Wednesday, April 21, 2021

US prosecutors accused Honduran president of collecting bribes from drug traffickers


US federal prosecutors have filed motions saying the Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández, took bribes from drug traffickers and had the country’s armed forces protect a cocaine laboratory and shipments to the US.

The documents quote Hernández as saying he wanted to “shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos by flooding the United States with cocaine”.

The motions filed on Friday with the southern district of New York do not specifically name the president, referring to him as “CC4”, or co-conspirator No4, but clearly identify him by naming his brother and his own post as president.

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The president, who has not been charged, has repeatedly denied any connection to traffickers despite the 2019 conviction of one of his brothers, Juan Antonio Hernández. During that trial, the president was accused of accepting more than $1m from the Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán – an accusation repeated in the new motions.

Hernández has said traffickers are falsely accusing him to seek vengeance for clamping down on them.

The US government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new filings.

The motions seek pre-trial approval to admit evidence in the case of Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, who was arrested in Miami in March. And they expand upon allegations filed shortly after the arrest accusing Hernández of taking bribes in exchange for protection from law enforcement.

Fuentes Ramírez is accused of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the US and the motions filed on Friday accuse him of producing “hundreds of kilograms a month” of cocaine and of having several people killed to protect his illicit business.

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“By late 2013, the defendant partnered directly with CC4 and high-ranking officials in the Honduran military. At this time, CC4 was pursuing election as the president of Honduras as a member of the Partido Nacional de Honduras (the ‘National Party’),” the motion said.

It added that a witness “would testify that that they and other drug-traffickers were paying massive bribes to CC4 in exchange for protection from law enforcement and extradition to the United States” and that the president-to-be “accepted approximately $1m in drug trafficking proceeds that was provided to his brother by the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin Guzman Loera”.

Prosecutors say he had agreed to work through the president’s now-convicted brother. The motions also implicate senior military, police, political and business figures in laundering money and bribery.

Hernández, president of Congress before being elected president in 2013, was re-elected in 2017 to a term that ends in January 2022. He has cooperated with the Trump administration and its efforts to stem migration from his nation and others in Central America.

During a January 2020 visit to Honduras, the acting US homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf, said: “Honduras is a valued and proven partner to the United States in managing migration and promoting security and prosperity in Central America.”


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