|Wikileaks:||View 02TEGUCIGALPA3196 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||KJUS PREL PINR PGOV PHUM HO|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEGUCIGALPA 003196 SIPDIS C O R R E C T E D COPY - classification markings para 13 STATE FOR INR/B, PPC, WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2012 TAGS: KJUS, PREL, PINR, PGOV, PHUM, HO SUBJECT: THE LATEST CHAPTER IN THE JUDICIAL TALE: A NEW COURT OF APPEALS REF: A. TEGUCIGALPA 03017 B. 072129Z NOV 02 Classified By: PolChief Francisco Palmieri, Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d) 1. (U) SUMMARY: On November 5, the Supreme Court of Honduras named a new panel of Court of Appeals magistrates, after having ousted the entire court on October 23 in the midst of allegations of corruption and impropriety. We are providing biographic summaries on the newly appointed Court of Appeals magistrates, Maria Elizabeth Chiuz Sierra ((Chiuz Sierra)), Edith Urtecho Lopez ((Urtecho Lopez)) and Jose Francisco Ruiz Gaekel (a/k/a Francisco Alberto Ruiz Fernandez) ((Ruiz)). ----------------- SETTING THE SCENE ----------------- 2. (C) On October 23, the Supreme Court suspended all three Court of Appeals magistrates in the wake of allegations of corruption and impropriety. One judge (Mario Alberto Guzman Zuniga) was accused of accepting bribes from Honduran Air Force colonels, who were defendants in a case wherein they allegedly pilfered money from the military retirement fund. The other two judges (Dagoberto Aspra Iglesias and Rita Ondina Nunez Barahona) were suspended for using improper channels to expose the first judge. On November 1, all three judges were discharged, and shortly thereafter the Supreme Court indicated that all three are suspected of wrongdoing. (NOTE: There are rumors that Aspra and Nunez may have been parties to the corruption, but to date this has not been substantiated. END NOTE.) See reftels for additional details on the unseating of these judges. On November 5, the Supreme Court named a new panel of Court of Appeals magistrates, for whom we are providing biographic summaries and Post's initial assessment. At their swearing-in ceremony, the new magistrates promised to promote honesty and transparency in the judicial process. Supreme Court President Vilma Morales stated that these three justices were selected solely on the basis of their legal experience and professional qualifications, emphasizing that the Supreme Court also sought individuals who are impartial, independent and honest. When talking to the press, all three of the new magistrates seized the opportunity to assure the public of their commitment fairness and justice. Chiuz Sierra pointed out that she is capable of applying the law and meting out justice without being swayed by famous names of litigants. Urtecho promised to enforce the law fairly and to remain independent. Likewise, Ruiz commented that the position is one that requires "nerves of steel," and that he is ready to tackle the challenges that come with the job. ---------------------------- MARIA ELIZABETH CHIUZ SIERRA ---------------------------- 3. (U) Maria Elizabeth Chiuz Sierra ((Chiuz Sierra)) was born in Tegucigalpa on November 29, 1939. She received a law degree in 1972 from the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), after having received a Bachelor's degree in 1964. She has served in a number of government positions, and as a prosecutor and judge within the Honduran court system. 4. (U) From 1973 to 1975, she served as a criminal court judge in the Tegucigalpa judicial district and as an Assistant Attorney General. She served as Director General for Salaries at the Ministry of Labor and as an assistant prosecutor in appellate court from 1975 to 1977. Chiuz Sierra also served as the alternate president of the National Elections Board (TNE) from 1980 to 1982. Additionally, from 1977 to 1982, she was senior partner in her own law firm located in Tegucigalpa. During the Roberto Suazo Cordova presidency (1982-1986), Chiuz Sierra held the post of Procurador General (similar to Solicitor General or Inspector General in the U.S.). From 1987 to 1988, she was President of the Honduran Bar Association. 5. (C) In 1998, then-President Carlos Flores named her Minister of Public Security (MoPS), a post created by law July 15, 1998, when the public security forces made the transition from military to civilian control. (NOTE: Many observers considered her a longtime confidante of Flores. END NOTE.) In this position, Chiuz Sierra was responsible for both the national police and the investigative force (DGIC). A serious conflict between Chiuz Sierra and DGIC Chief Wilfredo Alvarado erupted in July 1999. The fray reached its peak when she publicly accused Alvarado's unit of spying on her--a statement she later retracted. Alvarado claimed that Chiuz Sierra favored National Police Chief Alvaro Manuel Flores Ponce ((Flores Ponce)), and publicly questioned her managerial skills. The media also raised issues about Chiuz Sierra's performance during her tenure as Minister. She held onto the post until 2000, when President Flores replaced her with Gautama Fonseca. 