Broad Honduras amnesty law draws critics

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduras President Xiomara Castro’s anti-corruption image appeared to take an early hit with passage of a law that grants a broad amnesty to people tied to her husband’s administration more than a decade earlier.

The law published in the official gazette Saturday covers a wide range of legal infractions. Its defenders say it was needed for those who suffered political persecution following the 2009 coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya from office.

But the debate could be moot because it was passed by a new congress that has been in crisis since before Castro was sworn as president last month. A dispute over the leadership of the legislative body persists and experts say neither leadership team was properly chosen.

Constitutional lawyer Juan Carlos Barrientos said the new law would cover people accused of money laundering and misuse of public funds among other things.

“It’s evident that they did it to pardon everybody,” Barrientos said.

Others said the law would pardon people who participated in protests against the coup that removed Zelaya.

The law applies to “officials, employees or elected authorities” during Zelaya’s administration from January 2006 to June 2009, who were accused and charged “for opposing and protesting against the coup.” But it includes amnesty for charges that go well beyond anything related to protesting.

Castro made battling Honduras’ deep-rooted corruption a pillar of her campaign. She has promised to invite the United Nations to establish an antiicorruption mission in Honduras to help her government pursue wrongdoing. The new law also includes an article creating an anticorruption commission that would be advised by the United Nations.

Castro, who said via Twitter Sunday that she had tested positive for COVID-19, has not commented on the new law.

But Barrientos said Castro never should have let the law move forward. “She should have waited until the situation in Congress was straightened out.” He said it will be exposed to endless constitutional challenges because all of the actions taken by the two congressional leadership teams are illegal.

Negotiations to resolve the legislative standoff have been ongoing.