Posted: Thursday, March 11, 2021. 4:16 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Federal prosecutors in New York say the President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, personally met with a drug trafficker to plan cocaine trafficking to the United States, the Associated Press reports, citing the upcoming testimony of a witness.
At the opening of trial against accused Honduran drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Gutwillig said that the witness, an accountant, was present when Hernandez and Fuentes Ramírez allegedly plotted to send as much cocaine as possible to the United States – “shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos,” in Hernandez’s alleged words.
Fuentes Ramírez, arrested a year ago in Florida, is charged with drug trafficking and arms possession. But the prosecutors appear to be more targeting Hernandez, who they said helped Fuentes Ramírez’s drug trafficking along with other high-ranking officials. Hernández has previously denied any involvement with drug traffickers. He has not been charged.
Attorney Gutwillig said Fuentes Ramirez bribed various connections from mayors to congressmen to military and police to President Hernandez himself. The witness, who will testify to the meetings that allegedly took place in 2013 and 2014, ran a rice business through which Fuentes Ramírez allegedly laundered drug proceeds.
Gutwillig described the “shock, the fear” that the witness, identified by a pseudonym, had seeing Fuentes Ramírez meeting with the president. One of Fuentes Ramírez’s defense attorneys later said he wasn’t credible, suggesting the U.S. would approve his asylum application in exchange for his testimony.
Prosecutors have previously said that Fuentes Ramírez paid Hernández US$25,000 to be allowed to move drugs through the country without interference. In January, U.S. federal prosecutors filed motions in the Fuentes Ramírez case saying that Hernández took bribes from drug traffickers and had the country’s armed forces protect a cocaine laboratory and shipments to the United States.
In the 2019 case of President Hernandez’s brother Juan Antonio in which he was convicted, the President was accused of accepting more than US$1 million from now-jailed Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Last month, another filing by prosecutors in the Fuentes Ramírez case appeared to confirm for the first time that Hernández was under investigation by U.S. authorities.
On Monday, Hernández asserted again in a Twitter thread that he had waged war on drug trafficking, not aided it. He says that the allegations against him come from drug traffickers seeking revenge and looking to lighten their sentences. He wrote that if drug traffickers are rewarded for lies, “the international alliance (against drug trafficking) would collapse with Honduras, then with various countries.”
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