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Honduran president charged with accepting bribes and drug trafficking in US

HONDURAN President Juan Orlando Hernandez was accused of accepting bribes from drug-traffickers and sending huge shipments of cocaine to the United States in a case filed by US prosecutors on Friday.

Papers filed in New York quote him as wanting to “shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos” by flooding the US with cocaine.

The documents do not name Mr Hernandez specifically, referring to him as co-conspirator 4 (CC-4), but the post of Honduran president is referred to.

Mr Hernandez was previously accused of accepting bribes and of having links to drug-traffickers during the 2019 trial in which his brother Juan Antonio Hernandez was convicted.

During the trial, it was alleged that the president had taken more than $1 million (about £740,000) in bribes from notorious Mexican drug smuggler Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — charges which he denied.

The president insists that the traffickers are now making false allegations because he clamped down on their illegal activities.

The newly filed papers contain claims that Mr Hernandez used the country’s armed forces to protect a cocaine laboratory and drug shipments to the US.

Mr Hernandez was named following the arrest of Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez in Miami in March 2020.

He is accused of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the US and of having people killed to protect his drug business.

Prosecutors claim that Mr Ramirez was having “hundreds of kilograms” of cocaine produced every month and had partnered with CC-4 and high-ranking officials in the Honduran military by the end of 2013.

The papers stated that a witness “would testify that they and other drug-traffickers were paying massive bribes to CC-4 in exchange for protection from law enforcement and extradition to the United States.”

The case implicates a number of senior military, police, political and business figures in money laundering and bribery.

Mr Hernandez has been a close ally of US President Donald Trump, and the Central American country has long been considered a US client state.

The Obama administration, which included president-elect Joe Biden, offered only lukewarm condemnation of the 2009 coup in Honduras, in which democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya was ousted.

The election of Mr Hernandez for a second term in 2017 was marked by allegations of fraud and corruption.

But the US was swift to recognise the disputed result, backing its conservative ally in sharp contrast to its attitude to left-wing governments in the region.

Following the election, Mr Hernandez’s ruling National Party government waged a brutal crackdown on legitimate protest, using the police, military and, allegedly, death squads.

Huge protests had demanded the resignation of Mr Hernandez over corruption, privatisation of public services and his poor handling of the economy.

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