Honduran President's Brother Found Guilty of Drug Trafficking

President Juan Orlando Hernandez said that traffickers were using his brother's trial to seek revenge.

A New York Federal Court on Friday found Juan Antonio Hernandez (aka Tony), the brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), guilty of charges of drug trafficking, use of weapons and lying to authorities.

During this trial President JOH was denounced by cooperating former members of the US Attorney’s Office for allegedly receiving bribes for his campaigns to Congress and the presidency, which led the U.S. justice to define the Central American country as a "Narco-State."

In his first public reaction to the veredict, the Honduran President said he was receiving the news with "great sadness" and rejected how his country has been labeled.

"I strongly reject... the unfair and false accusations that Honduras is a narco-state or a state that sponsors drug trafficking," JOH said.

Tony Hernandez was arrested in Miami in 2018 and accused of helping smuggle almost 220 cocaine tons into the U.S. while enjoying the protection of the Honduran president.

Hondurans are demanding again that JOH quit for being a 'narco'. The sign reads, "Out with narcopoliticians, out with JOH"

The U.S. jury heard testimonies from drug traffickers who are now cooperating with authorities, including former mayor Amilcar Ardon and former gang leader Devis Rivera.

Ardon told jurors that Tony promised Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman protection for his shipments in exchange for a US$1 million donation to JOH's 2013 presidential campaign.

In addition to this, Rivera, who admitted to murdering 78 people, testified that he paid bribes to multiple Honduran officials including Tony's brother.

The Honduran president, who began his second term in January 2018 amid allegations of electoral fraud, has not been charged with a crime yet.

Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has been trying to present himself as responsible for breaking up the most powerful cartels in his country, said that traffickers were using his brother's trial to seek revenge.

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A Child Dies Violently in Honduras Every Day: UNICEF

"The gangs sow terror throughout the country and offer young people an impossible choice: Join or die," UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore said.

In Honduras, a child under 18 dies violently every day, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

RELATED: Honduras Imprisons Journalist for Uncovering Corruption Scandal

UNICEF director Henrietta Fore Wednesday visited Honduras, which she emphasized is not a nation at war, though the rate of violence is astronomical. Since 2010, Honduras has been host to one of the highest murder rates in the world.

"Honduras continues to be a dangerous place for too many children and adolescents. The gangs sow terror throughout the country and offer young people an impossible choice: Join or die," she said.

Fore listened to the testimonies of the affected population and indicated that more than half a million children of school age do not have access to secondary education.

Un niño muere en Honduras cada día. Para un país que no participa en una guerra activa la cifra es asombrosa. Una educación de calidad y un fin a la violencia pueden ofrecer esperanza y mejores oportunidades para niños y niñas.

"Leaving school is the only way in which young people can escape the threats and harassment of the gangs, and their forced recruitment, especially when on their way to school they go through areas controlled by those," Fore explained.

Thousands of Honduran children and their families continue to be forced to escape from increased violence, poverty and few to no opportunities to attend school or work. UNICEF warned that the journey of migrants along very dangerous routes will continue until a solution for the problems that have led to the exodus is achieved.

One of the testimonies received by Fore asserted that "we do not migrate to have a better life, we migrate to survive."

Fore has called on the Central American governments to implement social policies that allow access to education and end violence. H

Her visit and comments come just as the “mother of all caravans” is building up in Honduras, according to Mexican authorities. At least 1,500 people have begun to march northward to Mexico and the United States following the footsteps of previous caravans that made similar journies last year many of whom were denied entry into the United States and are waiting in Mexico for their asylum applications. Others have received refugee status in Mexico.

 

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Honduras: Police Attack 'Red Vest' Protests Against Election Fraud

"There are people who have been gassed and beaten" by police, ex-president Manuel Zelaya told a local TV station.

Thousands of people Sunday in Honduras blocked roads in different areas of the country, in what have been dubbed the "red vests" protests, a year after the inauguration of President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH).

