Trial Context: The Role of the United States and Canada in Supporting a Narco-Government in Honduras
Today, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, a former National Party congressional representative and the youngest brother of the Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), goes to trial in the southern district court in New York.
Tony is being accused of “conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, related weapons offenses involving the use and possession of machineguns and destructive devices, and making false statements to federal agents.”
Since the US and Canadian-backed 2009 coup d’état in particular, Honduras has spiraled into a human rights and economic, political and social crisis that has driven thousands of Hondurans out of the country and caused the murder, criminalization, and persecution of journalists, lawyers, land defenders, indigenous peoples, and women. Many of the people that have fled or have been politically targeted, have either publicly denounced these abuses, criticized the government, or made statements in relation to the Honduran government’s involvement in drug trafficking, organized crime, and promoting impunity to the benefit of the economic and political elite in the country and foreign economic interests.
Many scandals have deepened the crisis sparked by the 2009 coup in Honduras including the judicial coup in 2014, the millions of dollars stolen from the social security system (IHSS) in 2015, a fraudulent election in 2013, over a dozen corruption scandals implicating high-ranking public officials in the government including family members of former and the current Presidents, the 2017 electoral crisis and US and Canadian-endorsed fraud that saw the illegal re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez. Through all of these crises, the US and Canada have maintained their political and financial support for the Honduran government.
In the New York court documents in Tony Hernandez’s case, federal prosecutors have focused on highlighting the role of Honduran officials in drug trafficking and organized crime. The prosecutors have also discussed how the political context that has permitted such illicit activities, was fostered and in turn, allowed for the expansion of drug trafficking by high-level government officials and their family members.. These statements include:
"The [US] Government will establish that the defendant [Tony Hernandez] described the 2009 coup as a development that enhanced the likelihood of additional lucrative drug trafficking and further impunity, viewed each of the national elections as a motive for engaging in additional drug trafficking to generate proceeds that could be used to fund campaigns, and relied on the individuals who won many of the elections to protect him and his co-conspirators from arrest and persecution." .......
"In approximately the summer of 2009, the defendant [Tony Hernandez] told CW-3 [co-witness 3, Alexander Ardón, also charged in US with drug trafficking, former mayor in El Paraiso, Copan for many years], in substance, that the coup had improved the prospects for their drug-trafficking partnership because it was more likely that CC-3 [Co-Conspirator 3, former President Pepe Lobo] and CC-4 [Co-Conspirator 4, President Juan Orlando Hernandez] would be in positions to protect and assist them by winning their National Party campaigns for President and President of the Congress, respectively."
Although important information for their case, it is unfortunate and wrong that US federal prosecutors, US and Canadian media and US and Canadian citizens do not go further to ask what the role of the US and Canadian governments has been in creating and supporting these political contexts, these illicit activities, and how both governments have benefitted from such.
In the name of fighting drug trafficking and organized crime, the US has sent millions of dollars to Honduras to support the implementation of the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). And Canada has done the same through the Canadian Initiative for Security in Central America (CISCA). Millions of dollars of funding, training, and support has been and continues to be sent to Honduras while convicted drug traffickers and named co-conspirators like former President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo and President Juan Orlando Hernandez oversee national security efforts, the Honduran military and the so-called “war on drugs” and fight against organized crime.
What is the US and Canadian role in the drug conspiracies of the governments they have supported almost unconditionally since 2009 in Honduras?
When will the US and Canadian government be held criminally responsible for financing and politically supporting governments that traffic drugs and commit human rights abuses in total impunity?
Day One of Tony’s Trial in New York
This is an English summary of Pro-Honduras Network’s (PROHN) live coverage of day one (October 2) of Tony Hernandez’s trial in the New York Southern District Court.
Watch this video in Spanish and see other information PROHN’s Facebook page: Pro-Honduras Network
WHAT HAPPENED TODAY:
18 jurors were selected and sworn in
All or part of the opening statements were given by the Prosecutors and Defense.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TOMORROW:
The first witnesses will be called.
More important information will come out about the role of the co-conspirators and other key figures in Honduras who aided in allowing Tony and others to operate in impunity.
MORE RELEVANT DETAILS (JURY SELECTION, AUDIENCE IN COURTROOM, ETC)
Trial started at 10 am and finished around 5 pm Eastern
18 jurors (12 women and 6 men) were selected of 60 potential jurors and sworn in. 3 jurors are bilingual.
This started at 10:30 am, there was a break at 1 pm then questions were made to the potential jurors to ensure their impartiality.
An important document given to jurors: A list of various people that are of interest in the case or involved in some form in the context of the case or committed crimes.
Some family members of Tony and JOH were present in the trial including at least two brothers.
Approximately 50 people, mostly Hondurans showed up to protest outside court after the first day.
FEDERAL PROSECUTORS’ OPENING STATEMENTS OR COMMENTS
At least 4-5 federal prosecutors represented the US government – arrived to the trial with 2-3 shopping carts filled with documents
Mentioned that Juan Antonio Hernandez and Juan Orlando Hernandez as being involved in drug trafficking.
Mentioned that Juan Orlando Hernandez had received millions of dollars of bribes including from El Chapo, which Tony Hernandez helped deliver to his brother.
Note: There have already been press articles released about this. See New York Times. Since the information began circulating, Juan Orlando Hernandez has tweeted in response and the President’s Office in Tegucigalpa has also put out a statement in Spanish. More on this tomorrow.
Made a specific point to mention Juan Orlando Hernandez as the President of Honduras but also a co-conspirator to traffic drugs into the U.S. Part of the material that the Prosecutors will present is a weapon that has Juan Orlando Hernandez’s name engraved on it.
Made a clear argument that the main reason that Tony was able to operate as a drug trafficking in Honduras was because of the protection given by his brother, JOH. Tomorrow, this will be proven by one of the first witnesses.
Tony is a violent and highly dangerous drug trafficking who has been involved in at least 12 murders and trafficked thousands of kilograms of drugs to the US
Spoke about video evidence that will be presented that shows Tony Hernandez meeting with several drug traffickers.
Spoke about the profit made by trafficking drugs – Each kilogram of cocaine in the US costs $30,000 USD and Tony (and others) are being accused of transporting 100s of tonnes of cocaine.
Mentioned that people like Tony Hernandez are “untouchable” in Honduras because
TONY HERNANDEZ’S DEFENSE’S OPENING STATEMENTS OR COMMENTS
Made argument that Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world and for that reason, Tony had at least 5 licensed weapons under his name.
Mentioned the conditions that Tony was detained in – not being able to see his wife and his girlfriend or breathe in fresh air.
Said that JOH and Tony’s error was to participate in politics in Honduras because the political system is “rotten” and because they implemented an extradition treaty, which has created a reason for revenge of drug traffickers against them.
Mentioned the relationship between U.S. and Honduras saying the US has unlimited amount of information in Honduras and asked “how is it possible that the US government is saying this when they could have done something about it?”
Other observations: Sometimes its difficult to understand whether Tony’s defense is defending Tony or Juan Orlando Hernandez.
STAY TUNED FOR DAY 2’s SUMMARY