Honduran President’s brother found guilty of drug trafficking charges

The brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was found guilty of trafficking cocaine Friday, according to the US Department of Justice.

Juan Antonio Hernández Alvarado, also known as “Tony Hernández,” was arrested in Miami last year on charges of trafficking cocaine, weapons offenses and making a false statement. He was taken to New York and charged.

The guilty verdict means Hernández is facing 30 years to life in prison. He will be sentenced on January 17, 2020.

Between 2004 and 2018, Hernández was involved in processing, receiving, transporting and distributing multi-ton loads of cocaine that came to Honduras by plane, boat and, on at least on occasion, by submarine, a federal indictment states. Hernández had access to labs in Honduras and Colombia, where some of the cocaine was stamped “TH” for Tony Hernández.

“Hernández bribed law enforcement officials to protect drug shipments, solicited large bribes from major drug traffickers, and arranged machine gun-toting security for cocaine shipments,” said Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman in a news release.

The Justice Department said that Hernández helped import nearly 200,000 kilograms of cocaine. Hernández was accused of drug-related murders in 2011 and 2013, the release said.

One of the most explosive allegations against Hernández during the 11-day trial was that he funneled the drug money to National Party campaigns “to impact Honduran presidential elections in 2009, 2013, and 2017,” the release said. Between 2010 and 2013, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, helped Hernández with cocaine shipments and delivered a $1 million bribe to the Honduran president during the 2013 national elections in Honduras, according to the Justice Department.

Guzmán is the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel now serving a life sentence in the United States.

President Juan Orlando Hernández denied the accusations against him and tweeted that he received the news of the verdict with great sadness and that the decision was “based on the testimonies of confessed murderers.”

The allegations made in court against the Honduran president have sparked protests in the country and calls for his resignations. A group of Honduran citizens celebrated the verdict outside New York federal court with chants and banners that read “Fuera JOH” or “Out J-O-H,” the president’s initials.