What evidence is there against Juan Orlando Hernández?

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(CNN Spanish) -- 

In the most dramatic moment so far in the trial, Fabio Lobo, son of the former president of Honduras Porfirio Lobo, declared under oath this Thursday that he paid two bribes to Juan Orlando Hernández, who succeeded his father in the position and is currently on trial in New York on charges of drug trafficking and conspiracy to possess firearms.

The witness, who in 2017 was sentenced to 24 years in prison also for drug trafficking, stated that he had a “very close” friendship with Hernández, and that the payments he allegedly made took place during the campaign for the presidential elections that he won in 2013.

Lobo explained that, in exchange for these alleged bribes, he expected to receive political favors, information and support for drug trafficking.

In addition, he said that the money used came from his criminal activities, in which, he claimed, he worked with the Los Cachiros cartel.

When the Prosecutor's Office asked him if his father was aware of his link with Los Cachiros, Fabio Lobo answered yes.

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  • Witness says that the initials of Juan Orlando Hernández appear in notebooks seized in operations against drug trafficking

CNN is trying to contact former President Lobo, but so far has not received a response.

Dressed in a yellow prison suit and with his feet handcuffed, his appearance filled the room with tension, since he was one of the witnesses who had generated the most expectation.

When prosecutor David Robles called him, there was a loud expression of astonishment among the Honduran public present at the hearing.

Lobo, with all eyes on him, also contributed a share of theatricality, accentuating his interventions and placing suspenseful pauses between his answers.

According to his statement, Hernández himself would also have acknowledged that he received alleged contributions from members of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Furthermore, Lobo said that a leader of said Mexican cartel had told him that version.

Shortly after, the judge ended the day, so he is expected to continue testifying on Friday.

The then president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, speaks to the media on October 27, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.

(Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Lobo Jr. was the tenth witness for the Prosecutor's Office in the trial, which has already lasted eight days.

This Thursday, a Honduran woman identified by prosecutors as Andrea Santos also testified, who was the partner of Alexander Mendoza, alias “Porky,” identified by US authorities as a leader of the Mara Salvatrucha gang in Honduras.

During the interrogation, the witness confirmed that she heard recordings of calls between Mendoza and two of her allies intercepted by the authorities and in which Hernández was mentioned.

The audios were not transmitted at the hearing, but it was established that Santos identified and confirmed the identity of the callers.

  • Trial of Juan Orlando Hernández: a former leader of the Los Cachiros cartel claims that he paid US$250,000 to the former president's sister for the presidential campaign

Cross-examination of Cachiro

Earlier, the former president's defense resumed the cross-examination of Devis Leonel Rivera, co-founder of the Los Cachiros cartel, who on Wednesday referred to Hernández as his “partner.”

In an effort to undermine Rivera's credibility, the lawyers emphasized some contradictions in his testimony.

To do this, they showed the witness an official document from Honduras detailing that in September 2013 they seized 199 properties, two months before Rivera began his collaboration with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). in English).

The lawyers stressed that these seizures are evidence that Hernández was not complying with the alleged agreement that Rivera claims he had with him.

The witness responded: “Juan Orlando complied with me, he did not arrest me, he did accept the bribes, if he wanted to arrest me he could have done so.”

Demonstrators protest outside the trial of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández at Manhattan Federal Court on February 20, 2024 in New York City.

Hernández is accused of overseeing a "narco-state" and accepting millions in bribes from drug traffickers, including former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.

(Photo by Adam Gray/Getty Images)

The defense insisted: “Do you believe that, even so, that he complied by seizing his properties?

Because you also paid bribes so that they would not take away your properties, so that you can continue operating.”

Then, they reviewed more than 20 partners that Rivera had in drug trafficking.

One by one, the lawyer asked, “Was he your partner?

Was he extradited?”

In almost every case, the witness said yes.

“Then you fled Honduras and surrendered to the DEA due to the policies of Juan Orlando Hernández, because it was Juan Orlando Hernández who made you flee,” the defender concluded.

The former president has based his arguments on the fact that during his term (2014-2022) he maintained close collaboration with the United States in the fight against drug trafficking and laws against organized crime were approved, including the one that facilitated his own extradition, carried out three months later. that he left office.

For their part, prosecutors allege that Hernández allegedly used drug trafficking money to enrich himself and finance his political campaigns, and used “his public office, law enforcement and the army to support drug trafficking organizations.”

If the jury finds him guilty, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

The former president has not yet confirmed whether he will testify at the trial.

Juan Orlando Hernandez