Corruption trial begins for Honduras congressional VP News
Corruption trial begins for Honduras congressional VP

[JURIST] Honduran Congressional Vice President Lena Gutierrez [official Facebook page] began her trial Wednesday for her role in the nation’s recent medical sale scandal. The charges [El Tiempo report, in Spanish] include falsification of public documents and fraud against the government by drug sales to the Ministry of Health [official website, in Spanish]. Gutierrez’s company Astropharma [corporate website] allegedly sold the government low-quality drugs at an inflated price. President of the Supreme Court of Justice Jorge Rivera was specially selected [AP report] to preside over the trial, due to Gutierrez’s immunity to regular court proceedings as an elected official. Gutierrez’s family members and twelve employees of Astropharma were also charged in this scandal, though all have denied the allegations.

Honduras has a history of struggling with corruption and its leaders being forced from power. In June thousands of Honduran protestors staged a demonstration [JURIST report] calling for the resignation of President Juan Hernandez [official website, in Spanish] for his role in embezzling money from the Honduran Institute of Social Security to pay for his 2013 presidential campaign. In January 2013 the Honduran National Congress [official website, in Spanish] approved controversial amendments to the police law [JURIST report] designed to eliminate corruption. The amendments were approved after the congress voted to dismiss four justices [JURIST report] of the country’s Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] a week earlier, after the justices ruled that the police reform bill supported by then-president Porfirio Lobo [NYT profile] was unconstitutional. Tension between the three branches of government in Honduras has risen recently, and Lobo has expressed concern that he may be forced out of office like his predecessor, who was removed during the 2009 military coup [JURIST report]. In June 2011 the Honduran Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared that the coup was unconstitutional [JURIST report] but stated that former president Manuel Zelaya was culpable when he ignored orders of the Supreme Court. Zelaya signed an agreement [JURIST report] in May 2011 allowing his return to the country after nearly two years in exile.