Alleged associate of Honduran president convicted of drug trafficking in US

·2-min read
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, pictured January 2021, has styled himself as a champion in the fight against drugs

A New York jury found an alleged associate of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez guilty of drug trafficking on Monday following a two-week trial.

Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez was convicted of three counts, including one of weapon possession, after a day and a half of deliberations in a Manhattan federal court.

During the trial, US prosecutors said Hernandez had helped Fuentes smuggle tons of cocaine into the United States -- an allegation the Honduran president denies.

New York prosecutor Jacob Gutwillig told the court that Hernandez was paid a $25,000 bribe by Fuentes.

Hernandez described the testimony as "false" and "obvious lies."

The prosecutors from the Southern District of New York consider Hernandez a co-conspirator alongside Fuentes but have not charged him.

Hernandez, a lawyer who came to power in January 2014 and is in his second term, has styled himself as a champion in the fight against drugs.

"Any narrative regarding the battle against drug trafficking in Honduras that omits the unprecedented 95% reduction (official US data) we achieved, is usually just a vehicle for dramatic headlines to promote false testimony by narcos we defeated," he tweeted Monday.

Fuentes is due to be sentenced on June 22.

The president's brother, Tony Hernandez, was convicted of large-scale drug trafficking at a New York trial in 2019. His sentencing is expected next week.

Prosecutors say he was the middle man between Fuentes and the president.

President Hernandez was linked to drug trafficking at his brother's trial by Leonel Rivera, the leader of a Honduran drug trafficking gang called "Los Cachiros."

Rivera said the president received millions of dollars in bribes from drug traffickers to protect the cocaine shipments to the United States.

During Fuentes's trial, Rivera testified that he had worked with Fuentes from 2011 to 2013, until they got into a fight and the alleged trafficker tried to kill him.

Rivera faces a life sentence plus 30 years in prison but hopes it will be reduced in exchange for his testimony.

He collaborated for two years with the US Drug Enforcement Administration until turning himself in to American authorities in 2015.