Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández Sentenced to 45 Years by the US for Drug Trafficking 

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández Sentenced to 45 Years by the US for Drug Trafficking 
Credit: Presidencia El Salvador

In a surprise announcement, former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández was sentenced to forty-five years in New York for conspiracy. The charges stem from more than 400 tons of Colombian drugs that federal authorities say were armed, smuggled, and delivered into the country over a hectic decade almost entirely because traffickers first paid millions in bribes to Guzman’s unofficial security element. Because of the high-profile nature of the case and the number of murders, his former US residence has drawn the public gaze as well as news from Hernández’s homeland. 

“The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is relentlessly focused on dismantling drug trafficking organizations that threaten the safety and health of the American people,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram in an official statement. “Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández financed his political career with drug trafficking profits and abused his authority as President of Honduras to traffic hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States. Let me be clear, political actors who use their power to traffic in drugs and corruption will be brought to justice in the United States.”

According to The Associated Press, the sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, who said it reminds those who are “well-educated and well-dressed” that they are not above justice. In addition, Castel levied an $8 million fine on Hernández. At sentencing, Hernandez continued to claim he was innocent, through an interpreter saying: “I am not guilty. I was falsely and unjustly accused. Although Hernández tried to cast himself as a drug war hero, the judge rejected this narrative in light of evidence at trial that showed he was “a two-faced politician hungry for power” who used police and soldiers on many an occasion to guard traffickers. 

Juan Orlando Hernández Ran Out of ‘Luck’

His downfall began with his arrest at his home in Tegucigalpa just three months after leaving office in 2022, followed by his extradition to the US in April of that year. 

US prosecutors revealed that Hernández had been working with drug traffickers since 2004, accepting millions in bribes while climbing from a rural congressman to president of the National Congress and eventually to the highest office in the country. Hernández admitted during his trial that drug money had infiltrated virtually all political parties in Honduras but denied accepting bribes himself. 

In a lengthy statement during his sentencing, frequently interrupted by the judge, Hernández argued that his trial was unfair due to the exclusion of certain evidence he believed would have exonerated him. He claimed to be the victim of persecution by politicians and drug traffickers, likening his situation to being “thrown into a deep river with hands tied.” 

The trial featured testimony from traffickers who confessed to numerous murders and described Hernández as an enthusiastic protector of some of the world’s most powerful cocaine traffickers, including the infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who is currently serving a life sentence in the US. Judge Castel highlighted that Guzmán had paid a $1 million bribe in 2013 directly to Hernández’s brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, a former Honduran congressman sentenced to life in a US prison in 2021 for his own drug-related convictions. 

In delivering the sentence, Castel elaborated on the fairness of Hernández’s trial and reviewed critical evidence that demonstrated his guilt. The judge pointed out that Hernández strategically aided traffickers only when it benefited his political ambitions. “His number one goal was his own political survival,” Castel said. 

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