TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Thousands of people marched against corruption in Honduras' capital on Friday, delivering a letter to the local U.N. office asking for an international commission against impunity to investigate scandals involving top government officials.
The protest came after President Juan Orlando Hernandez acknowledged that his election campaign received financing from businesspeople linked to a social security embezzlement scandal that investigators allege involved millions of dollars misspent on goods and services that were marked up more than 100 percent. Hernandez has denied any personal involvement.
Carrying torches and Honduran flags, and shouting "JOH out!" — referring to the president's initials — protesters paralyzed central Tegucigalpa in the march, which was organized through social media.
"The Honduran people are awakening from their lethargy ... this is just the beginning," said protest organizer Gabriela Blen. "We want an international commission against impunity to be installed."
A U.N.-backed anti-impunity body has helped uncover corruption in Guatemala, leading to resignations.
In Honduras, a new congressional report released Friday said that businesspeople linked to the graft scandal gave $280,000 to Hernandez's National Party during his 2013 campaign.
The report said the businesspeople deposited checks into accounts linked to Ricardo Alvarez, Hernandez's vice president.
The investigation by the congressional commission found the amount of dirty money that made its way into the president's campaign was higher than Hernandez has acknowledged. Hernandez previously said his party had informed him that the funds involved 10 checks totaling around $150,000 in donations.
Separate investigations have revealed corruption in the public health system that included kickbacks, diverting money from medicines and purchases of substandard medicine.