Tuesday, May 18

Juan Orlando Hernández: The president of Honduras, accused of trafficking “thousands of kilos of cocaine” to the United States | International


Juan Orlando Hernández, president of Honduras, in Washington, in a 2019 image.
Juan Orlando Hernández, president of Honduras, in Washington, in a 2019 image.MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EFE

The trial against the drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes, which began this Monday in a United States court, left serious charges against the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, on Tuesday. The president of the Central American country has been accused of drug trafficking. According to a New York prosecutor, the Honduran made an alliance with a local cartel, the Cachiros, through which he helped introduce thousands of kilos of cocaine to the United States and described the Central American country as a “narco-state.”

For the prosecution, Geovanny Fuentes operated a huge cocaine distribution business thanks to the violence and his connections with the police, the Army and the political class, “including the current president of Honduras.” In its initial plea, the prosecution assured that the alleged drug trafficker was associated with Hernández in 2013, when he was running for president, and that together they planned to send “as much cocaine as possible to the United States.” According to prosecutor Jacob Gutwillig, the capo who led the Cachiros cartel “even bribed the president of Honduras” and became “untouchable” after this alliance that made him “bulletproof”.

According to his evidence, in 2013 and 2014, Geovanny Fuentes paid bribes to the current president totaling “$ 25,000 in cash from drug money” and, something more valuable, “access to the defendant’s drug lab in the mountains of Honduras, ”said the prosecutor.

Gutwillig announced, among other evidence, the testimony of a witness present at those meetings, José Sánchez, an accountant who worked for a rice company through which the Cachiros laundered money. The prosecutor said that the accountant will detail to the 12 members of the jury “the shock and the fear he felt when he saw the accused sit down with the president ”.

For weeks the prosecutors had already advanced alleged links between Geovanny Fuentes and Juan Orlando Hernández in previously submitted documents, but this Tuesday they made it clear that this relationship is the central part of the case and that details of “secret meetings” between the drug trafficker and President. “The accused was a fundamental part of a Honduran narco-state,” said a representative of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. In one of those encounters, according to prosecutors, Hernández declared his intention to “shove drugs up the gringos’ noses,” in reference to an alleged willingness to send large quantities of cocaine to the United States. In that investigation, prosecutors claimed to have evidence that the president received millions of dollars in bribes from drug traffickers in exchange for protection, including Mexican drug lord Joaquín. El Chapo Guzman.

Until now, the New York prosecutor’s office had not clearly identified Juan Orlando Hernández, described until then as co-conspirator number four (CC-4), but his identity is easily recognizable by the references to his position and his brother Juan Antonio. Tony Hernández, convicted of drug trafficking in the United States in 2019. He is also a former member of the Honduran Assembly Tony Hernández, was arrested and convicted of negotiating with drug traffickers from seven countries to traffic tons of cocaine. The prosecutor also accused him of ordering at least two murders of drug traffickers between 2011 and 2013.

Juan Orlando Hernández’s defense attorney, Eylan Schulman, played down the testimony, saying that “supposedly $ 25,000 is all it takes to bribe a president.” In the case of the accountant, the defense said, “he has much to gain and little to lose” with his testimony, he warned, and maintained that he hopes to receive asylum in the United States in return. The defense also told the jury that they should not believe the testimony that “one of the worst murderers on the face of the Earth” will give, Leonel Rivera, former leader of the Cachiros cartel, who killed 78 people and is imprisoned in the United States for drug traffic.

At the moment the president of Honduras, who will leave office at the end of this year, has denied any link and in the last hours he has defended himself via Twitter with several messages and a warning to Washington. The Honduran president assured that he will maintain the “international alliance in the fight against drug trafficking” until the end of his term, but wrote that if the drug traffickers “with the magic key of lies gain benefits from the USA through false testimonies, the international alliance would collapse with Honduras.” So far Juan Orlando Hernández has been a close ally of the United States since 2014, first with President Barack Obama and later with Donald Trump.

However, according to Hernández, the information published about his alleged links with organized crime “is based on false testimonies from drug traffickers whose lies are to get revenge, reduce their sentences and receive other benefits,” he wrote on Twitter. In the attached thread, the Honduran president focused his explanation on the Cachiros cartel, whose former leader Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, is expected to testify in the trial against Fuentes. This man has told prosecutors that Hernández allegedly obtained money in exchange for allowing drug trafficking in his country, reports the AP agency.

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