November 9, 2007

Chimirri resigns, Hondutel raided, President's cabinet asked to resign

Hondutel raidPhotos: Proceso Digital, La Tribuna, Honduras

Much is going on today in Honduras.

Hondutel raidThe Honduran state-owned telephone company Hondutel was raided this morning by DGIC agents, the investigative arm of the Ministerio Público (similar to the FBI according to Aaron). Employees were evicted from the premises while the agents confiscate computers and other evidence.

I don't know what possessed me to turn on the local TV channels this morning. I must have a sixth sense! I never turn on the TV in the morning, but when I did today − what excitement! Although they have been talking about this issue all day, officials haven't given much concrete information to the press.

Hondutel has been the subject of tens of thousands of denuncias (official complaints) over the years, including most recently credible charges that Hondutel management is involved with tráfico gris (illegal phone traffic) to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in loss of revenue to the country. My article, Part 3: Swamp of Corruption in Hondutel includes a list of articles (both mine and newspaper) with background information.

While Marcello Chimirri, head of Hondutel, was in La Ceiba today, his luxurious home in Valle de Angeles near Tegucigalpa and his Hondutel office were raided. His computers, guns, cell phones, and (reportedly) telephone espionage equipment were confiscated. During the day, he resigned from his government position. Homes of other Hondutel officials have been raided as well.

Interestingly, President Mel Zelaya, related by marriage to Chimirri, is out of the country today while all this is happening. He has been accused of being a protector of Chimirri in the past while some members of the government and other organizations have clamored for Chimirri's resignation.

Chimirri is being investigated as a suspect behind the controversial taped telephone conversations among himself, President Mel Zelaya, and other high level government officials. The 11 taped conversations (in Spanish, of course) are available from user juanapueblo at YouTube. 'Juana Pueblo' is a female version of 'John Q. Public'.

Mel Zelaya has indicated that he would like to see Juana Pueblo put in jail for exposing the illegally taped conversations. I say Hooray! for Juana and whoever provided the tapes to her. When the laws protect the criminals and the system doesn't work, as it obviously doesn't, it is time for drastic measures.

News reports are thin on facts, but some have stated that these raids are not to investigate the charges of corruption and criminal activities of Chimirri and Hondutel which have been circulating for months and years without any appearance of a serious investigation but rather to investigate the illegal recordings of government officials! If only the government of Honduras would put such efforts into combating corruption as they do in investigating those who attempt to expose it.

One of the most disappointing things to me is that in interviews of various Hondutel employees and other government officials, they say, "The raid is an abuse of authority," etc. I would have hoped that the employees, who are bound to know at least some of the corruption in this organization, would be saying "Thank God that something is finally being done about corruption!" (Reader Mane, I know what you will be saying! ;-o)

I find it so ironic that if Chimirri was involved with these tape recordings, he may fall, not from his own alleged corrupt activities, but instead from exposing the conversations of other government officials.

So many potential pitfalls could result in nothing of substance from any of these investigations. The DGIC might not find the evidence needed, they might not be capable of interpreting the evidence or of developing a solid case. Evidence frequently disappears. Police and fiscalías are often accused of compromising cases for their own personal benefit. The courts often throw out cases against 'important people' for lack of evidence or technicalitieswhich is often attributed to the judges being bought. The fact is that high level government officials are rarely prosecuted and never go to jail. Will we see a change this time? I'm guardedly hopeful, but realistically, based on history, probably nothing will come of it.

However, President Zelaya, in a shocking act from Chile today, requested letters of resignation from his entire cabinet, all of the directors, and managers of all the decentralized government agencies! I don't know if this is a 'show,' or if Mel is losing control.

Proceso Digital reported that one of the first to submit his resignation was Yani Rosenthal, a proposed presidential candidate, whose family was implicated in the tráfico gris scandal.

What does this mean? Is he trying to get rid of the corruptos or trying to get rid of those fighting the corruptos? Honestly, at this moment, I'm still confused about what is actually happening here.
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