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OAS to Establish Anti-corruption Body in Honduras

A demonstrator holds up a scarf during a march to demand the resignation of Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Tegucigalpa, Sept. 11, 2015.

The Organization of American States (OAS) said on Monday it will create a mission to tackle graft in Honduras, where protesters have been pushing for an anti-corruption body like one that helped bring down the president of neighboring Guatemala.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro unveiled the planned Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) alongside Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, whom the protestors have been urging to resign.

The MACCIH will be led by a legal expert and would establish an international panel of judges and prosecutors to supervise, advise and support Honduran authorities investigating corruption, the Washington-based OAS said in a statement.

A U.N.-backed anti-graft body known as the CICIG has played a key role in uncovering corruption in Guatemala, which this month led to the resignation and arrest of President Otto Perez, whom prosecutors accuse of involvement in a customs scam.

Perez has denied any wrongdoing.

Hernandez's opponents in Honduras have called on him to stand down over his links to a $200-million corruption scandal at the Honduran Institute of Social Security, where companies, some formed by institute officials, overcharged for services.

Hernandez has admitted his 2013 presidential campaign took some $150,000 from companies involved in the scandal, but said he and his party were unaware of where the money came from.

The OAS said the announcement of the MACCIH came in response to a request from the Honduran government on Sept. 14 for its support in strengthening the country's justice system.

The MACCIH's remit will include the creation of a "Justice Observatory" made up of Honduran academic organizations and civil society groups to assess reform of its justice system.

The OAS did not say when the mission would be set up but that it would send a delegation to Honduras "shortly" to begin the process.

The United States, from which Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have been seeking economic aid to curb illegal migration, has been a strong backer of the CICIG in Guatemala.

The country's ex-president Perez accused Washington of seeking to extend the anti-graft body to El Salvador and Honduras after his arrest.