RELATED Honduras: Women's Day Rejects Violence and Impunity

Groups of supporters from the leftist Freedom and Refoundation party (Free), organized by former President Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009), took to the streets a year after Hernandez took office in protest the election of JOH by electoral fraud, according to opponents.

However, what began as a day of peaceful protests, turned into a confrontation between demonstrators and members of the National Police, when the latter fired tear gas at the crowds in a bid to repress the civic demonstrations.

"There are people who have been gassed and beaten" by police, ex-president Manuel Zelaya told a local TV station.

"People need a fair government, not a dictatorship," Zelaya told reporters on a bus with supporters in the Colonia San Miguel neighborhood of the capital Tegucigalpa.

Represión en la colonia San Miguel de Tegucigalpa.

The main ramps to different highway arteries were cordoned off by the military, while demonstrators were attacked. Sources among the protesters denounced the intimidation tactics used by police throughout the day.

The marches carried out by the opposition in the country, are protected in Article 3 of the Honduran constitution, which states that no one owes obedience to a usurping government. More and intensifying protests are expecting in the coming weeks.

The United States recognized Hernandez as the victor of the disputed presidential elections back in 2017, allegedly because he was believed to be able to stem the flow of illegal drugs and migrants to the Texas border; however, today the Honduran exodus to the U.S. and the president’s links to drug-trafficking highlight the government’s inability to deliver on either front.

On Jan. 17, between 900 and 1,000 Hondurans gathered at the country's border with Guatemala, waiting to cross en route to the United States, local police chief Jorge Rodriguez told Reuters.

In November, the Honduran president’s brother Juan Antonio Hernandez was arrested in Miami and charged with drug trafficking, dealing a severe blow to the president's credibility.

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Honduran Migrants Break Police Barrier, Enter Guatemala

Honduran and Guatemalan authorities try to halt the new caravan heading towards the United States.

A total of 709 people from the migrant caravan that left Honduras Monday crossed the Guatemalan border on Tuesday with the intention of reaching the United States in search of better living conditions.

RELATED: US: Human Rights Defenders Protest To Support Migrants

The director of Honduras' Permanent Contingency Commission (Copeco), Lisandro Rosales, said that 359 migrants entered Guatemalan territory in the Agua Caliente's border area.

While another 350 Hondurans broke police barrier to enter the country irregularly, trying to continue on their trip to Mexico.

Rosales indicated that 23 unaccompanied minors were referred to the Directorate of Children, Family and Adolescents (Dinaf) for their accompaniment during the return to their places of origin.

Hundreds in new U.S.-bound migrant caravan cross into Guatemala: Several hundred Honduran migrants in a new U.S.-bound caravan crossed into Guatemala on Tuesday, as U.S. President Donald Trump seized on news…

One of those cases is that of two Honduran brothers, aged 12 and 14, who were abandoned by their aunt. The minors will be reunited with their grandmother, who is responsible for their care, since their mother lives in the United States.

On Tuesday, authorities increased immigration control measures in Agua Caliente region in an attempt to prevent the passage of the caravan. The police installed 54 checkpoints at the borders with Guatemala and El Salvador.

The Honduran authorities reiterated the call to their compatriots to not "put their lives at risk on the migratory route."

The latest from leaves San Pedro Sula in the middle of the night. Entire families carry nothing but the clothes on their backs in the pouring rain. Some know the horrors of the journey, but said they are desperate to escape violence, poverty, and extortion.

According to Honduras Ministry of Foreign Affairs, none of the thousands of migrants who made caravan trips to the U.S. last October "has managed to obtain political asylum or permission to remain in that territory on a regular basis."

At least 11 Hondurans from the first caravans died while attempting to reach U.S. territory.

Using the motto "In Honduras They Kill Us," the new caravan's occupants began the preparation to leave Honduras on Dec. 14 with hopes to escape their homeland's high instances of poverty and violence.

Honduras is one of the world's most violence-plagued countries with a homicide rate of 43 per 100,000 inhabitants. The figure also falls in line with being Central America's highest extreme poverty rate.

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New Caravan Leaves El Salvador, Migrants Move Forward Monday

The newest exodus of migrants left El Salvador on Sunday while the first wave reaches Tapantepec, Mexico planning to leave Monday for Niltepec.

