What the trial of Honduran ex-president revealed: Only tip of the iceberg

By Martha Grevatt
March 15, 2024

On March 8, a jury in a New York federal court found former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez guilty on all of the three counts of drug trafficking and weapons he was charged with. Hernandez, often referred to as JOH, faces a minimum of 40 years imprisonment. The verdict follows the conviction of JOH’s brother, Tony Hernandez, and others on similar charges.

Demonstrators outside New York City federal courthouse celebrate the guilty verdict of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, March 8, 2024.

The trial exposed numerous instances where JOH, along with his predecessor President Porfirio Lobo and other politicians belonging to JOH’s National Party, took bribes from known drug traffickers in Honduras. This bribe money was then laundered and used to finance their electoral campaigns following the 2009 U.S-backed coup that overthrew democratically-elected President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya.

In return the two former presidents and their cohorts looked the other way as tons of cocaine made their way to the United States. Originating in Colombia, the cocaine traveled through Honduras, where it was processed, then to the U.S., often by way of Mexico. The trial revealed JOH’s connection to the Mexico-based Sinaloa drug cartel.

Thus the coup regime bears some culpability in the promulgation of cocaine, including crack cocaine, in U.S. urban and rural communities.

In addition, one of the witnesses against Hernandez testified that, “The woman who transported money for us from Honduras to Colombia was an official in the Israeli embassy.” (Al Jazeera, March 8)

This should not come as a shock, given the Zionist state’s long history of allying itself with brutal dictatorships, from the former Colombian government to the apartheid government in South Africa until the first free elections in 1994.

JOH is expected to appeal his conviction but is not likely to prevail.

Still no justice for Honduran people

As heinous as JOH’s drug-related crimes are, the trial barely scratched the surface of the innumerable human rights violations committed against the Honduran people under his presidency. The coup government murdered and terrorized thousands of trade unionists, environmental activists, LGBTIA+ people, journalists and educators. There were numerous attacks on the Indigenous, Garifuna (Hondurans of African and Indigenous descent) communities, including widespread illegal theft of their ancestral lands and waterways for the benefit of U.S. and Canadian mining interests.

March 3 marked the eighth anniversary of the assassination of Berta Cáceres, co-founder of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras.

JOH — finally ousted in 2021 with the election of current President Xiomara Castro, spouse of Mel Zelaya and Honduras’ first woman president — was “elected” in 2013 amid widespread fraud, records tampering and voter intimidation. Candidates and other supporters of the LIBRE Party (Freedom and Refoundation Party, which supported Xiomara Castro for president in the 2013 election) were murdered. This pattern was repeated in 2017 when JOH ignored the Honduran constitution, which limits the president to one term, and ran for reelection.

Washington, first under President Barack Obama and then under President Donald Trump, recognized both fraudulent elections of Hernandez. Before the trial began, U.S. prosecutors fought to block “classified” documents pointing to JOH’s cozy relationship with Washington. The capitalist media gave scant coverage to the trial.

Most Hondurans are probably glad that JOH could spend the rest of his life in prison, but they know he will not be punished for the 12-year reign of terror he and before him Lobo subjected them to. Nor will the U.S. government suffer any consequences for its complicity — i.e., its role in keeping Honduras friendly to the imperialist exploitation that made it the second-poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

The Honduras Solidarity Network is continuing its “campaign to hold the U.S. and Canada accountable for their role in supporting and constructing the narco-state in Honduras.” For more information go to hondurasnow.org.

Martha Grevatt, along with other International Action Center representatives, was an observer during the 2013 Honduran election, stolen by JOH. She observed and heard testimony about numerous irregularities.