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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03TEGUCIGALPA1534 2003-07-01 13:15:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tegucigalpa
Cable title:  

CARDINAL'S CORRUPTION COMMENTS SPARK PUBLIC

Tags:   PGOV SNAR KCRM KJUS PHUM PREL PINR HO 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEGUCIGALPA 001534 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN, DRL/PHD, INR/AN/IAA, AND INR/B

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/30/2013
TAGS: PGOV SNAR KCRM KJUS PHUM PREL PINR HO
SUBJECT: CARDINAL'S CORRUPTION COMMENTS SPARK PUBLIC
DEBATE; CARDINAL STILL RECEIVING DEATH THREATS

REF: A. TEGUCIGALPA 625


B. 02 VATICAN 4582

C. 02 TEGUCIGALPA 2054

D. 02 TEGUCIGALPA 962 (ALL NOTAL)

Classified By: Ambassador Larry Palmer;
Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).



1. (C) SUMMARY. During a private meeting with the Ambassador
on June 20, the Cardinal expressed heightened concern over
the pervasiveness of drug-related corruption at the highest
levels of government as well as continuing death threats he
had received. Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga used
the bully pulpit of his chairmanship of the National
Anti-Corruption Council to raise questions about a corrupt
political arrangement that was allegedly negotiated between
Liberal Party President Rafael Pineda Ponce and former
Honduran President Rafael Leonardo Callejas. The Cardinal's
criticisms were widely reported by the media as truth and
spawned a fiery response from Pineda Ponce, who challenged
the Cardinal to come forward with his evidence of the
supposed deal. END SUMMARY.



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CARDINAL EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER CORRUPTION/DEATH THREATS


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2. (C) Cardinal Rodriguez expressed significant concern that
drug-related corruption had penetrated the highest levels of
the Congress and the Public Ministry in a June 20 meeting
with the Ambassador. He provided the Ambassador with a
confidential document from an informant, outlining

SIPDIS
allegations of corruption within the Public Ministry. (Note:
Embassy had previously received this document from another
source.) The Cardinal believes the culture of corruption and
impunity in Honduras to be so pervasive that he was planning
to resign from his position as Chair of the CNA.
Additionally, the Cardinal relayed that threats to his life
have continued in recent weeks. He has accepted an offer from
the Ministry of Public Security for a single police officer
to serve as a security detail during his public appearances
only. The Ambassador urged the Cardinal not to resign and to
continue his vigilance in fighting corruption.



3. (C) During a March discussion with the Ambassador,
Cardinal Rodriguez privately confided that he had received a
recent death threat that merited concern (ref A). Though
Post has been unable to assess the credibility of the
gatekeeper's kidnapping story, the Cardinal interpreted the
kidnapping to represent an escalation in the seriousness of
threats to his life. The Cardinal indicated to the
Ambassador in March that the recent threats would not deter
his anti-corruption campaign.



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ACCUSATIONS AGAINST PINEDA PONCE AND CALLEJAS


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4. (C) According to May 20 press reports, Cardinal Oscar
Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (who is
also rumored to be a potential successor to Pope John Paul II
(ref B)) raised questions during a meeting of the National
Anti-Corruption Council (CNA) that a corrupt political
arrangement may have been negotiated between Liberal Party
President Rafael Pineda Ponce, the former president of
Congress who ran unsuccessfully against Ricardo Maduro for
president in 2001, and former Honduran President Rafael
Leonardo Callejas (1990-94), a Nationalist. According to the
Cardinal, who described his sources as "faithful," Callejas
influenced Nationalist Party judges on the Supreme Court to
dismiss the case against the son-in-law of Pineda Ponce,
Jorge Adolfo Chavez Hernandez, a former member of Battalion
3-16, who has been accused of masterminding the 1998 murder
of environmentalist and Catacamas (in the Department of
Olancho) town councilman, Carlos Antonio Luna Lopez. The
Cardinal suggested that, in exchange, Pineda Ponce influenced
Liberal Supreme Court judges to dismiss seven pending
corruption cases against Callejas. The Cardinal's
accusations call into question the legality of both
politicians' actions as well as the credibility and
transparency of the Supreme Court. These press reports were
confirmed by German Espinal, the Executive Director of the
CNA.



