Former Honduran President Convicted of Trafficking 400+ Tons of Cocaine

Опубликовано: 12 Март 2024

president-juan-orlando-hernandez-of-honduras-gives-cf9738Hernández abused his office to help cartels traffic more than 400 tons of cocaine into the United States from Central America. (Photo: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, License)

Former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández was convicted in a U.S. federal court of abusing his office to help drug traffickers ship more than 400 tons of cocaine into the United States.

Over a period of 18 years—the majority of his political career—Hernández played a key role in one of the largest and most violent drug-trafficking conspiracies in the world. In exchange for his dutiful service, the cartels rewarded him with millions of dollars, both for his personal use and to facilitate his rise to the presidency.

“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,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, “and the people of Honduras and the United States were forced to suffer the consequences.”

The former two-term president was arrested in 2022 shortly after he left office. By this point, he had already been the subject of a drug trafficking investigation by U.S. authorities for several years.

Honduran Minister of Security Ramón Sabillón said that the former president’s arrest was “regrettable” and “a shame for the country.” “An extradited president is extremely embarrassing for us,” he said, “but we are showing our face as a country…so that these things do not happen in the future.”

Throughout his tenure as head of state, Hernández publicly promoted anti-narcotic legislations, while simultaneously shielding drug traffickers behind closed doors. For welcoming such friends into his inner circle, he received millions in cocaine-fuelled bribes, which in turn kept the pipeline of U.S.-bound drugs wide open for years.

As president, Hernández made strategic use of his executive power to extradite traffickers who were either a threat to his power or who could challenge his cartel masters. When politics could not resolve a problem, his associates turned to violence and murder to protect their billion dollar chokehold on the Honduran drug trade, prosecutors said.

His power ensured the corruption of more than just Honduras’ legislative branch, authorities said. Hernández and his co-conspirators took over the country’s national police and army, assigning heavily armed convoys to protect cocaine loads on their journey north.

As part of his defense, the former president painted himself as the victim of an unjust process and a patsy for the cartels so that future politicians would be too scared to move against them.

“This is revenge from the cartels,” he said. “It is an orchestrated plot so that no government will confront them again.”

Many in Hernández’s inner circle have already been convicted and sentenced. His brother, Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado, received a life sentence in 2019. Likewise, Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez, a violent cocaine trafficker and Hernández’s cartel contact, received a life sentence following his conviction in 2021.

Honduras’ former corrupt National Police chief, Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, a.k.a “El Tigre,” was similarly extradited to the U.S. in 2022 and eventually pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy. He will be sentenced on June 25, 2024.

Mauricio Hernández’s Pineda, a former Honduran National Police officer and Hernández’s cousin, also pleaded guilty and is awaiting his May 2, 2024 sentencing hearing.

For ensuring Central America’s cocaine pipeline flowed freely for years, the former president faces a mandatory minimum sentence of several decades in prison, with the possibility of life in prison.