Honduras Corruption Intact after Ex-President’s Sentencing

Police guard former Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández, on his way to extradition to the U.S. in 2022. Photo: EFE

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The corrupt structure established by former president Juan Orlando Hernandez “is still in place” in Honduras, warned political analysts from the country. The former president (2014-2022) was sentenced to 45 years in prison by a New York court for various drug trafficking and weapons-related offenses; however, the international scandal has had no effect in Honduras.

Experts noted that the Honduran Public Prosecutor’s Office has not opened any investigation against the former president and his collaborators in the country, despite sending prosecutors to the former president’s trial in New York.

Honduran political parties, the business elite, and the authorities of Xiomara Castro’s government “say nothing,” emphasized lawyer and political analyst Lester Ramirez. “They act as if it did not happen to them or the Honduran system.”

This silence in the Honduran political class “is not surprising,” Ramirez stressed, noting that a “patrimonial view of the State” prevails in Honduras, where the State is seen as a booty, and because corruption has been “like fuel for political parties in Honduras.”

A Public Prosecutor’s Office That Does Not Investigate

In an interview with the program Esta Semana, sociologist and associate researcher at the Honduran Documentation Center, Leticia Salomon, highlighted that Honduran society remains “astonished to see how the Public Prosecutor’s Office did nothing” during Juan Orlando Hernandez’s government, and “has still done absolutely nothing to investigate and prosecute all the suspicions and accusations of drug trafficking and corruption regarding the former president and all his associates.”

Salomon believes the Public Prosecutor’s inaction is related to the fact that the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General were appointed after “a series of secret negotiations in Congress.”

“That ministry — she continued — still has a highly significant political weight, and what it does will depend on what the deputies negotiated in the Congress.”

She recalled that, when Hernandez left the Presidency and knew that the United States would request his extradition, his lawyers went to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to see if there was any accusation against him so that the extradition would be denied. However, there was no open case, despite all the scandal that represented the impunity with which he operated in the country.

Salomon said the US court’s sentence represents “a severe blow to the justice system in Honduras,” and she emphasized that there is “a sense of helplessness in society, knowing that the Public Prosecutor’s Office — which is there to defend society — did absolutely nothing to investigate the cases for which society denounced him in the streets.”

Attorney Lester Ramirez and sociologist Leticia Salomon

Concern Among Business Elites

Meanwhile, the business elite, evangelical churches, and media outlets co-opted by the former president remain “attentive and deeply concerned” about what is happening in the United States regarding the trial against former president Hernandez, according to Salomón.

She added that these sectors “are worried about what he might say or what he said and did not say in the United States that could implicate them and increase the list of candidates for extradition already in the hands of the Honduran Foreign Ministry.”

In Ramirez’s opinion, the effects of the former president Hernandez’s conviction and the lack of investigation into the corrupt structures still operating in Honduras will be seen in the medium term when the competition for the 2025 general elections begins.

“Publicly, nothing is being investigated. Perhaps something is happening (in secret), but the impact will be felt later. When we enter the intense electoral competition, these will be the accusations that will be made,” Ramírez concluded.

However, the analyst does not believe that these issues will affect any particular political party, as politicians from different parties are involved in this corruption scheme.

As all parties are involved, “they share the reputational risk,” he warned. Therefore, “since it is a shared risk, everyone bears the burden and does not see it as a problem that affects any one of them,” he said.

“Two to Three Governments” to Dismantle the Structures

Salomon and Ramirez agreed that dismantling the corrupt structures created by former president Juan Orlando Hernández is an “enormous” challenge, both for Xiomara Castro’s government and for future governments. Besides time, “political will is needed,” they emphasized.

Drug trafficking and corruption are deeply rooted in Honduras, becoming part of the State and its relations with society, especially with the sectors that were partners and accomplices of the former president.

“The situation is complicated. This government can start that dismantling process, but I estimate it will take two to three governments to recover some of the legitimacy of the justice system in the country,” the sociologist emphasized.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.

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