Trail against Former Honduran President Enters Critical Phase

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By LatAm Reports Editorial Team

The trial of former president Juan Orlando Hernández will enter a decisive stage once the New York Prosecutor’s Office finishes presenting its witnesses.

But what is expected for this week?

This Monday, former police officer Mario Guillermo Mejía Vargas will take the stand again, to continue being questioned by the former president’s defense.

In the first stage of his statement last Friday, Mejía Vargas confessed to the jury that he was involved in the murder of the “golden prosecutor” Orlan Arturo Chávez in 2013. For this brutal murder, there is a tax injunction against him issued by the Prosecutor’s Office. Special Crimes against Life. He also stated that together with former Police officers, Mauricio Hernández Pineda and Juan Ávila Meza, they joined forces to provide security for drug shipments with weapons from the institution itself. In exchange they received millionaire bribes.

In 2009, Mejía Vargas was involved in the seizure of 143 kilograms of cocaine in Gracias a Dios. He stated that he and ten other police officers mounted an operation behind the backs of their bosses, which turned out to be false; They captured several people, confiscated their weapons and stole the drugs. But they were discovered and had to face a trial in which Mejía Vargas managed to maintain in court the lie that it was a real operation. He was convicted, but with political influences he was released, regained his position and from that same day continued to be involved in activities related to drug trafficking.

He assumed control of an office related to police operations and from there began to divulge information to drug lords about the location of operations along the Atlantic fringe of the country.

He himself provided armed security to the drug shipments that were transported in false compartments of dump trucks from Atlántida to Copán.

The former agent assured that he and Mauricio Hernández Pineda allied themselves with drug trafficker Víctor Hugo Díaz Morales, alias “El Rojo”, who was a man very close to former deputy Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, to whom they paid millionaire bribes allegedly to finance the presidential campaign of Juan Orlando Hernández.

Once Mejía Vargas finishes testifying, it is very likely that “El Rojo” will take the stand, as a witness for the Prosecutor’s Office.

“El Rojo” will follow the same pattern as Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga and Fabio Lobo, who told the jury that they paid bribes to Hernández for his presidential campaign.

In the trial of “Tony” Hernández, the testimony of “El Rojo” was key because it showed that in exchange for payments he had access to information and ongoing police investigations.

He will claim that over the 15 years he was involved in drug trafficking he sent more than 140,000 kilograms of cocaine to the United States. He also participated in the murder of 18 people.

He became involved in drug trafficking in the late 90s along with Héctor Emilio Fernández Rosa, alias “Don H”, a drug lord sentenced to life imprisonment by the United States justice system.

“El Rojo” claims that “Tony” Hernández gave him information about police checkpoints and investigations related to drug trafficking to avoid drug seizures and arrests, in exchange for payments of $5,000. Then, he began transporting, distributing and even manufacturing cocaine in his own laboratories.

But the parade of witnesses from the Prosecutor’s Office will continue.

Prosecutors plan to present as a witness this Monday John Miller, an officer with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), to identify examples of weapons during the trial.

Hernández Alvarado’s defense opposes the physical demonstration of the weapons and rather suggests that they be identified from photographs.

“There is no reason why the jury needs to see these demonstration aids in person to understand how they work. It would be like the government bringing a container full of cocaine into court just to show the jury what several tons of cocaine look like. There is absolutely no purpose,” the defense said in a brief.

It indicates that despite the accusation “there has also been no evidence that Mr. Hernández has personally used any of these weapons to promote the conspiracy.”

Defense witnesses

The former president’s lawyers will have the right to present their witnesses once the Prosecutor’s Office completes its presentation.

Raymond Colon, who is part of Hernández’s legal team, has stated throughout the process that he has at least ten witnesses ready, including a “star witness” to testify in favor of Hernández.

Colon has also expressed that the former president plans to give his statement before the jury.

Jury Instruction

When the parade of witnesses and presentation of evidence is over, Judge Kevin Castel will give instructions to the jury and they will retire to deliberate to issue their ruling.

Among the 16 members of the jury, a president will be chosen, who will announce to the judge whether there is a conviction or acquittal, which must be accepted unanimously.

“No juror should allow himself to be pressured or pushed into making a certain decision. Each juror must carefully consider the opinions and reasons of the other jurors and avoid having an obstinate attitude in order to prove that he is right,” the US rules state: They suggest that the juror’s duty is to listen carefully to the judge, to witnesses and attorneys, deliberate calmly and fairly, and decide intelligently and fairly

The former president’s real estate remains seized

In April 2022, the Public Ministry, through the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime (Fescco) and the Directorate to Fight Drug Trafficking (DLCN), carried out the seizure and seizure of real estate, commercial companies and financial products. name of former president Juan Orlando Hernández.

The Public Ministry reported at that time that it submitted a request to the Court of First Instance for Deprivation of the Domain of Assets of Illicit Origin for the seizure and seizure of 30 properties distributed in the departments of Francisco Morazán, Olancho and Lempira, eight commercial companies, 16 vehicles and financial products.

Two years later, the former first lady, Ana García, explained to EL HERALDO that the assets are still seized and that situation “has limited the possibility” of accessing economic resources.

On February 12, 2024, the Hernández family even published a statement denying the statements of lawyer Raúl Pineda, who assured that the former president’s assets were about three billion dollars, according to what investigators from the government of USA.

“It is absolutely false that the assets acquired by our family in recent decades are part of a ‘fortune,’” the family said in a lengthy statement.

These assets were obtained legally through “work and effort,” as well as through an inheritance from Juan Orlando Hernández’s father, they stated.

In an interview with EL HERALDO, García regretted that many seized assets were inherited: “the Hotel Posada de Don Juan is a hotel that has been in operation for twenty-five years and is a property that has been in the Hernández family for at least seventy years.” ”.

Report

In the report “The fall of a former president”, the National Anti-Corruption Council (CNA) exposed how the president would have built an empire financed by drug trafficking and corruption.

The 49-page document mentions that the former president registered properties and companies with his wife, Ana García, and his brothers and brothers-in-law.

The document mentioned that some properties were located in Tegucigalpa, Lempira and Olancho. In total there were 109 real estate properties, 11 companies and 267 million lempiras in investments.