Honduran Ex-President Sentenced to 45 Years in US for Drug Trafficking

A US judge has sentenced former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez to 45 years in prison and a $8 million fine for taking millions of dollars in bribes to facilitate drug trafficking into the US. Hernandez, who has maintained his innocence, was found guilty by a Manhattan jury in March.

Hernandez, 55, has been in a New York jail since his extradition in April 2022. Prosecutors alleged that he collaborated with powerful drug cartels to smuggle over 400 tons of cocaine into the US during his presidency.

“I am innocent,” Hernandez said at his sentencing. “I was wrongly and unjustly accused.”

The jury found Hernandez guilty of accepting bribes to shield drug trafficking operations, despite publicly claiming to combat them. The judge determined that Hernandez was a skilled actor who successfully portrayed himself as an anti-drug advocate.

Prosecutors also revealed that the Honduran National Police were used by Hernandez to protect the cocaine trade, stating that he had been involved in drug trafficking since 2004 and received millions of dollars in bribes.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that Hernandez “abused his position as president of Honduras to operate the country as a narco-state where violent drug traffickers were allowed to operate with virtual impunity.”

Evidence presented at the trial showed that Hernandez used drug money to bribe officials and manipulate voting results during the Honduran presidential elections in 2013 and 2017. Convicted traffickers, who testified against Hernandez, confirmed they had bribed him and claimed he was responsible for murders and assisted some of the world’s most powerful cocaine dealers. 

The judge noted the significant number of murders linked to drug trafficking during Hernandez’s time in office. One witness admitted to aiding in 56 killings, while another implicated Hernandez in 78 murders.

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence, arguing that a severe punishment would deter other politicians from using their power to protect criminal organizations.

Hernandez served as president of Honduras from 2014 to 2022. He was arrested at his home in Tegucigalpa three months after leaving office and extradited to the US.