Honduras President Bribes
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
New York Prosecutors Say Honduras President Received Bribes from Drug Traffickers and Wanted Access to Fuentes Ramirez's Cocaine
On Friday the prosecution and defense gave their final arguments, Judge Kevin Castel instructed the jury and deliberations began. The verdict will be known next week.
By Maibort Petit
In the two-week trial of Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, where charges against Honduras' twenty-first-century president surfaced. U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard told the jury in his closing arguments that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández accepted bribes from a drug trafficker between 2013 and 2019.
According to Lockard, Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez held meetings with Juan Orlando Hernández on two occasions in 2019 and in those encounters the defendant paid him bribes to achieve security for him, his associates and the merchandise (drugs) they were transporting from Honduras to the United States.
Throughout the trial, several witnesses were heard to point out that the Honduran president received bribes from several drug traffickers, including the defendant, Fuentes Ramírez.
Juan Orlando Hernández came to power in 2014, after having served as president of the Congress of the Republic. In 2017 he was re-elected and his name linked to drug traffickers began to come to light when his brother, Tony Hernandez, was tried and found guilty of drug trafficking offenses in New York where he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
To this date, Juan Orlando Hernández has not been formally charged by prosecutors, although he appears in fuentes Ramírez's indictment as a co-cooperator #04. The president has repeatedly denied the allegations against him.
According to the New York Prosecutor's Office investigation, the defendant held meetings with Juan Orlando Hernández until 2019, and continued to pay bribes to maintain his privileges in Honduras. This information was obtained by the authorities due to two meetings that Fuentes Ramírez had with Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, former leader of the Cachiros cartel in the jail where both are being held in Manhattan.
The prosecutor's office emphasized the fact that the President of Honduras received bribes from Fuentes and others and that he also wanted to have some of the cocaine owned by the defendant.
Lockard recalled that Fuentes Ramirez had a drug lab located in Cerro Negro near Puerto Cortes, and that President Juan Orlando had told the defendant that he wanted cocaine to export through the port. The prosecutor said that "Access to the defendant's laboratory would be worth millions."
But the accused did not have relations exclusively with the president of Honduras, but with several members of the Army who were part of the officials with whom he aspired to carry out money laundering operations derived from drug trafficking.
Juan Orlando Hernández does not escape
In documents filed this week by prosecutors in the case of Juan Antonio "Tony" Hernandez, a former Honduran congressman on trial for his involvement in drug trafficking deals, the U.S. Attorney's Office maintains that Juan Orlando Hernandez, Tony's older brother, had long been involved in drug operations, and maintains that the president's rise to political power was financed by drug traffickers in exchange for protection for his criminal activities.
Prosecutors argued that Tony Hernandez was a Honduran congressman who, along with his brother Juan Orlando Hernandez, played a leadership role in a violent state-sponsored drug trafficking conspiracy."
The allegations against the president of Honduras, made public in the case of Tony Hernández, were reinforced in the process against Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez when one of the witnesses maintained that Juan Orlando Hernández said that he would put drugs in the noses of the gringos, while receiving bribes from the narcos as a condition of not being extradited.
The prosecutor insisted that Fuentes Ramirez trafficked tons of cocaine into the United States, that he had his drug lab guarded by armed men, and that he used to buy and pay police and politicians in his country to keep his drug business profitable.
"In fact," the prosecutor said, "Fuentes Ramirez turned over cash in a corrupt deal with the future president of Honduras, trafficked kilos of cocaine into Miami, partnered with cartels, bought police, and murdered people."
The prosecutor said Fuentes began working with Metro, a cousin of brothers Javier and Leonel Rivera, both of the Cachiros cartel.
He said that "when the work in Miami failed, they opened a drug lab in Cerro Negro. In Honduras a kilo of cocaine is worth about $ 9000 dollars, which is punctured in the United States"
He added that Fuentes Ramirez told Leonel Rivera about his lab at Rivera's gas station. He also told her about the raid on her lab. "But because of the defendant's contacts with corrupt police officers, he took out the drugs and also murdered the policeman."
The prosecutor referred to the testimony of the accountant, whose fictitious name is Jose Sanchez, who assured the jury that he knew about the laboratory. "Jarufe sent him there with cash. On both occasions he was detained by armed security. Not coffee growers."
He also mentioned the testimony of Jorge Medina, the cattlemen's agronomist who testified that Fuentes Ramirez had paid not to investigate on two occasions and gave a bribe to Barahona to silence him.
According to the testimony, Sanchez said that in 2013 Juan Orlando Hernández had appointed Barahona and ran for president.
At the time of Hernández's candidacy, the Cachiros paid huge sums of money to Juan Orlando Hernández, Pepe Lobo and Manuel Zelaya to offer them protection and not extradite them to the United States.
He also maintained that Ricardo Alvarez, who would be the vice president of Honduras, also received bribes.
Sanchez saw Juan Jarufe, the defendant and Juan Orlando Hernandez meet, Juan Orlando Hernandez took $15,000 in cash and incidentally wanted access to the defendant's cocaine.
The federal prosecutor said Juan Orlando Hernandez said he would give the defendant the cell phone number of his brother Tony Hernandez, who stamped the kilos (of cocaine) with his own initials.
He added that because the Cachiros did not invest in Fuentes' drug lab, he teamed up with Juan Orlando Hernandez and his brother, Tony Hernandez.
Among other things, the prosecutor pointed out that Fuentes Ramirez killed a boat mechanic, to ingratiate himself with the Cachiros whom the mechanic boasted of stealing. The accused then began working with Leonel Rivera: a 500-kilo shipment from Colombian Vargas R. He also participated in an air shipment to freddy Najara's runways. The defendant transported him, armed with grenade launchers.
In front of the jury, the prosecutor warned that in addition to having been linked to the Cachiros, Fuentes Ramirez worked with the Sinaloa cartel under chapo Guzman's command on a shipment of about three tons of cocaine.
By that time, Fuentes and Metro became rivals of the Cachiros and that's when the defendant tried to kill Devis Leonel Rivera.
It was then that Devis Leonel Rivera became a cooperator of the U.S. government.
The prosecutor also maintained that on the defendant's cell phone, the numbers of the president and the vice president of Honduras appear. It has dozens of police and military officers.
He noted that "the evidence shows that the defendant conspired to traffic drugs to the United States, with firearms. He's guilty."