This article first appeared in Swissinfo on July 6, 2021.
The Center against Corruption and Impunity in Northern Central America (CCINOC) called on the authorities of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras on Tuesday to remove high-ranking officials and candidates for elected office accused by the United States of corruption.
Civil society organizations from these three countries that make up the Northern Triangle, request their Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers to “act with due seriousness and democratic responsibility in response” to the list published last week by the U.S. State Department.
In a communiqué, the CCINOC indicated that the public officials indicated in the “Engel” list should be “removed or separated from their positions”, the same as persons who aspire to popularly elected positions.
“In all cases, the prosecutor’s offices with the pertinent powers must open investigation processes, request the withdrawal of immunity when it exists and present the corresponding accusations before the courts”, they point out.
The organization welcomes the publication of the list that includes individuals suspected of corruption or undermining democracy in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
In total, the list includes 55 officials accused of corruption: 14 from El Salvador, 20 from Guatemala and 21 from Honduras.
In the case of Honduras, the US accuses former Honduran President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo (2010-2014) of having accepted bribes from a drug cartel, and his wife, former first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo, of embezzling funds.
Honduran deputies Juan Carlos Valenzuela Molina, Welsy Milena Vásquez López, Milton Jesús Puerto Oseguera, Gustavo Albert Pérez, Óscar Nájera and Gladys Aurora López, among others, also appear on the list.
The U.S. Department of State report is a “significant and forceful first step in the process of renewing and strengthening” U.S. support for the “anti-corruption and anti-impunity efforts” of Central American civil society, the CCINOC said.
The Central American organizations urged the U.S. government to “continue and intensify ongoing investigations, especially those that should remain confidential or classified for the time being, and which explain why this list does not include all the people we have denounced and pointed out in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
They point out that they are aware that the responsibility for the fight against corruption and impunity in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras lies with their citizens.
However, the Engel list confirms that the three Central American countries “face excessively high levels of capture of our state institutions and control bodies”.
The support of the international community is “crucial” at a time when authorities in the Northern Triangle “perpetrate attacks against organized civil society and the independent press, especially those that denounce corruption and impunity, and violate constitutional rights such as freedom of expression, association and organization”.
CCINOC urged other civil society organizations to “join in this endorsement of the validity and legitimacy” of the State Department’s listing and to “counter the defiant and negligent attitudes that the authorities show towards U.S. support for the fight against corruption and impunity in the region.”