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New York: Former Honduran president sentenced to 45 years in prison for drug trafficking

The former president must pay an $8 million fine and serve 5 years of supervised release at the end of his sentence.

Honduras,Juan Orlando HernándezWikimedia Commons

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Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was sentenced to 45 years in prison after he was found guilty on March 8 of drug and arms trafficking in the United States.

At a hearing in New York, Judge Kevin Castel further indicated that Hernandez, 55, who served two consecutive terms as president from 2014 to 2022, must pay $8 million in fines and serve 5 years of supervised release at the end of his prison sentence.

"Juan Orlando Hernandez's role was to use his political power as president of Congress and as president of Honduras to limit the risk of drug traffickers in exchange for money," the judge said in reading out the sentence.

"I am innocent and I was unjustly and improperly accused," said the president, who arrived at the courtroom walking with a cane because he had an accident playing soccer, according to his lawyer Renato Stabile.

Hernandez listened to Judge Castel's sentence, who was very harsh with his tone, although he imposed practically the minimum sentence for the three charges for which he was found guilty by a jury verdict on March 8.

New York prosecutors accused him of creating a "narco-state" and turning Honduras into a "superhighway" through which much of drug trafficking from Colombia passed.

Between 2004 and 2022, from his posts as congressman, president of Congress and then president of the Republic, Hernandez participated in and protected a network that sent more than 400 tons of cocaine to the United States, prosecutors said Wednesday.

In exchange, he allegedly received millions of dollars from drug cartels, including Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who has been sentenced to life in prison in the United States.

He was extradited in April 2022 to the United States, three months after handing over the presidency to his successor, leftist Xiomara Castro.