Honduras former President Juan Orlando Hernandez is being transported to the U.S., in Tegucigalpa
Honduras former President Juan Orlando Hernández Photo by: Reuters/Fredy Rodriguez

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández began facing the trial that could see him spend the rest of his life behind bars this week, as he stands accused of playing a key role in the trafficking of drugs into the United States.

It is expected the trial will last between four and six weeks. Hernández has repeatedly requested the process be delayed, but his most recent petition was denied.

He faces long odds: two other people accused have already pleaded themselves guilty at the beginning of February. They are Carlos Bonilla, who was head of National Police during Hernández's tenure, and Mauricio Hernández Pineda, the former president's cousin. They admitted to being guilty of "conspiring to importing cocaine to the United States" and the possession of firearms to facilitate the movement of the drugs.

Perhaps considering that they entered plea deals, Hernández released a statement saying that the accusations against him are "false and unfair" and based on the claims of "confessed drug traffickers."

He added that these people are "capable of saying anything to achieve their revenge against me and see their sentences reduced, not paying for their crimes against hundreds of Hondurans and get new identities for their families." Juan Antonio Hernández, a brother of his, has already been sentenced to life in prison.

Hernández was arrested in February 2022 in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, and extradited to the United States two months later. Praised by the Trump administration for "stopping drugs at a level that has never happened," he saw a complete U-turn from the U.S. once Biden took office.

Even though he's being accused by the U.S., a team of Honduran prosecutors will also be present to determine whether the information brought up merits new charges against him or other people in their country.

Among the accusations against him stand out an alleged partnership with notorious Mexican kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, who is also currently in prison in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges.

"Around 2013, while Hernández was campaigning for president, he took roughly $1 million from drug-trafficking profits from Guzmán Loera," said the Department of Justice as part of the accusation. Hernández rejected the accusation and even requested that Guzmán be called to testify, a petition that was not upheld.

Hernández is the first former head of state to face these kind of charges in the U.S. since Panama's Manuel Noriega did so over 30 years ago.

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