On January 8, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a Motion in Limine in the case of United States v. Geovanny Fuentes Ramires. Ordinarily, the filing of a routine pre-trial motion of this type would not attract much attention, but in this case, the government’s factual allegations are striking. Before delving into the more salacious aspects of the court filing, it is necessary to review the case against Ramires himself.
Ramires’ arrest was a significant event in and of itself. Based in Honduras, he is alleged to be one of the largest cocaine and arms dealers in Latin America. Ramires was arrested on a sealed Complaint from the Southern District of New York alleging significant narcotics trafficking and firearms offenses. At the time of his arrest, he was accompanied by a Honduran Congressman, and the Complaint alleges that Ramires operated with the support of Honduran government officials and the Honduran National Police. His trial in New York is currently scheduled to begin on January 27, 2021.
At his trial, Ramires appears to rely upon the testimony of Honduran officials to establish a defense of the government’s charges. The government’s Motion in Limine seeks to introduce evidence of Honduran government corruption among other evidence. One item of evidence concerns a witness identified as “CC-4”, according to the description provided by government, CC-4 is described as the president and brother of Tony Hernandez. This describes President Juan Orlando Hernandez. According to the government’s factual allegations in the Motion in Limine, Hernandez accepted a $1 million payment for the Sinaloa Cartel to protect cocaine shipments transiting through Honduras. The Honduran President also saw that Ramires received equipment, support and protection from the Honduran military.
In some of the more salacious allegations, Hernandez is reported to have said that he sought to move “massive quantities of cocaine to the United States” and “wanted to shove drugs right up the noses of the gringos.” President Hernandez denies any involvement with Ramires, and he has not been indicted in the United States, at least in any publicly available documents.
If the government’s allegations are true, there can be little doubt that Honduras is truly a narco-state where narcotics traffickers are in complete control. The son of President Hernandez’s predecessor, Fabio Lobo is currently serving a 24-year prison sentence in the Unites States for conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States. According to the government, Fabio Lobo was a “fixer” who used his political and family connections to assist Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, the former leader of the Cachiros Drug Organization. According to Maradiaga, who is currently serving a prison sentence in the United States, President Hernandez began cooperating with narcotics traffickers even before his presidential term began.
What is most surprising is that until recently, President Hernandez earned high praise from the highest levels of the U.S. government, including the President of the United States himself, Donald Trump, who said at a December 2019 meeting in Florida: “We’re delighted to have with us President Juan Orlando Hernandez. . .[turning toward Hernandez] And I have to tell you—thank you, sir—that President Hernandez is working with the U.S. very closely. You know what’s going on on our southern border. And we’re winning after years and years of losing. We’re stopping drugs at a level that has never happened.”
To be fair, Donald Trump is not the first American politician to praise Hernandez. In 2015, while serving as Vice-President, President Biden met with President Hernandez to review the ongoing cooperation between the United States and Honduras. It now appears that at least two administrations were duped by President Hernandez.
President Hernandez continues to serve as President of what the U.S. government says is a corrupt narco-state, while being a close U.S. ally. The level of corruption and what appears to be the complicity of the U.S. government undermines trust in the ongoing anti-narcotics efforts of both the U.S. and Honduras. Change is needed.