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Conviction of Ex-President of Honduras Exposes Many Others

The trial demonstrated the links and financing of drug cartels to political parties in Honduras. “This is the beginning of a longer road.”

Former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez will be sentenced on June 26th after being found guilty. Photo: EFE

Redacción Confidencial

15 de marzo 2024


The guilty verdict against former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez, known as JOH, exposed the links and financing of drug trafficking cartels to campaigns of several political parties in that country, which is part of the change in “the approach of the United States in the region,” says Honduran journalist Oscar Estrada.

The journalist, who covered the trial in New York, believes that after this case, the United States will continue to investigate the influence of drug trafficking on politics because, in his opinion, “what the US is doing is building us a map of financing and links of the cartels and mafias with local and national politics.”

“Since the case of Manuel Antonio Noriega in 1989, we had not seen a former president of the region tried by US courts, and like Noriega’s trial, JOH’s marks a change in US strategy and approach in the region,” says Estrada in an interview with the program Esta Noche.

JOH was found guilty of charges of “conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States” and for “using and carrying machine guns and destructive devices during the conspiracy.” According to US prosecutors, the president received millions of dollars from drug trafficking organizations in Honduras, Mexico, and other places in exchange for large quantities of cocaine passing through his country on its way to the USA.

28 more politicians involved

In the trial held in New York, the financing of drug trafficking gangs to political campaigns of several parties also came to light. At least 28 politicians, including candidates for deputies, mayors, ministers, and figures in Honduran national politics with links to drug traffickers, explains Estrada.

All of these have denied the allegations, claiming that the drug traffickers are lying or that they are manipulations by JOH.

“It was demonstrated that in the 2012 election, drug traffickers invested in campaigns of all political parties, but especially within the National Party, where there was the greatest guarantee of victory since they had control at that time of the country’s structures and the Party Libre had not consolidated as a force capable of facing them,” the journalist points out.

And it is most likely that the National Party of Honduras (PNH), he adds, received financing from drug trafficking from various sources.

“It was also proven that drug traffickers had invested in the campaigns of 2005 and 2012, and it is logical that they also invested in the campaign of 2007,” he says.

US wants to wash its hands in the case of JOH

However, Estrada clarifies, the role of the US in this case is ambiguous because it seeks to exempt itself from responsibility for JOH’s rise to power. “They were an important actor in that process. Not only in political and moral support, but also in economic support to the governments of Juan Orlando Hernández and Porfirio Lobo.”

“The United States washes its hands with this trial, wanting to make us believe that it had nothing to do with it, that Juan Orlando deceived them all this time,” he adds.

US prosecutor Damien Williams expressed hope that the trial would send all corrupt politicians to jail. In response to this, Estrada believes that Honduran politicians will attempt to “distance themselves,” especially those who received money from illicit drug financing in the elections from 2012 to 2022.

“I don’t think this is the end of the road for the United States in this strategy of fighting drug trafficking in the region. Rather, I think this is the beginning of a longer road,” he said.

Verdict left opposing opinions in Honduras

After the jury’s decision in New York against JOH, current President of Honduras Xiomara Castro issued a statement indicating that this trial showed the urgency of purifying state institutions to continue combating drug trafficking.

“A fairly general response, seeking not to delve into certain things, because they do not fully understand exactly how far the United States will go,” points out Estrada.

For its part, public opinion was divided because a sector celebrated the guilty verdict, especially those linked to the government including the Libre Party led by Xiomara Castro and the Liberal Party of Honduras.

Meanwhile, the sector closest to the Partido Nacional considered it an unfair process in which they were not given the opportunity to defend themselves, to present classified documents, they were not allowed to call several witnesses they had scheduled, some of them to explain the Honduran political context, he explains.

“They particularly have an interest in bringing it up again or deepening the investigations against the Zelaya family, trying to turn this into a discussion of families and clans [former president Manuel Zelaya is the husband of Xiomara Castro]. Likewise, not delving into the main issue, which is how do we purify our electoral system with such a powerful flow of capital as drug trafficking brings,” he affirms.

JOH’s legal team is expected to appeal the verdict and will resort to all legal and political resources they find, “because these drug trafficking processes are also very political,” adds the journalist.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.