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How An Ex President Helped Traffic Cocaine Worth $10 Billion Into US

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How An Ex President Helped Traffic Cocaine Worth $10 Billion Into US

Former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez has been jailed for 45 years (File photo)

Former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez was on Wednesday sentenced to 45 years in a United States prison and fined $8 million for his role in drug trafficking. US prosecutors accused him of running a “narco-state” that smuggled over 400 tons of South American cocaine to the US while he was president from 2014 to 2022.

US District Judge Kevin Castel said Hernandez provided police and military support and helped to send drugs worth $10 billion to the United States.

Hernandez, 55, was found guilty of federal drug and weapons charges in March. He was convicted in a US federal court on three counts, including cocaine importation and weapons offences. 

Prosecutors said he built his political career on bribes from traffickers and protected them from extradition and prosecution.

Early involvement

Juan Orlando Hernandez’s involvement in the drug trade dates back to at least 2004, when he was a congressman in Honduras.

He allegedly accepted bribes from drug traffickers in Honduras, Mexico and beyond, in exchange for political favours and protection, stated a press release by the US Department of Justice.

Rise to power

As Hernandez’s political career advanced, so did his involvement in the drug trade. He became the President of Honduras in 2014 and used his position to expand his drug empire. He allegedly worked with some of the world’s largest drug traffickers, including the Sinaloa Cartel, to transport tons of cocaine through Honduras and into the US.

Abuse of power

Juan Orlando Hernandez presented himself as an advocate against drug trafficking in public, but in reality, he colluded with and protected the interests of drug traffickers who supported him.

He selectively upheld extraditions, allowing certain drug traffickers to remain in Honduras while others were extradited to the US. Hernandez also used Honduran institutions, including the police and military, to protect his drug trafficking operation, as per the press release.

Violence and murder

According to reports, Hernandez’s drug empire was responsible for more than 130 murders, including the killings of rival traffickers and those who threatened his operation. His brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, was also involved in the drug trade and was convicted in the US for cocaine trafficking. Countless others disappeared or were tortured; their fates unknown. 

Sentence

Hernandez was convicted on three counts of importing cocaine into the US (10 years to life in prison), using machine guns and destructive devices in the drug trade (additional 30 years in prison) and conspiring to use and carry machine guns and destructive devices in the drug trade (up to life in prison). 



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