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HomeCentral AmericaHondurasFormer Honduran President Sentenced to 45 Years for Drug Trafficking in US

Former Honduran President Sentenced to 45 Years for Drug Trafficking in US

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández boasted of being a faithful ally of the United States in the fight against drugs, but on Wednesday a judge in New York sentenced him to 45 years for drug trafficking.

President of Honduras from 2014 to 2022, it took just three months from when he handed over the presidential mandate to leftist Xiomara Castro until he was extradited to the United States accused of conspiring to traffic drugs and weapons.

This 55-year-old right-wing lawyer was extradited on April 21, 2022. The same extradition law that he approved under pressure from Washington in 2012, when he was president of Congress, was applied to him.

Judge Kevin Castel also sentenced him to pay an $8 million fine and serve 5 years of supervised release at the end of his prison sentence.

I am innocent

Short in stature, athletic build and given to daily exercise, JOH – the acronym by which he is known in his country – defines himself as an “indio pelo parado” (upright-haired Indian), due to his military-style haircut.

In high school, he graduated as a second lieutenant of infantry from the Northern Military High School in San Pedro Sula, before graduating as a lawyer from the National Autonomous University of Honduras and completing a master’s degree in public administration in New York from 1994 to 1995. Married to lawyer Ana García, they have four children.

He fell from grace while president when his brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, was arrested in November 2018 at Miami airport and sentenced in March 2021 to life in prison for “large-scale” drug trafficking.

After being arrested in Honduras in February 2022, JOH considered himself a victim of “revenge” by the drug lords extradited by his government to the United States. Many of them testified against him in New York. “I am innocent,” JOH proclaimed before hearing the sentence.

A witness testified at the trial that he heard the former president boast that he was going to “shove the drug up the gringos’ noses” and they “wouldn’t even notice.”

Large-scale corruption

Political adversaries labeled Hernández a “dictator” and accused him of having enriched himself during his government. They also accused him of having violated the Constitution by getting re-elected for a second term, and of controlling the powers of the State for his benefit, particularly the justice system, which endorsed his controversial candidacy, and the electoral tribunal, which proclaimed his victory despite allegations of fraud.

“Hernández has relied on an extensive political career where, taking advantage of the various public positions he has held, he formulated a large-scale structural system of corruption,” assured the NGO National Anti-Corruption Council.

Replacement of judges

Born on October 28, 1968, into a rural lower-middle-class family of 17 siblings in the western department of Lempira, JOH entered politics in 1990 as an assistant to his brother Marco Augusto in the secretariat of Congress. Since 1998 he was a deputy and during the government of Porfirio Lobo (2010-2014) he held the presidency of Congress.

A son of former president Porfirio Lobo, Fabio, was sentenced in the United States for drug trafficking to 24 years in prison in 2015 and testified against JOH in the trial.

As president of Congress, JOH promoted the replacement of four of the five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber. Those appointed in their place subsequently gave the green light to his presidential re-election.

As president, Hernández promoted social aid programs such as the “solidarity bag” of food and housing programs for poor families, but his detractors considered it a mechanism to buy consciences and votes.

The former president, who in 2021 said that at the end of his term he would retire to write his memoirs, showed an image of serenity in the face of his process.

A day before his arrest, when everything indicated that the authorities were coming for him, he published a photo of himself playing with his German shepherd dogs.

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