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Former Honduran president who waged war on Indigenous people convicted of drugs and weapons charges

Giovanni Torre -

A former Honduran president known for targeting the country’s Indigenous people was found guilty this month on three counts of drugs and weapons charges.

In a New York City trial, lawyers for
Juan Orlando Hernandez had attempted to convince jurors that the prosecution’s witnesses – including convicted drug traffickers and murderers – had fabricated allegations the former president had protected their operations as part of a “narco-state”, Reuters reports.

On March 8 the jury found Hernandez, who had long represented himself as an ally of the USA’s “war on drugs”, guilty of being a warrior for the other side.

Hernandez ran as conservative candidate in the 2013 Honduran presidential election and vowed to tackle crime and the flow of illegal drugs into the country.

Once in power, he instead pursued a campaign of repression against opponents and the country’s Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations.

Most notoriously,
Lenca (Indigenous) environmental activist Berta Caceres, co-founder and coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, was assassinated in 2016 by a local business executive with ties to the national government.

In 2017, after successfully pushing a constitutional change which allowed him to run for a second term, Hernandez was re-elected in a ballot international observers said was riddled with irregularities. The mass protests that followed were met with a drastic increase in repression, with dozens killed by security forces within days of the vote.

Hernandez was arrested by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents three weeks after he left office in January of 2022 and extradited to the US to stand trial in April that year.

Some Honduran expatriates in New York City celebrated when the guilty verdict was announced earlier this month, while others held a vigil for those killed by security forces and private thugs under Hernandez’s administration.

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