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Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has been accused of accepting bribes from several drug dealers, including the notorious "El Chapo"Image: Reuters/J. Cabrera

Honduran president smuggled cocaine into US

March 10, 2021

The Honduran president has been accused of taking bribes from a major drug trafficker. This is not the first time he has been accused of working with traffickers.

https://p.dw.com/p/3qPxD

A US prosecutor accused Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Tuesday of assisting a drug trafficker smuggle tons of cocaine into the US.

Assistant US Attorney Jacob Gutwillig made the accusation during his opening statement at the trial of accused drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez.

Court documents, which identify Hernandez as a co-conspirator, quoted him as saying he wanted to "shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos' by flooding the United States with cocaine." The statements are based on the statements of an accountant who said he attended meetings between the president and Fuentes Ramirez in 2013 and 2014.

The accountant ran a rice business that Fuentes Ramirez allegedly laundered drug money through. He will testify later at the trial.

Prosecutors said that Fuentes Ramirez paid the president $25,000 (21,000 euros) to be allowed to move drugs throughout the country without interference.

"Apparently $25,000 is all you need to bribe the president," said defense attorney Eylan Shulman, in an attempt to discredit the witness.

Accused before

Hernandez has been in his position since January 2014 and won a second term in 2018. He has not been charged with any crime, but he has been accused of using drug money to fuel his rise to power.

The president took to Twitter on Monday to defend himself against accusations that he was helping drug trafficking thrive in the Central American country. He said he would "maintain international alliance in the fight against drug trafficking until my last day as president on January 27, 2022. But if narcos with the magic key of lies gain benefits from the USA for false testimonies, the international alliance with Honduras and several other countries would collapse."

US federal prosecutors filed motions in the case in January that said Hernandez took bribes from other drug traffickers and had armed forces protect a cocaine laboratory and shipments to the US.

Not the first time in court

The president's brother, Tony Hernandez, was found guilty of drug trafficking in a New York trial in 2019.

During the trial, the president was accused of accepting more than $1 million from notoriousMexican drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Tony Hernandez's sentencing hearing has been delayed several times, and is now scheduled for March 23. He could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Potential sanctions

Democratic senators filed a bill last month that called on US President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on Hernandez to "determine whether he is a specially designated narcotics trafficker."

The bill called for a suspension of security aid to Honduras, as well as exports of weapons and tear gas for the country's security forces. It also calls on the Honduran government to discuss establishing an anti-corruption mission with the US.

kbd/aw (AFP, AP)

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