Honduras government fails to extend anti-corruption mission

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Honduras said Friday it failed to reach an agreement with the Organization of American States to extend the mandate of an anti-corruption mission that had upset a number of national lawmakers by uncovering misuse of public funds.

The mandate of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras was set to expire Sunday.

“We did not reach a consensus on signing a new covenant between Honduras and the Organization of American States secretary general,” the Honduran government said in a statement.

The government said it was important to take into consideration the complaints from some economic and political sectors about the behavior of some of the mission's members.

In December, Honduras' legislature voted to recommend that the commission not continue past its original four-year mandate.

Among its achievements, the commission uncovered networks of legislative and non-profit front organizations that moved public monies back into lawmakers' pockets.

Honduran lawmakers responded by impeding its investigations and threw up hurdles to prevent the country’s prosecutors from advancing the cases. They also reduced legal sentences for corruption-related crimes and essentially blocked the Attorney General’s Office from investigating improper use of public funds for up to seven years.

The U.S. State Department had urged Honduras to renew the commission without changes, but analysts say President Juan Orlando Hernández may have felt emboldened to drop it as White House priorities in the region shifted to slowing migration.

Hernández already suffered from low approval ratings after overcoming a constitutional ban on re-election and winning in a contest marred by irregularities. Weeks of large street demonstrations against the government re-emerged this summer and in October, his brother Tony Hernández was found guilty of cocaine trafficking in a U.S. federal court.

U.S. prosecutors named the president a co-conspirator in the case. He denies any involvement. His brother is scheduled for sentencing next month.