By Sofia Rojas, 10th Grade
On February 15th, 2022, ex-Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez went to prison regarding drug and armed trafficking charges. Since his arrest, many Honduran officials have been associated with his scheme. What exactly is going on? How is this becoming a pattern in Central America?
Juan Orlando Hernandez was born on October 28th, 1968, in Gracias, Honduras. From 2014 to 2018, Hernandez took the presidential seat as the 10th constitutional president of Honduras. During his administration, Hernandez opened the first maximum-security prison, brought 9-11 operators, introduced a transparency bill through congress, and increased the Honduran economy by more than 52%. Regardless, this transparent image started declining after Hernandez’s mandate was accused of corruption and permitting the assassinations of top anti-drug officials in the country. In 2017, accusations came to light that Hernandez manipulated the Honduran elections leaving the country into weeks of mass brutality and protest.
Meanwhile, Hernandez’s drug trafficking accusations started surfacing in his second presidential term. Hernandez was allegedly heavily involved in the narcotics trade after his brother Tony Hernandez was found guilty of drug trafficking in 2021. In the trial, court documents identified Juan Hernandez as a co-conspirator. U.S. prosecutors also alleged that former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Guzmán Loera alias “El Chapo” had bribed Hernandez with a cash handout of more than $1 million dollars. However, Hernandez’s scheme was more complex than being an ally to his brother’s misdoings.
Hernandez’s drug conspiracy also brought high-ranked officials to protect narcotic trafficking activities inside the country, like Giovanni Daniel Fuentes Ramírez. U.S. authorities arrested Giovanni on March 1st, seeking drug and arm trafficking charges. Prosecutors claim that Ramirez began operating a clandestine cocaine laboratory in the Honduran town of Omoa. For Ramirez to ensure the proper passage of his shipments, he would bribe members of the national police and incite important members of congress. Also, Ramirez was involved in the crimes committed by the Hernandez brothers.
Nonetheless, Juan Orlando Hernandez is not the first political leader to be implicated in the narcotics trade in Central America. The U.S. forces arrested former Panamanian president Manuel Noriega in January 1990 with charges of murder, racketeering, and drug trafficking. In 1981, Noriega helped famous drug lord Pablo Escobar smuggle cocaine into the United States and laundered the drug revenue through Panamanian banks. Between 1970 and 1987, Noriega’s name appeared in more than 80 different DEA files.
Drug trafficking is becoming a tremendous political pattern in Central American countries. The same is said by Orozco 19, which states that “drug trafficking, one expression of organized crime, has been taking up political and economic spaces in all Latin American governments since nearly the middle of the last century.” Drug trafficking and usage are exponentially increasing due to the parallel increase in corruption and crime rate in Central America. Actually, about 90% of all the cocaine seized in the United States in 2015 was of Colombian origin, and the constant drug trade has severely vandalized one-third of all Nicaraguan forests.
Narcotic trafficking is something that is heavily affecting the Latin American political system. Permitting this phenomenon to surface in the Latin American political agenda has led to the suffering of many citizens. Moreover, this increase in illicit activity has sadly led it to become a pattern in the region.
- Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA). (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.sica.int/consulta/Noticia.aspx?Idn=62306
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- Moreno, E. (2017, May 30). Panama’s Noriega: CIA spy turned drug-running dictator. U.S. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-panama-noriega-obituary-idUSKBN18Q0NW
- Tisdall, S. (2017, November 28). Manuel Noriega: feared dictator was the man who knew too much. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/30/general-manuel-noriega-feared-panamanian-dictator-cia-asset
- Buschschlüter, B. V. (2022, May 10). Juan Orlando Hernández: Honduran ex-leader pleads not guilty. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-61393266
- Asmann, P. (2022, April 20). US Alleges Honduras Drug Lab Operated with Presidential Protection. InSight Crime. https://insightcrime.org/news/analysis/honduras-drug-lab-presidential-protection/
- Via AP news wire. (2022, May 11). Ex-Honduras police chief detained after US court appearance. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/ap-juan-orlando-hernandez-new-york-central-america-honduras-b2076969.html