Inspired by the over 7,000 migrants who have left out of Honduras and Guatemala over the past two weeks, a group of migrants left El Salvador early on Sunday to be a part of the Migrant Caravan or Central American Exodus as it has been branded by participants, in order to escape the overwhelming violence and inequality in these Northern Triangle countries and seek refuge in Mexico and the United States.

RELATED: Honduras: Priest-Led Caravan Supporters Reach Tegucigalpa

A group of more than 300 Salvadorans left San Salvador on Sunday taking the same trek as the original Exodus that left Honduras on Oct. 13 that gathered additional asylum seekers in Guatemala along the way and is now in Tapantepec, Mexico in Oaxaca state.

Salvadoran police traveled with the group Sunday as migrants carried their backpacks and water bottles, protecting themselves from the hot sun with hats. Some mothers pushed their children in strollers.

U.S. President Donald Trump initially threatened to stop sending aid to the Honduran government that in 2017 received over US$19 million in military and anti-drug measures from the United States. The head of state now says another 800 troops will head to the southern border to deal with what he calls a national security “crisis.”

Trump and Republicans have sought to make immigration a major issue before the Nov. 6 elections, in which the party is battling to keep control of Congress.

The largest portion of the Exodus, approximately 4,500-6,000 people, has been resting in Tapantepec, Mexico since Saturday morning prior to being blocked by the police about 12km north of Arriago. Cell phone service was also blocked, according to Amelia Frank-Vitale, Ph.D. candidate and expert in Central American migration.

She told teleSUR on Sunday afternoon after being embedded with the group for several days: “There was a big assembly and most people are pretty eager to keep moving but for a number of reasons people decided to stay one more day in Tapantepec and head to Niltepec tomorrow morning.”

She said the group’s “general enthusiasm and spirit is pretty amazing."

Frank-Vitale says of the group's unity: “There's a difficult but beautiful democratic process happening here when decisions are made. People get up and speak. There are assemblies that everyone is involved in who want to be and by a show of hands or noise, decisions are made.”

While leaving out of San Salvador, 49-year-old caravaner Hernan Quinteros shouted to those he traveled with: “We’re asking the all-powerful to look after us, to guide us, to free us from all that is bad,” reports AP.

El Salvador’s government said it had solidarity with the migrants and respected their right to mobilize, but urged them not to risk their lives on the way.

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Over 70 Homicides This Year in Honduras, Down From 2017

Honduras has registered a total of 71 homicides so far this year, that’s about 12 people per month, down from last year’s 107 deaths registered between January and June.

According to the Observatory of Violence at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), of the 70 victims, 83 percent were men.

The UNAH reports that most of these homicides are actual attacks on several people. All 71 people were killed in 21 massacres this year.

Four of these concerted attacks took place at the victims’ homes. Seven were drive-by shootings. One elderly woman and several minors are among those who have been killed in Honduras this year so far.  

Several of the attacks targeted families and were in connection to land disputes. On February 12 three family members - Nahum Jacinto, Augusto Jacinto, and Ismael Jacinto - were gunned down together at dawn in the Olancho department. The alleged perpetrators, a father and son duo were taken into custody for the crime. On June 5 three brothers were killed while working the land in Santa Barbara near the Guatemalan border.

According to the study, a mother and her two daughters, as well as three brothers were all gunned down in Olancho on separate occasions over land.

Olancho, where the Aguan River Valley is located, has been a site of land disputes, assassinations and impunity over the past decade even before the 2009 overthrow of the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya. According to the Center For Constitutional Rights, in 2011 forty land-rights activists were murdered in the region.

While Honduras had the highest homicide rate of any non-warring nation in 2012, luckily this statistic has been on the fall. According to the UNAH observatory, there were 107 killing by this time last year, and 170 victims in 2016.

