Honduras drug trafficking case highlights danger of unchecked corruption
19 Apr 2021

The recent U.S. sentencing of the Honduran president’s brother for drug trafficking highlights what happens when corruption runs amok in a country, with consequences that ripple out far beyond that territory’s own borders.

During his day in court last month, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez unsuccessfully made his last attempt to squirm out of the grasp of his inevitable sentence of life in prison. Hernandez’s counsel claimed his client’s conduct caused no harm to U.S. citizens. “Frankly … I believe the citizens of this country have had a direct negative impact on themselves with their voracious appetite for illegal narcotics,” the counsel argued.

I’d heard this exact same argument before, when I lived undercover within the Medellín Cartel. The likes of Pablo Escobar always jokingly suggested, “If there was no demand, there’d be no supply.” But this proclamation was now delivered with a claim of honesty by an officer of the court.

It was one example of how Hernandez was unapologetic about his actions, despite being confronted with the damage they caused. He rattled on about how his lawyers had failed him and how he suspected the government had withheld evidence of his innocence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Laroche hit back hard: “The defendant’s statements to the court were astonishing. Given a chance to show even the slightest bit of remorse or contrition for his abhorrent conduct, he instead spent his time complaining about his attorneys. That’s stunning, but also speaks to exactly who this individual is.”

Laroche defined Hernandez as a central figure in one of the largest and most violent cocaine trafficking conspiracies in the world. He added that, for 15 years, Hernandez and his coconspirators used social and political power to operate Honduras as a narco-state. “They were able to do so by conspiring with some of the most powerful individuals in that country, including his brother, the current president of Honduras,” he said.

Laroche noted the massive corruption promoted by Hernandez had real consequences for Honduras. It transformed the country into one of the principal transshipment points for cocaine in the world and caused the country to become one of the most violent places on the planet. He noted that, in 2013, the city of San Pedro Sula was the deadliest place in the world, and that two out of three Hondurans now live in poverty.

Looking beyond Honduras, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel made some interesting observations about the 185,000 kilograms of cocaine Hernandez helped ship to the United States. He explained that, since one kilogram of cocaine provides 8,000 doses to users, Hernandez’s importations to the United States enabled 1.5 billion doses of cocaine. That’s enough for every single American to have 4 1/2 snorts.

By Robert Mazur, Compliance Week, 15 April 2021

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