Ex-Honduran president indicted in U.S. on drug and weapon charges

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


On Thursday, the Biden administration took an important step in its attempt to permanently remove from international society the former president of Honduras.

Two months after Honduran officials arrested former President Juan Orlando Hernández at the request of the United States, the ex-leader was brought to New York for his official indictment on drug and weapon charges.

According to the Justice Department, Hernández will appear before Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron in federal court Friday and will be charged in connection with aiding in the importation of hundreds of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the U.S.

“Juan Orlando Hernández … was a central figure in one of the largest and most violent cocaine trafficking conspiracies in the world,” Administrator Anne Milgram of the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a statement. “Hernández used drug trafficking proceeds to finance his political ascent and, once elected President, leveraged the Government of Honduras’ law enforcement, military, and financial resources to further his drug trafficking scheme.”

Hernández allegedly received millions of dollars in return for his use of public office, law enforcement, and the military to support drug-trafficking organizations in Honduras, Mexico, and elsewhere.

“Because of these alleged crimes, communities in the United States suffered, and the people of Honduras suffered,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement, later adding, “Drug trafficking fuels violent crime and addiction; it devastates families, and it ravages communities. The Justice Department is committed to disrupting the entire ecosystem of drug trafficking networks that harm the American people, no matter how far or how high we must go.”

In a letter handwritten by Hernández and translated by The Guardian last month, the former president insists he is innocent and the victim of cartel machinations.

“This is revenge from the cartels, it’s an orchestrated plot so that no government will confront them again,” Hernández wrote. “Part of that conspiracy has been a campaign of hate and misinformation. But it’s evident, the contradictions of criminals, trial after trial, they lie and contradict themselves.”

Though unlikely to inspire sympathy in American hearts, Hernández is one of the more unique figures to emerge on the world stage in recent years. A walking dichotomy, Hernández’s policies and actions seem permanently at odds with one another.

Under Hernández’s two terms as president, Honduras spent 2014 through early 2022 in a near-permanent state of chaos and corruption. His brother, Tony Hernández, is already serving a drug-trafficking life sentence in the United States.

However, Hernández also proclaimed to be, and often behaved outwardly as, a strong Christian.

Perhaps as a means of obscuring his alleged drug-related activity or galvanizing his primary support structure – the Honduran Right – Hernández ran on rigid conservatism and pushed for the creation of several traditional Christian laws. In 2021, for example, a Hernández-controlled legislature outlawed gay marriage and defined unborn Honduran children as having a right to life at conception.

Hernández was also criticized by the American left for allowing evangelical Christian groups and the Catholic church’s Opus Dei organization to establish more influence in Honduras. According to Evangelical Focus Europe, in October 2021, 43.2% of the population of Honduras identified as evangelical Christians and 38.2% identified as Catholic.

President Joe Biden, who has stated he hopes to help reform Central and South American nations to lessen the flow of immigrants to the southern U.S. border, has connections to Honduras that date back to at least the Obama administration.

While still vice president in 2012, Biden traveled to Honduras to offer assistance to then-President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, who was halfway through what became a single term in office and facing a crisis of immense crime, violence, and corruption.

In late January, Hernández was replaced as president when Xiomara Castro was sworn in as Honduras’ first woman president.