5. (U) (Note: As stated in the Human Rights Report, in May
and July 2002, police arrested Chavez and Jose Angel Rosa in
the 1998 murder of Luna. The arrests occurred after both the
prosecuting attorney and judge in the case received death
threats. In May 2002 the local judge resigned from the court
because of these death threats. Former security official
Jose Marcos Hernandez Hernandez and two other suspects still
remain at large and one other suspect in the murder, Oscar
Aurelio "Machetillo" Rodriguez Molina, remains in prison.
End Note.)



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REACTIONS OF THE ACCUSED


--------------------------





6. (C) On June 18, after weeks of avoiding a direct
confrontation with the Cardinal, Pineda Ponce publicly
challenged the Cardinal to present his evidence to a court.
In a letter sent to Attorney General Roy Medina, Pineda Ponce
urged Medina to require the Cardinal to present his
information regarding the supposed political arrangement
between Pineda Ponce and Callejas. The same week, Chavez
claimed his innocence in Luna's killing and accused the
Cardinal of lashing out at Honduran politicians as part of a
strategy for winning the papacy. Callejas has not responded
publicly to the Cardinal's allegations but noted his deep
respect for the Cardinal as a moral leader. The Cardinal has
declined to comment on Pineda Ponce's challenge. Espinal
told EmbOffs that the Cardinal would present his testimony
and evidence to the Attorney General's Office on June 26
during a sworn deposition.




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THE CARDINAL'S ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN


--------------------------





7. (U) As chair of the CNA, Cardinal Rodriguez is leading a
campaign to implement a 20-year national anti-corruption
strategy (refs C and D). President Ricardo Maduro
(Nationalist Party) ratified and endorses the work of the
CNA, which receives funding from the World Bank, the
Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations
Development Programs, as well as from several bilateral
donors, such as USAID. Last year, the Cardinal called for
the creation of an international court to try corruption
cases and to channel confiscated funds back into developing
countries. The Cardinal has urged Hondurans to acknowledge
the depths of the corruption problem and to support an
anti-corruption strategy buttressed by political will.



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CARDINAL CLAIMS DEVELOPED COUNTRIES APATHETIC


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8. (SBU) In a private meeting with the Ambassador in March,
the Cardinal also expressed his desire that the international
community employ stricter conditionalities on developing
countries as a deterrent to corruption. During the week of
June 7, the Cardinal publicly charged developed countries
apathetic toward what he considers to be an exorbitant debt
burden and crushing interest rates in developing countries.
The Cardinal deemed a lack of political will, and not a lack
of funds, to be the chief impediment to resolving the debt
problem in developing countries. In particular, the Cardinal
cited the multi-billion dollar commitment of developed
nations to wage war in Iraq as an example of the availability
of funds and political will to employ them.



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INFLUENCE OF CARDINAL GIVES COMMENTS ADDED WEIGHT


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9. (C) Comment: Even though the details surrounding the
Cardinal's statements on Pineda Ponce and Callejas have yet
to be revealed, both the Honduran media and the public at
large have embraced the story as truth. Meanwhile, Pineda
Ponce's response to the Cardinal represents a bold and risky
political maneuver. That Pineda Ponce chose to directly
address the alleged criticisms speaks to the perceived power
of the Cardinal's rhetoric to sting high profile figures. A
recent public survey rated Cardinal Rodriguez the third most
powerful figure in Honduras, behind President Maduro and the
Ambassador. Meanwhile, this unfolding drama appears to have
given voice to a Honduran public frustrated by rampant
corruption and impunity. It has also sparked a vigorous
debate in the media about corruption in all major public
institutions, especially the Attorney General's Office and
the police. Given the threats to the Cardinal's life, his
high political profile within Honduras and possible candidacy
for the papacy, both the allegations of pervasive
narco-corruption and concerns over the Cardinal's physical
security merit careful monitoring. End Comment.

Palmer