US jails ex-Honduras President for 45 years on drugs charges

Thursday, June 27, 2024 - A court in New York on Wednesday, June 26, sentenced Juan Orlando Hernandez to 45 years in prison.

The former Honduran President was convicted of helping cartels to traffic hundreds of tons of cocaine into the US in March.

The sentence also included an $8 million (roughly €7.5 million) fine.

The prison term fell short of the life sentence prosecutors had sought, however, given the 55-year-old's age, he is likely to die behind bars.

Judge P. Kevin Castel said the sentence should serve as a warning to "well educated, well dressed" individuals who gain power and think their status will insulate them from justice.

"I am innocent," Hernandez said through an interpreter in court on Wednesday. "I was wrongly and unjustly accused."

He'd also previously indicated he would appeal the conviction.

Protesters gathered outside the New York court on Wednesday with banners calling for an end to the drugs trade and pictures of people who had died as a result of it in Honduras.

US federal prosecutors say that Hernandez turned Honduras into a "narco-state" during his 2014-2022 tenure.

In March, he was convicted of facilitating the trafficking of some 500 tons of cocaine — most of it originally hailing from Colombia or Venezuela — to the US via Honduras.

His alleged complicity began long before he was president, dating back to 2004.

Prosecutors said Hernandez used the money to enrich himself, to finance his political campaign, and to commit electoral fraud in the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections.

He was originally extradited to the US in 2022, soon after leaving office, with the top court in Honduras agreeing to send him to the US.

Hernandez himself, meanwhile, portrayed himself in court as a hero of efforts to combat drug trafficking who had teamed up with three different former US presidents to work towards this goal.

Judge Castel dismissed it, saying the former president had exhibited "considerable acting skills" to portray himself as an ally of the US in combating the cocaine trade while actually using the country's police and even military when necessary to protect it.

The judge called the former president a "two-faced politician hungry for power."

Hernandez is not the first Latin American former head of state to face narcotics trafficking convictions in the US. Panama's Manuel Noriega was sentenced in 1992 and Guatemala's Alfonso Portillo in 2014.

Post a Comment