Honduran President Investigated by DEA

Published: 03 June 2019

Juan Orlando Hernandez (Source: Presidencia de la República)Juan Orlando Hernandez (Source: Presidencia de la República)

By Ivana Saric

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was investigated by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Honduran government confirmed Thursday, without saying whether the probe is still open.

The investigation was prompted by accusations in 2015 from several extradited Honduran drug lords that the President was allegedly involved in drug trafficking, according to the statement. They did so as part of a failed attempt to reduce their sentences, it explained.

A document filed on Tuesday in the Southern District of New York named Hernández as part of a group of individuals that the DEA had been investigating since 2013 for “large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering activities relating to the importation of cocaine into the United States,” the Washington Post reported.

The document was an application to the court to oblige Apple, Google, and other online giants to give investigators the email header information for several accounts. Two of these accounts are believed to have belonged to Hernández, while others belonged to members of his inner circle.   

These included the President’s sister Hilda Hernández, who helped manage the finances of the president’s presidential campaign, his adviser Ebal Diaz, and his security minister Julián Pacheco Tinoco, according to the Washington Post. 

Whether the court complied with the request for the email data is unknown. 

The document filing was done as part of the pre-trial motions in the case of Hernández’s brother, Juan Antonio Hernández Alvarado, who was arrested in 2018 on charges of “drug trafficking, weapons offenses and lying to federal agents,” OCCRP reported at the time. 

The Honduran government has reiterated the fact that there are “no indications of charges” against the president or his associates. 

The government press release also made note of Hernández’s role in aiding the fight against organized crime in Honduras. He helped pass more than 20 laws and instruments against such groups, including approving for the extradition of drug cartel leaders. 

Transparency International currently ranks Honduras 132 out of 180 countries on its global corruption index.   

Another press release from Saturday stated that hours after international media published the story about the investigation, the US Embassy in Honduras praised the “strong relationship” it has with the Government of President Hernández. 

"The U.S. government values our strong relationship with the Government of Honduras, which has led to important gains in combating narco trafficking and transnational crime, among others,” it quoted the Embassy.

The Embassy did issue a statement with that sentence but it was in reaction to the violence that broke out during anti-government protests in the capital of Tegucigalpa on Friday. The crowd had set the entrance to the Embassy building on fire, which the Embassy called unacceptable.

The press release from the Honduran government made no mention of the anti-government protests.