HomeNewsUS Reveals Former Honduras President’s Place on Central America Corruption List

US Reveals Former Honduras President’s Place on Central America Corruption List


Officials in the United States have revealed that former Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández is included on a US government list of corrupt actors in Central America. However, it remains unclear if this will lead to formal criminal charges.

In a February 7 press release, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the government was revoking the former president’s visa and “declassifying and publicizing” that he was included on the so-called Engel List of corrupt actors published in July 2021.

“Juan Orlando Hernández has engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of corruption and narco-trafficking, and using the proceeds of illicit activity to facilitate political campaigns,” Blinken said.

SEE ALSO: Honduras President’s Alleged Role in Drug Conspiracy Comes Into Focus

He added that “Hernández was identified by name in sworn witness testimony in a US federal criminal proceeding as having received narco-trafficking proceeds as part of his campaign funding.”

Hernández has repeatedly denied the accusations against him, including writing in an open letter that he was “surprised” by the announcement. Last month, he argued in a Twitter thread that nobody should be “fooled by the false testimonies of narcos” after US Congresswoman Norma Torres called on the Justice Department to indict and extradite him. However, the latest sanctions are not based solely on the testimony of drug traffickers, they now also address alleged corruption committed by Hernández during his time in office.

Shortly after Torres’ statement, US Senator Bob Menéndez, who is the acting chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also urged President Joe Biden to designate Hernández as a “significant foreign narcotics trafficker,” citing a “growing body of incriminating evidence” of the former head of state’s “direct participation in drug trafficking.”

Hernández had said in a December 2021 interview with El Pais that he would join the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) after stepping down when Xiomara Castro assumed the presidency on January 27, effectively extending his immunity in what has become a safe haven for the region’s corrupt.

InSight Crime Analysis

The United States stood firmly by one of its premier allies in the region while he was in office, even in the face of criminal accusations that stretched back years. But since his departure, they’ve moved swiftly against him on paper.

Hernández’s brother, the former congressman Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, was convicted of drug and weapons charges more than two years ago in October 2019. During that trial, the former president featured prominently. Juan Orlando Hernández was linked to an apparent $1 million bribe delivered to Tony by former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo,” that was actually meant for the sitting president.

But just one day after his brother’s conviction in the United States, the US Chargé d’Affaires in Honduras at the time, Colleen Hoey, was photographed smiling alongside Juan Orlando. And shortly after that, Michael Kozak, then the US State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, called Honduras a “reliable partner” under President Hernández. Public support for the embattled president continued through the end of his mandate despite the many allegations against him.

SEE ALSO: Allegations Against Honduras President Add to Narco-State Case

Hernández’s brother later received life plus 30 years in prison for trafficking thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States in his leadership role atop what prosecutors called a “state-sponsored drug trafficking conspiracy.” The former president was also accused in a separate trial, that of convicted drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, who was recently sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison, of receiving bribes from drug traffickers to fund political campaigns, among other misconduct, such as offering military protection for cocaine shipments.

All of that said, it remains unclear if the US Justice Department will take the steps to formally file criminal charges against Hernández. For now, he is only barred from entering the United States but remains free.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Zimba the jaguar should not have been there. The biologist recognized it as the same jaguar she had ordered to…

COCAINE / 6 APR 2021

Recent drug charges against a little-known but powerful Venezuelan businessman come as a surprise given that he allegedly operated with…

BARRIO 18 / 21 DEC 2020

Welcome to InSight Crime’s Criminal GameChangers 2020, where we highlight the most important trends in organized crime in the Americas over the course of…

About InSight Crime


Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.


InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.


Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …


InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…


Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…