USA

Former Honduran president sentenced to 45 years in prison for drug trafficking to the United States

NEW YORK — Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was sentenced Wednesday by a U.S. judge to 45 years in federal prison and fined $8 million for running his Central American country as a “narco-state.” which constituted a critical passage for South America. cocaine flows to the United States.

Hernández, 55, who was convicted of federal drug and weapons charges in March, built his political career on millions of dollars in bribes from traffickers in Honduras and Mexico, U.S. prosecutors said. During his two presidential terms, from 2014 to 2022, they said, he shielded major traffickers from extradition and prosecution. He allegedly helped transport at least 400 tons of cocaine to the United States.

During his presidency, the American government presented him as an ally. In 2015, then-vice president Joe Biden welcomed him to the White House. In December 2019, then-President Donald Trump praised him for his cooperation, saying the countries were “stopping drugs at an all-time high.”

But the Justice Department was investigating him as part of a broader investigation into drug trafficking allegations against Honduran political elite. His brother, Tony Hernández, was convicted of federal drug trafficking in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors named Juan Orlando Hernández as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.

At the request of the United States, Honduran police arrested Hernández weeks after he left office in January 2022, and he was extradited to face federal charges in New York.

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His prosecution has raised questions about whether the U.S. government ignored his alleged criminal activities as it sought his help in slowing migration to the southwest border.

Former US diplomats have denied this information. They said the case illustrates bureaucratic dysfunction in Washington: State Department officials were left in the dark about the Justice Department investigation.

Hernández has maintained his innocence. He accused imprisoned drug traffickers of giving false testimony against him in exchange for reduced sentences; he should appeal.

“Mr. Hernández has done more to combat drug trafficking in Honduras than any Honduran president before or since,” his lawyer, Renato Stabile, wrote in a request for a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors had sought a life sentence.

“As a direct result of the defendant’s crimes, Honduras has become one of the largest transshipment points for cocaine bound for the United States and one of the most violent places in the world,” they said in their written memory.

Hernández’s conservative National Party assumed the presidency of this country of 10 million people in 2009 after the overthrow of left-wing President Mel Zelaya in a coup. But the party has been weakened by corruption and drug trafficking scandals. He lost the presidency in 2021 – to Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro.

News Source : www.washingtonpost.com
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