New York | Verdict expected in drug trafficking trial of former Honduran president

(New York) A New York jury retired to deliberate and deliver its verdict Thursday after two and a half weeks of debate in the trial of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, accused of having participated in vast drug trafficking. drugs destined for the United States.

Mr. Hernandez, who federal prosecutors in New York say created a narco-state during his eight-year presidency (2014-2022), is charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs and weapons and possession of weapons .

If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison – like his brother Tony, who was sentenced to life in 2021.

The 12 members of the jury withdrew to deliberate late Thursday morning after more than an hour of instructions from Judge Kevin Castel.

They must determine whether the former Honduran president is innocent or guilty of the charges against him. The possible sentence will be pronounced by the judge.

For prosecutor Jacob Gutwillig, there is no doubt that the former president “is a drug trafficker”, “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”.

According to the prosecution, he received millions of dollars in bribes from drug cartels, including the Sinaloa cartel, led by notorious Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, sentenced to life in prison by American justice in 2019 and now incarcerated in a high security prison.


These bribes were allegedly received in exchange for protecting traffickers against extraditions and securing, through military, police and judicial assistance, the transport of drugs from Colombia to the American market.

During his presidency, Honduras became a “highway” for Colombian cocaine, prosecutors say. They claim that between 2004 and 2022, the network backed by Mr. Hernandez smuggled more than 500 tons of cocaine into the United States.

For its part, the defense cast doubt on the testimony of witnesses, most of them drug traffickers who obtained reduced sentences thanks to their cooperation with American justice.

Witnesses like Devis Leonel Rivera, head of the powerful Los Cachiros cartel, former mayor Alexander Ardon – of the same party as the accused – and Fabio Lobo, son of former president Porfirio Lobo (2010-2014), claimed to have “ contributed” thousands of dollars to Hernandez’s first election campaign in exchange for protection.


“The only evidence we have are words from one drug trafficker to another drug trafficker,” said defense attorney Renato Stabile.

He reminded the jury that the former president signed anti-money laundering laws, seized criminal assets and authorized the first extraditions of drug traffickers to the United States.

According to the prosecution, it was just a facade.

Mr. Hernandez, who considers himself “the victim of a vendetta”, described the witnesses as “professional liars”.

“They all have every reason to lie,” he said on the stand.

“The only one who tells the truth is you?” “, pushed prosecutor Kyle Wirshba into a tough cross-examination.

Throughout the trial, the dozen prosecution witnesses highlighted the close links between drug trafficking and politics in the Central American country.


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