September 24, 2007

Part 3: Swamp of corruption in Hondutel

Continuation of Swamp of corruption in Hondutel

Note: all links to articles or websites are in Spanish unless otherwise indicated.

What does the author of the investigation say?

Robert Carmona BorjasRobert Carmona Borjas, Executive Vice President of Arcadia Foundation and author of the undercover Hondutel investigation, admits that he did sign a contract with Hondutel but says that the U.S$44,078 charge was an "arbitrary and suspicious act of crude extortion." (No explanation was given as to why two different amounts are given − Marcelo Chimirri of Hondutel said it was US$25,352.)

Carmona Borjas said that the Hondutel bill was undocumented. According to his company's contract, Hondutel is required to give the time, dates, duration, and destination numbers of the calls, and that in no manner does this bill represent the correct amount. He also says that Hondutel has not cut the service of other companies such a Latinode, IPIP, WorldWide, Identidat Telecom, Metrocom, Huntington, and KDDI, who owe Hondutel a total of U.S.$2,686,000.

Carmona Borjas says that he has sufficient evidence to prove the veracity of the irregularities which were included in the report that directly involve Chimirri. He also stated that he is not interested in damaging anyone's political image but that CableColor needs to pay the consequences for the grey traffic.

In only 14 days in July 2006, his investigation was able to identify 340 telephone lines dedicated to grey traffic, but he fears that Hondutel officials could be deleting the call registers now, "erasing the fingerprints of the grey traffic".

In a radio interview, he pointed out that it should be easy for Honduran authorities to verify whether Chimirri has enjoyed illegal enrichment since public officials are required to submit personal financial information. He also pointed out that Honduran authorities should be able to determine if Chimirri's paid taxes on his wealth in prior years (since Chimirri claims that his wealth is a result of 30 years of work). He also believes that it is a crime under Honduran law for Chimirri's personal company to be receiving payments from U.S. telecommunications companies while he is a functionary of Hondutel.

Carmona Borjas says if it is true that the government wants help from the US in the investigation, they need to officially ask for it formally in writing, not just "pure bla, bla, bla for the microphones, without anything concrete" .

Carmona Borjas is a Venezuelan who received political asylum in the U.S. in 2002. He is an author and currently part-time faculty at George Washington University. His bio indicates that he has dedicated his life to the campaign for democracy in the region and to combat those who threaten it.

Disappearing websites

Chimirri's Hi5 page, which I wrote about in Hurry! Look quick before it's gone (Eng.), has been toned down, stripped of sexy innuendos, and his photo album has been made private (some photos are still available at El Proceso).

The Arcadia Foundation website (Eng.) has been stripped of all information and each page results in "under construction" or a 404 notice. Rosenthal said that a photo of former U.S. Ambassador Otto Reich was removed from the Arcadia website.

I was sure that I saw the title of a related article on the Revistazo website, but when I went back to read it, it was gone and no amount of searching could locate it. Revistazo does have a copy of one of the secretly taped recordings with a transcript described as an example of how they manage the power in Honduras.

El Universal's original article was no longer available by searching its website, although I was able to access the article through a Google search.

Searches of CNN en Español came up with nothing related to the television report (although there were references to the Blogicito articles).

Emergency trip to Washington

On Wednesday, September 19, an emergency delegation was sent to Washington, D.C., to "prove" that Honduras has improved controls against corruption, a requirement for the the Millenium Challenge Account (Eng.) aid to continue. At risk is 60% of US$215 million designated for Honduras. Yani Rosenthal, whose family company CableColor is at the heart of the Hondutel scandal, was one of the members of the delegation as he is one of the five Honduras MCA board members.

Honduran officials have been claiming that Honduras has no corruption, only the perception of corruption. Last year, a World Bank report showed that the fight against corruption in Honduras has not improved.

Secret investigations, results hidden from public scrutiny, international aid in jeopardy, secretly taped telephone conversations, international bribes, dismantling of private businesses, international investments going to other countries, murder, sexual harassment, presidential candidate, lawsuits against newspapers....What a mess!

I hope that Hondurans listen to the message and don't "shoot the messenger." Demand a real investigation, and act swiftly without regard to where the message came from, who might be behind it, or how it damages the image of the country.

As far as corruption goes, Honduras' image was severely damaged long before this report was ever issued (Eng). The important thing is for Honduras is to take the first concrete step to put an end to the rampant corruption which is destroying the country. That is what will improve Honduras' image and give all Hondurans something of which to be proud.

I've received several warnings by email suggesting that it could be dangerous to write these articles. It seems outrageous to think that translating and summarizing information which has been published in at least half a dozen newspapers in at least two countries and aired on CNN could pose a personal threat to me. This may be the first English article about the scandal but for sure it won't be the last. Even Honduran corruptos can't control the internet.

Related articles:

Part 2: Swamp of corruption in Hondutel
Swamp of corruption in Hondutel
-Chimirri scandal
Hurry! Look quick before it is gone
Attack on freedom of expression in Honduras
Will Honduras ever rise out of poverty?
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