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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04TEGUCIGALPA400 2004-02-23 23:31:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tegucigalpa
Cable title:  

NEW HONDURAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: THE LAW IS GOOD, IF

Tags:   PGOV KJUS KCRM SNAR PINR HO 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEGUCIGALPA 000400 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INR/B, INL/LP, DRL/PHD, AND WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/23/2014
TAGS: PGOV KJUS KCRM SNAR PINR HO
SUBJECT: NEW HONDURAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: THE LAW IS GOOD, IF
A MAN USES IT LAWFULLY

REF: A. TEGUCIGALPA 381

B. 03 TEGUCIGALPA 2844

C. 03 TEGUCIGALPA 1615

Classified By: Political Counselor Francisco Palmieri;
Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: On February 17 Ramon Ovidio Navarro Duarte
was sworn in as Honduras' next Attorney General (AG),
replacing outgoing AG Roy Edmundo Medina Nolasco. Navarro, a
Honduran Supreme Court Justice, is expected to assume his new
responsibilities on March 12. Navarro is a Nationalist Party
(PN) member and long-time associate of ex-president Rafael
Callejas. Navarro maintains close contact with other members
of the Honduran political/economic elite who are committed to
maintaining the status quo. As such, it remains to be seen
what type of zeal he will demonstrate at the Public Ministry
(PM) to aggressively pursue criminal and corruption cases
against high level individuals. Post believes, however, that
he will improve the PM's performance in prosecuting low-level
street crime and in working more collaboratively with the
other judicial and law enforcement entities in Honduras. End
Summary



2. (C) On February 17 Ramon Ovidio Navarro Duarte was sworn
in as Honduras' new Attorney General (AG), replacing outgoing
AG Roy Edmundo Medina. Navarro, a Honduran Supreme Court
Justice, is expected to assume his new responsibilities on
March 12 (ref A). Navarro is linked to the "Dark Side" of
the Nationalist Party (PN) and is a long-time associate of
ex-president Rafael Callejas, who himself has been accused of
corrupt practices. Navarro was, in fact, an integral member
of Callejas' legal defense team during his mid-1990's
corruption scandals. Callejas, who still exerts enormous
influence within the PN, was instrumental in orchestrating
Navarro's selection as AG and Navarro, despite being a
sitting Supreme Court Judge, is still a member of Callejas'
legal team. Navarro is also a close friend of Honduran
Supreme Court President Vilma Cecilia Morales, and maintains
strong personal relationships with Honduran National
University Rector Guillermo Arias Perez Cadalso and Honduran
Foreign Minister Leonidas Rosa Bautista, all Nationalists who
supported his candidacy.



3. (C) Navarro's selection as the new AG was guided by high
ranking Nationalist Dark Side members of congress, including
the President of Congress, Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo, Gilberto
(Picho) Goldstein, Rodolfo Irias Navas, and Oswaldo Ramos
Soto, all of whom might have something to fear from an AG
with the political will to aggressively pursue high level
corruption cases. Not necessarily the most qualified for the
job, his selection and nomination moved forward without a
concerted effort by either the Liberal Party or the
non-Callejas faction of the PN to derail it. Although
Honduran law requires the selection of the AG to be an open
and transparent process, the rapidity of the congressional
vote limited the coordination of any of the other candidates
and their supporters, reminding one of fixed deals in smoke
filled rooms.



4. (U) Other candidates who had made the AG short-list were:
Lidia Estella Cardona Padilla (Supreme Court Judge); Carlos
Africo Madrid (Supreme Court Representative on the National
Election Tribunal); Luis Enrique Galeano Milla (private
attorney); and Roberto Lagos Banegas (private attorney). All
AG candidates were PN members. The new Deputy Attorney
General is Yuri Fernando Melara Berlios, a Liberal Party
member, in keeping with tradition that the second in command
at the PM represent the main opposition party.



5. (C) Comment: After current AG Medina's dismal
performance, many civil society and justice sector actors
hoped that a new more aggressive, crusading, and ethical AG
might usher in a new mind-set at the PM. Such a lead
prosecutor might have been able to dent the pervasive
corruption and sense of impunity that permeates Honduran
society. However, Navarro's selection as the new AG signals
that probably little will change at the PM. This is a
disappointing development, particularly after the
international community's and Honduran civil society's
concerted efforts to promote the rule of law in Honduras and
the significance of choosing a highly qualified AG. While
Navarro was the presiding judge in the recent conviction and
sentencing of PN deputy Armando Avila Panchame, persistent
rumors emanating from high levels within the Government of
Honduras (GOH) indicate that Avila Panchame was "sacrificed"
in an effort to demonstrate to the U.S. Navarro's commitment
to combating drug trafficking and corruption at the highest
levels (ref A). Post believes that Navarro will improve the
PM's performance in prosecuting low-level crime and in
working more collaboratively with the other judicial and law
enforcement entities in Honduras. Despite Medina's poor
leadership and the overall problems with the PM, there are
many strong individual prosecutors untainted by allegations
of corruption or incompetence that mar many in the PM.



6. (C) Comment Continued: It appears that Navarro is not
likely to improve the rule of law in Honduras or lead an
effort for needed reforms. Thus, his selection will likely
not change a legal system which is desperately in need of
improvement. End Comment.



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


Biographic Information


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





7. (C) Ramon Ovidio NAVARRO Duarte was born in Trujillo,
Honduras, on September 17, 1938. He was selected as a member
of the newly reformed Honduran Supreme Court of Justice in
2002 and continued in that capacity prior to being selected
as the new AG. Navarro remains an active Nationalist Party
member and is clearly identified with the Dark Side of the
party. Prior to joining the Supreme Court Navarro was a
professor of labor law at the Honduran National Autonomous
University (UNAH). At one point, Navarro served as Vice
Minister at the Honduran Ministry of Government and Justice
and was head of, and legal advisor to, the Honduran Institute
of Social Security.



8. (U) Navarro has considerable judicial experience and is
known as an able litigator. He was a judge in the Court of
Appeals in San Pedro Sula, an appellate level Administrative
Law Judge, and an interim judge for the Honduran Registry of
Property. Navarro holds a 1965 degree in law from UNAH and
his Bachelors degree is from a local university in San Pedro
Sula. Navarro is married to Ingrid E. Vasquez. He does not
speak English.

PALMER