TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — An international mission aimed at tackling widespread corruption was installed Monday in Honduras, kicking off a four-year mandate that its backers hope will clean up corruption and lead to profound changes.
Juan Jimenez, a former Peruvian justice minister, will serve as the leader and spokesman for the Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras.
"The (mission) is an unprecedented initiative aimed at producing structural reform in the administration of Honduran justice," Jimenez said. He said $22 billion or 2 percent of Honduras' gross domestic product is lost to corruption every year.
In January, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez signed the agreement allowing creation of the Organization of American States mission. It is made up of 30 foreign investigators, judges and prosecutors as well as Honduran counterparts.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro of Uruguay said in a statement that in seven years Honduras could be self-sufficient in handling its own corruption cases.
The mission followed months of street protests after a big scandal in the Central American nation's social security system. Protesters had wanted a United Nations investigatory body like the one set up in Guatemala, but Hernandez agreed to the OAS body.
Ariel Varela, leader of the so-called Indignant Opposition, which led the protests, said the mission is not what they demanded. "But it is an achievement of the people in the streets and it is what we have," he said.
The U.N. body in neighboring Guatemala has produced stunning results, including the resignations and arrests of the president and vice-president.
The Honduran mission will choose which cases it investigates, but has let it be known there are 13, including the social security scandal. In that case, some $300 million allegedly was funneled out of the system.