JOH takes witness stand, denies aiding cartels

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By LatAm Reports Editorial Team

The drug trafficking trial against former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez took another turn Tuesday when the former president testified to defend himself against the federal prosecutor’s accusations, which accuses him of several drug trafficking crimes.

The prosecution today presented Hernández with several photos where he is seen with notorious drug traffickers, in line with his strategy, which so far has relied on the testimony of these confessed drug traffickers, who are serving sentences in this country and who have assured in the trial that they bribed the politician in exchange for support to continue his business.

In the morning Hernandez testified to defense questions and highlighted bills passed during his term as president of Congress to fight drug trafficking, confiscation of property with illicit origin or the extradition treaty with the United States.

He highlighted in this regard the twenty drug traffickers who were extradited to the United States under their two terms as President of the Republic (from 2014 to 2022).

Hernandez mentioned the big posters operating in Honduras when he came to the presidency – Los Cachiros, Los Valle Valle, Don H, Los Montes, Los Ardón – and said he did not know their leaders personally and not to have accepted bribery of them, including from the Sinaloa cartel, in an attempt to deny the star witnesses of the Prosecutor’s Office.

He also spoke of the reforms he implemented in the National Police, and his own brother, Tony Hernandez, who is serving life imprisonment in the United States and who according to the drug traffickers was an intermediary in the delivery of the bribe of the Sinaloa cartel for Hernandez’s presidential campaign in 2013.

In the afternoon, and in its turn of cross-examination, the Prosecutor’s Office did its best to link Hernández to the drug traffickers for what he confronted him with several photos: one of them shows him with the sons of Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, sentenced to life imprisonment for drug trafficking in 2022 – by the same judge who is now prosecuting JOH – and another along with Arnulfo Valle, of the Los Valle Valle cartel.

On both occasions Juan Orlando Hernández, who has remained calm during the interrogation, said he did not know them and recalled taking “thousands of photos,” with so many others throughout his public life.

But so far the Prosecutor’s Office has not presented evidence of recordings or videos to unequivocally prove his drug trafficking charge against Hernandez.

The U.S. government, represented by the Prosecutor’s Office, has based on the testimonies of drug traffickers or ex-narco that they have declared in exchange for a reduction of their sentence or visa to live in the U.S. country, so the defense has requested on several occasions that the charges against their client be dismissed, which was rejected by Judge Kevin Castel.

The prosecutor’s interrogation of Hernandez will continue this Wednesday for about 45 minutes to give way to the presentation of the closing arguments by both sides and then the jury will be instructed, which will withdraw to deliberate tomorrow morning Wednesday.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in La Tribuna