The plot thickens in what’s quickly becoming one of the year’s leading stories out of Honduras.
Six weeks after the brother of President Juan Orlando Hernandez was arrested in Miami on four counts of drug trafficking and related charges, a U.S. district court judge denied bail to Antonio “Tony” Hernandez on the grounds that he represented a significant flight risk and danger to the community.
In a letter to the judge submitted before Friday’s hearing, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated that, “For more than a decade, [Hernandez] abused his privilege and power in order to enrich himself by distributing massive amounts of cocaine in connection with staggering levels of political corruption.”
A former congressman, Hernandez is the latest in a string of high-profile politicians and drug traffickers from Honduras to face justice in the United States. As the brother of a sitting president, his trial – certain to expose more corruption and implicate more people – threatens like never before to reveal the state’s ties to the drug traffickers who made the country one of the world’s most dangerous and caused the flight of countless migrants to the north.
In an overview of the case, prosecutors stated that investigation by U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “have demonstrated that Honduras is one of the principal transshipment points in the world for cocaine that is produced in South America and imported into the United States.”
The day of his arrest on November 23, Hernandez was carrying a diplomatic Honduran passport. He first claimed that he had traveled to the U.S. to go shopping before later admitting to the meeting with the owner of a Mexican company, who he said wanted to invest in Honduras and with whom he discussed introducing to “a minister in Honduras who could facilitate a deal.”
A search of Hernandez allegedly turned up “at least six bank cards with foreign financial institutions that were issued in his name, and eight firearms licenses.” At the time he was carrying two cell phones, a review of which later found multiple photos of high-powered firearms, documents related to business dealings.