Honduras Corruption & Healthcare Catastrophe, Thousands Dying From Adulterated Medicine
A new epidemic of Honduras corruption and conflicts of interest within the healthcare system of Honduras has left thousands dead from adulterated medicine.
The first evidence of widespread Honduras corruption in the healthcare industry occurred as early as the summer of 2015, when 11 women died at a fertility clinic at the Honduran Institute of Social Security after receiving ovules contaminated with flour. As more people became ill and died as a result of receiving adulterated medication and medical implements, a widespread conspiracy of corruption was revealed, which had been in place since 2010, if not earlier.
Laboratorios LAIN and Astropharma
Since the first incident was reported, numerous cases of pills and other medical products adulterated with non-pharmaceutical ingredients have surfaced, nearly all of which lead back to Laboratorios LAIN, the manufacturer that has produced nearly all pharmaceuticals used in the Honduran health system for the past 28 years.
Interestingly enough, the owner of Laboratorios LAIN, Miguel Flores Cisneros, is a very prominent Honduran in both the political and sports worlds: he is both the manager of the popular soccer club Olimpia and a well-known liberal politician.
Though the tainted drugs in question were manufactured by LAIN, they were sold by pharmaceutical company Astropharma, whose owners have contended that they were unaware of any contamination and that all responsibility should be placed on LAIN. Cisneros’ lawyer, Angie Villanueva, has argued that Astropharma should be the responsible party, as they sought and arranged the sale of the drugs in question to the government. Villanueva stated that “if they clear Astropharma of the charges, they clear us too.”
In yet another example of the conflicts of interest that plague Honduran governmental affairs, Villanueva’s sister, Julissa Villanueva, is Honduras’ Director of Forensic Medicine, and therefore the individual responsible for testing and analyzing the contaminated medicine and medical devices.
Political Unrest, Upheaval & a History of Honduras Corruption
Cycles of unrest and corruption that have plagued Honduras for decades has allowed the economic elite to take control of the government and manipulate the political system for personal gain. The military coup against President Manuel Zelaya in 2009 erased any small gains for democracy and sent the country reeling backward into a military dictatorship where corruption runs rampant, criminals go unpunished, and adequate medical care is not something that the populace can count on.
Furthermore, Honduras has never had a period of political stability that has lasted long enough to fully create and establish a successful governmental system, leading to an economic and political structure that relies on connections between business and right-wing leaders in order to function.
“La Familia Gutiérrez”
Lena Gutiérrez, vice-president of the Congreso Nacional de Honduras, and one of the most mentioned individuals named in the case, has been accused of multiple offenses including falsification of documents and fraud related to the corruption scandal. She comes from a family that exemplifies the twisted ties between politicians, business owners and athletic celebrities that define Honduran politics. Also implicated in the scandal are other family members, including her brother Julio Gutiérrez, who is president of the popular soccer team Club Deportivo Motagua, and her father, well-known businessman Marco Tulio Gutiérrez, who just happens to be the owner of Astropharma.
The connections between the different branches of the Gutiérrez family and their corresponding economic and political interests is just a small cross-section of corruption that illustrates the familial and business ties controlling the Honduran government.
One of the distinctive features of the Honduran government is that it is based on the economic desires of various governmental and non-governmental actors, rather than running in a manner that benefits the country’s citizens or economy as whole. Thus, this tug-of-war between different economic parties has the unfortunate result of ripping the country to shreds, that are then gobbled up by whatever group can get their hands on them the fastest.
In the words of la Comisión de Verdad (The Truth Commission), formed to investigate the validity of Honduras’ democracy following the 2009 military coup, the Honduran democracy is a “hostage of economic interests.”
Thousands of Deaths from Adulterated Medicine
The corrupt connections between politicians, the military and manufacturers of both legal and illicit drugs have allowed a climate of callous disregard in which the Honduran people must grow and fester; this lack of concern for the well-being of the general populace has led to a health crisis of massive proportions, in which people are dying from receiving adulterated medications and medical devices from government health centers.
Honduran newspaper La Tribuna placed the number of deaths from adulterated medicine and negligence on the part of the Institute of Social Security at around 3,000 in May 2015; as of now, this is the most recent report on the death toll, and unfortunately, it has most likely significantly increased since then.
Justice has not been served in Honduras.
Legal proceedings against the Gutiérrez family have stagnated, and just last month, the Supreme Court of Honduras declared legal protection for the Gutiérrez family, a move that it says will not interfere with the legal process. Given the stranglehold that economic power has over the government in Honduras, it does not seem likely that these individuals will answer for their crimes any time soon.