New York federal prosecutors have alleged that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández took bribes from drug traffickers to help export huge shipments of cocaine to the US.
Documents submitted on Friday by prosecutors in the southern district of New York allege Mr Hernandez had the country’s armed forces protect a cocaine laboratory and deliveries to the US.
He is quoted in court papers as saying he wanted to “shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos”, referring to Americans.
The president, who has not been charged, has repeatedly denied the claims.
The files seek approval to admit evidence in the case against Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, who was arrested in March.
Mr Ramirez is accused of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the US, producing “hundreds of kilograms a month” and having several people killed to protect his illegal operation.
Prosecutors claim Mr Ramirez “partnered directly” with Mr Hernandez and “high-ranking officials in the Honduran military” during his presidential campaign in 2013.
The papers add that a witness would testify that the president-to-be was receiving “massive bribes” in exchange for “protection from law enforcement”.
Mr Hernandez allegedly “accepted approximately $1m in drug trafficking proceeds that was provided to his brother by the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquín Guzmán Loera”.
The Honduran president is not named in the court papers, but he is clearly identifiable as “CC-4” – or “co-conspirator No. 4” – by references to his political position and as the brother of Juan Antonio Hernández, who was convicted of drug smuggling in 2019.
President Hernández has rejected the claims, saying traffickers are falsely accusing him to seek vengeance for clamping down on them.
“The claim that Pres Hernández supposedly accepted drug money from a Geovanny Daniel Fuentes Ramirez, or gave protection or co-ordination to drug traffickers is 100% false, and appears to be based on lies of confessed criminals who seek revenge and to reduce their sentences,” read a tweet from the president’s office.
“This and other opportunistic allegations are contested by the essential fact that during the Hernández Administration, coca trafficking through Honduras fell from 87% to 4% from 2013 to 2019, as recognised by the publications of the Department of State (INCRS) of those years,” it continued.
The US has given Honduras hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance in recent years to help the Central American country fight drug smuggling.
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