Honduras Ex-president Goes on Trial in New York Drug Trafficking Charges

Tue Feb 20 2024
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NEW YORK, United States: Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez is going on trial in New York today (Tuesday) on drug-trafficking charges, including shipping about 500 tons of cocaine through his country to the United States.

Hernandez, 55, was brought to the US in April 2022 to answer charges that he helped smuggle hundreds of tons of cocaine into America in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes from drug traffickers.

He will stand trial alone in the Southern District of Manhattan federal court after his two co-defendants, former police officer Mauricio Hernandez and former Honduran police chief Juan Carlos “Tiger” Bonilla, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking in recent days.

Their pleas, and any cooperation with U.S. authorities, will likely increase pressure on Hernandez to cut a deal with prosecutors and plead as well.

As president, Hernandez worked closely with former President Donald Trump’s administration and won praise from Washington for his administration’s work in drug enforcement and the fight against organized crime.

According to former DEA agent Mikel Vigil, Hernandez arrested people who had no ties to him, but protected others.

Hernandez was extradited to the US shortly after handing power to his successor, leftist Xiomar Castro.

If convicted of the three charges against him, one count of drug trafficking conspiracy and two counts of weapons trafficking, Hernandez could die behind bars.

Former Honduran President has insisted he is innocent. “I am the victim of a vendetta and a conspiracy by organized crime and political enemies,” he wrote in a public letter sent from prison in New York and published on X by his wife.

Hernandez would follow in the footsteps of other former Latin American heads of state convicted in the US, like Guatemala’s Alfonso Portillo in 2014 and Panama’s Manuel Noriega in 1992.

Hernandez ruled the country during 2014 to 2022 as president and his tenure was plagued by allegations of corruption. He faces life in prison if found guilty.

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