Ex-President of Honduras found Guilty in NY
Imagen de archivo del presidente de Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández. EFE/Michael Reynolds/Archivo

Ex-President of Honduras found Guilty in NY


New York, US, Mar 8 (EFE).-

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández (2014-2022), once an ally of the United States in the ‘war on drugs,’ was found guilty of three drug and weapons charges by that country on Friday and could be sentenced to life in prison.

Hernández, better known by his initials JOH, became the second ever Latin American president to be convicted of drug trafficking after Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega was sentenced in 1992 by a Florida court to 40 years in prison for his ties to Colombia’s Medellín cartel.

JOH, 55, listened to the verdict with stoicism, not making a single facial gesture, but as he rose from his chair and walked out of the courtroom, he turned to the audience, looked at his two sisters-in-law (his wife was not present because the US had denied her a visa), and told them: “I am innocent. I love you very much, tell the world.”

A small crowd of half a hundred Hondurans outside the courthouse immediately began celebrating the verdict, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years in prison and could cost Hernández several life sentences.

Hernández was convicted of “conspiring to import cocaine,” which carries a sentence of ten years to life; one count of “using and carrying machineguns and destructive devices” to smuggle drugs, which carries a mandatory sentence of 30 years; and one charge of “conspiring to use and carry machine guns” to import drugs which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Assistant US Attorney Jacob Gutwillig told the court during closing arguments Wednesday that a corrupt Hernández “paved a cocaine superhighway to the United States.”

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Hernández’s drug-trafficking activities were not limited to his two terms as president, but to his entire political career since at least 2004, during which time he used his public offices, the police and the army to support drug-trafficking organizations in Honduras, Mexico, and elsewhere.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland commented on the verdict: “Juan Orlando Hernández abused his position as President of Honduras to operate the country as a narco-state where violent drug traffickers were allowed to operate with virtual impunity, and the people of Honduras and the United States were forced to suffer the consequences.”

Hernández maintained his innocence throughout the trial, and his lawyers emphasized his cooperation with the US, particularly on immigration issues, saying that he “did what no other (Honduran) president has done: he cooperated with the United States.”

Although no hard evidence -in the form of video, audio or wiretapped communications- was presented during the trial to incriminate Hernández, the jury was swayed by testimony from notorious drug traffickers who testified against him after pleading guilty in US courts, presumably in exchange for prison benefits.

JOH’s brother, Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernández, was sentenced in 2019 to life in prison for trafficking cocaine, weapons and lying to authorities. EFE


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