What is on the rise in Honduras is government corruption. In March the Honduran Congress passed a measure that could potentially protect public officials from being charged with embezzlement. President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Congress also passed legislation that sidelined the Mission Against Corruption and Impunity and Honduras (MACCIH), the anti-corruption agency that linked Hernandez and several of his party members to "institutionalized corruption" within the government.

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New Investigation Exposes US Support for 2009 Honduras Coup

U.S. officials were more concerned with maintaining military power in Honduras than overturning the coup, the investigation reveals.

A new investigation conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, CEPR, reveals key details involving U.S. officials and their support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya.

RELATED: Honduran General Election Campaigning Kicks Off

The investigation, published by The Intercept, was based on military intelligence documents and interviews with Honduran and U.S. officials. It focuses on the Pentagon and the United States Southern Command, SOUTHCOM, and their interests in ensuring the success of the coup against Zelaya by the country's military.

Here’s what CEPR found:

- A top U.S. military official met with Honduran coup plotters a day prior to the coup, demonstrating that they knew about the forthcoming ouster. 
- A Honduran military official’s warning to the U.S. ambassador was met with “indifference.”
- A retired U.S. general provided assistance to Honduran military leaders advocating for the coup, according to interviewed sources, confirming previous allegations.
- U.S. military officials were guided by an “obsessive concern” with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region as opposed to domestic Honduran issues. 

Overall, what the investigation demonstrates is that the Pentagon's main interest was to maintain close relations with close Honduran military allies, rather than overturning the coup.

“This is a story that reveals much about how foreign policy works in general, not just in Honduras,” CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston said in a statement.

“The investigation shows the often hidden roles that various actors within the U.S. foreign policy establishment play in determining and carrying out policy. What’s clear is that personal relationships matter just as much as any official policy position announced in Washington.”

RELATED: Honduras Marks 8 Years Since US-Backed Coup Against Zelaya

Prior to his removal, Zelaya sought to hold a non-binding, nationwide poll on whether to include a fourth ballot box in the forthcoming elections to usher in a National Constituent Assembly for the rewriting of the country’s constitution. The effort was intended to democratize the country’s laws, which have traditionally favored the Honduran elite. 

Zelaya had also begun forging ties with progressive Latin American governments — like Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia — while joining the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA.

On June 28, 2009, high ranking army officials received orders issued by the Supreme Court to detain Zelaya and transferred him, by force, to Costa Rica.

In 2010, Zelaya was allowed to return to Honduras, a country that plunged into rampant violence following the coup. Since then, hundreds of social activists and dozens of journalists have been killed by suspected right-wing death squads.

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Honduran Berta Caceres Is Still a Symbol

Havana, Jan 12 (Prensa Latina) The voice of Berta Caceres, a symbol today of the resistance of the poor and needy in Honduras and the rest of Latin America, still resonates in this capital through their daughters, who are bearers of an inheritance that transcends borders.

We want to continue the legacy of our mother, the warrior turned into a banner of the citizen and indigenous struggle and murdered in March 2016, Laura Zuñiga Caceres told Prensa Latina, from the headquarters of the National Sex Education Center (CENESEX).

Zuñiga stressed that this fact shows the way forward, and teaches what can be achieved when the peoples defend their sovereignty.

We are here as part of this international embrace, to walk in the country and carry the message of insurgency and justice for our mother, a woman, a leader who was not afraid to say things and get annoyed the powerful classes, the young social activist said.

We are very happy to be in Cuba as bearers of this cry of conscience, said Berta Zuñiga Caceres, who called to continue believing in the people.

We have to keep hope that our people will not forget the figure of Berta Caceres, who suffered all the violence of the capitalist system that has passed over our territory, the racist system that attacks the indigenous communities and the patriarchal system, which continues belittling women, she said.

Laura and Berta Zuñiga Caceres are participating in the activities on occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, which will culminate in the Second International Symposium on Gender Violence, Prostitution, Sexual Tourism and Human Trafficking 'Berta Caceres in Memorian', to be held from January 23 to 25.

Berta Isabel Caceres Flores was a Lenca indigenous and feminist activist of the Honduran environment, who was killed on March 3, 2016, after several years receiving threats against her life.

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