6. (C) In 2002, Chiuz Sierra nominated herself for consideration by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. EmbOffs and USAID officials expressed the opinion that she is an "old-minded" attorney, and that she was supposedly dismissed from the MoPS post due to lack of leadership capability. Post ultimately categorized her as "not recommended" for service on the Supreme Court. Moreover, civil society questioned her ability to service in a position of judicial leadership, due to incompetence and lack of qualifications (she does not have much litigation experience). 7. (C) It is generally believed that she performed better in the position of Procurador General, and that she was not an effective MoPS. Supposedly, former President Flores replaced her due to nonfeasance and permitting unchecked corruption at the highest level of the National Police (PN), which exploded in August 2000 when both PN Sub-Director Andres Wilfredo Urtecho Jeanborde and PN Director Alvaro Manuel Flores Ponce were connected to a Colombian air off-load on the north coast of Honduras. 8. (C) While Chiuz Sierra's failure to perform well as MoPS does not necessarily mean that she is not suitable for the Court of Appeals, there remain some doubts as to her competence. Post has no information besmirching her integrity, or indicating that she ever abused her position. While AID has had limited contact with this judge, their impression was that she was not engaged in reform of the Criminal Procedure Code. 9. (C) Chiuz Sierra is a member of the Liberal Party, and some people consider her to be from the "leftist" wing of the party. She is single, and has one son, Gerardo Emilio Pacheco Chiuz, and two grandsons, Emerson Pacheco Echeverri and Gerson Pacheco Echeverri. Her son is a computer expert and works in the private sector. ------------------- EDITH URTECHO LOPEZ ------------------- 10. (U) Edith Urtecho Lopez was born in Tegucigalpa on December 5, 1951. She earned a Bachelor's degree and law degree at UNAH. Most recently, she was Director of the National Public Defender's Office--she is a Nationalist appointed by the Maduro Administration. Additionally, Urtecho Lopez has served as a civil court judge, an assistant fiscal and a fiscal (both are similar to assistant attorney general in the U.S.) in an AID/Supreme Court experimental criminal program and a legal advisor in the Ministry of Education. She was a professor at both the Central American Technological University (UNITEC) and UNAH. 11. (C) AID staff members and contractors have worked with her as Public Defender, and all have an excellent impression of her. They opine that she has a strong background and seems to be a highly credible individual. The mission consensus is that she could emerge as a top-notch Court of Appeals magistrate. One drawback of her appointment is that she is leaving the Public Defender position after only four months--a loss for the Public Defender's Office. She was pushing for additional resources and was working to strengthen the office. 12. (C) Nunez (one of the ousted judges) told PolOff that Urtecho Lopez is related to Andres Wilfredo Urtecho Jeanborde, the former Sub-Director of the PN under Flores Ponce who was fired in August 2000 because of involvement in narcotrafficking and other corrupt activities. At this time, little is known about Urtecho Lopez's personal life and family. ----------------------------------------- JOSE FRANCISCO RUIZ GAEKEL--ALSO KNOWN AS FRANCISCO ALBERTO RUIZ FERNANDEZ ----------------------------------------- 13. (C) All press accounts refer to this individual as Jose Francisco Ruiz Gaekel, but ORCA reports that this man says his name is Francisco Alberto Ruiz Fernandez ((Ruiz)). He was born August 28, 1940 in Gracias, Lempira. Until this appointment, Ruiz was an appellate judge in the San Pedro Sula district. Additionally, he served as a trial judge in both Comayagua and Siguatepeque. He was formerly a legal advisor to the Honduran Air Force, though in an interview with the Honduran press he declined to provide information about his rank. (NOTE: It is uncertain as to whether he served in that capacity as a civilian or as a military officer. END NOTE.) At one time, he was Registrar of Property. Ruiz is reportedly a Nationalist. At the time the appointments were announced, Ruiz did not have a curriculum vitae to provide to the press. Likewise, Post currently has limited information on Ruiz. 14. (C) This relatively unknown appointee remains somewhat of a mystery--from his actual name to his personal and professional background. The fact that Ruiz is not particularly well-known is of less concern to Post than the question about his true name and his apparent reticence to share details of his background. This lack of details raises some red flags for us. PALMER
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