692).  Each received two sequentially numbered checks from the Association.

Cruz Asensio claims the checks are for services he gave to the Association, but will not explain what those services were.  Dennis Sanchez said the funds were a contribution to a fund for a water project for the community of Guacamaya, Santa Barbara, near Gualala, where he was born.

Nor are these the only two Congress members Romero implicates.  Today he named a further suite of Congress members, all originally members of Libre:  Héctor Padilla, Eduardo Coto, and Audelia Rodriguez.  Padilla received two checks on December 22 of 2015 which Romero alleges were for him to vote to amend the Honduran constitution to include the military police as a constitutionally defined part of the Honduran Armed Forces.  Padilla left Libre after that vote to join the Democrata Cristiana party.  Audelia Rodriguez received two checks, also on December 22, 2015 from the same source totaling $11,405.  She left Libre in May, 2015 because "being poor she wasn't welcomed."  Rodriguez and Padilla are both now independents, while Coto is a Democrata Cristiana.

Romero says that between 16 December, 2015 and 23 January 2016, that bank account issued at least 23 checks, including one to every member of Libre that has left the party:  Eduardo Coto, Jenny Murillo, Omar Rodriguez, Mariano Alvarado, Tatiana Canales, and Audelia Rodgriguez.  At least one unnamed member of PAC also received a check.

Suborning the votes of Congress is of course an illegal, if not long standing, practice in Honduras.  The OAS's MACCIH will have a long way to go to even begin to disentangle the corruption that is the current government of Honduras.

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