US prosecutors say Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez accepted a bribe from Mexican drug lord “El Chapo”.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has warned that allegations by US prosecutors his involvement in organized crime could affect cooperation with Washington in the fight against drug trafficking.
US prosecutors, in federal court filing in New York on February 5, said Hernandez used Honduran law enforcement and military to protect drug traffickers as part of a plan ” use of drug trafficking to help assert power and control in Honduras ”.
US prosecutors say Hernandez accepted a million dollar bribe from Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who was convicted in 2019 and is serving a life sentence in a US prison.
Hernandez has denied the allegations and he has not been charged with any crime.
Hernandez, while addressing the Honduran Congress on Wednesday, said members of the “Los Cachiros” cartel falsely accused him in an attempt to seek shorter prison terms. He warned US officials that believing the allegations could undermine joint security efforts between Washington and Tegucigalpa.
“If some offices in the United States make the mistake of rewarding drug traffickers who give false testimony, instead of increasing their sentences … then the battle we have waged jointly with our allies against drug trafficking risks being become untenable because there will be a loss of confidence. Hernandez said.
He added that if Washington takes the accusations against it seriously, “it will mean that sooner or later effective cooperation systems will inevitably collapse.”
Hernandez, in power since 2014, is a close American ally in Central America. Still, the charges against him pose a challenge to the administration of US President Joe Biden, which has pledged to invest $ 4 billion in Central America to tackle the root causes of the region’s migration.
One of the Honduran President’s brothers, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, was condemned in New York of a drug conspiracy in 2019.
Earlier this week, a group of U.S. Democratic senators introduced legislation to impose sanctions on Hernandez for corruption and human rights violations and to suspend U.S. security assistance to the police and military. Honduran.
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley on Tuesday introduced a bill to isolate Hernandez, which in recent years has relied heavily on U.S. government support in the face of national opposition and allegations of links to drug dealers.
“The United States cannot remain silent in the face of deeply alarming corruption and human rights violations at the highest levels of the Honduran government,” Merkley said in a statement. declaration.
“Failure to hold Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, national officials and members of the police and military accountable for these crimes will fuel widespread poverty and violence and force more families to flee their communities to security research. “
Merkley’s bill was supported by Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, among others.
The bill calls for the suspension of security assistance, seeks to ban the export of items such as tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets for Honduran security forces, and calls on the states- United to oppose loans to these forces from multilateral development banks.
He also calls on the Honduran government to hold talks with the United Nations about the creation of an anti-corruption mission. Under Hernandez, a similar mission backed by the Organization of American States was not renewed after it began to involve a number of federal lawmakers.