Former Honduran President Sentenced To 45 Years For Drug And Firearm Offences

Former Honduran President, Juan Orlando Hernandez was sentenced to 45 years in prison by a U.S. judge on Wednesday following his conviction for drug and firearm offenses. At 55 years old, Hernandez is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison unless his expected appeal succeeds.

A Manhattan jury convicted Hernandez in March of accepting millions in bribes to protect U.S.-bound cocaine shipments, despite his public stance against drug trafficking. Prosecutors had pushed for a life sentence, while Hernandez’s defense argued for the mandatory minimum of 40 years.

U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel handed down the 45-year sentence, emphasizing the importance of sending a strong message to seemingly untouchable, well-educated individuals. Castel noted that jurors saw through Hernandez’s “polished demeanor” during the trial, where Hernandez testified in his own defense.

“They saw him for what he was: a two-faced politician hungry for power,” Castel said in the Manhattan federal court.

Hernandez served as the President of Honduras, a U.S. ally in Central America, from 2014 to 2022. Prosecutors accused him of enabling the shipment of at least 400 tons of cocaine to the United States, contributing to addiction and violence. They also alleged that Hernandez used drug money to bribe officials and manipulate election results in 2013 and 2017.

“The defendant fed this never-ending cycle of drug trafficking and corruption that tore his country apart,” prosecutor Jacob Gutwillig said.

Hernandez denied the bribery allegations, asserting that he fought against cartels during his presidency. He criticized the testimonies of convicted traffickers who claimed to have bribed him, arguing they sought to reduce their sentences and exact revenge.

“Despite everything done to me, which is an outrage and a lynching, I am an optimist and I know that the truth will be known later,” Hernandez told Castel through a Spanish interpreter before his sentencing.

After his sentence was announced, Hernandez faced journalists in the jury box and declared “soy inocente,” Spanish for “I am innocent.” He used a cane as U.S. marshals escorted him from the courtroom.

Hernandez has been held at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center since his extradition from Tegucigalpa in April 2022.