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Former prez of Honduras jailed in U.S.

InternationalFormer prez of Honduras jailed in U.S.

Photo: Former president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. June 27, 2024

Juan Orlando Hernández, the former president of Honduras, has been sentenced to 45 years in a U.S. prison. The sentence was handed down by U.S. federal judge P. Kevin Castel after Hernández was found guilty of enabling drug traffickers to use the military and national police forces of Honduras to transport large quantities of cocaine into the United States.

Hernández, 55, was convicted by a jury in March after a two-week trial in a Manhattan federal court. The trial was closely watched in Honduras, where Hernández had served as president from 2014 to 2022.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Hernández had been involved with drug traffickers since 2004, accepting millions of dollars in bribes as he climbed the political ladder from rural congressman to president of the national congress, and eventually to the presidency of Honduras.

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Hernández, arguing that his actions had facilitated a “cocaine superhighway” to the United States. Judge Castel also imposed a fine of $8 million on Hernández.

Throughout the trial and during his sentencing, Hernández maintained his innocence. He argued that his trial was unfair and that critical evidence that could have proven his innocence was excluded. Hernández insisted that he was being persecuted by both politicians and drug traffickers.

Hernández was arrested at his home in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, in February 2022, three months after leaving office. He was extradited to the United States in April 2022 to face charges.

The conviction of Hernández marks the first time a former head of state has been found guilty of drug trafficking in the United States since Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was convicted in 1992.

Notably, during the trial, witnesses included traffickers who admitted responsibility for dozens of murders and testified that Hernández had enthusiastically supported some of the world’s most powerful cocaine dealers, including Mexican drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who is currently serving a life sentence in the U.S.

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