Honduran President Benjamin Yernandez.
A Honduran drug gang leader testified today in a New York courtroom that he bribed Honduran President Benendez with $250,000 to get a government contract in exchange for not being arrested and extradited to the United States.
Reuters reports that Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, head of the drug gang Los Cachiros, testified at the trial of suspected smuggler Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez that the bribe was paid in 2012 when Juan Orlando Hernandez was a member of Congress. The bribe was paid in cash to Hernandez’s late sister, Hilda Hernandez, in 2012 when Juan Orlando was speaker of Congress.
The money was protection money so that the Honduran military or police would not arrest me or my brother and we would not be extradited to the United States,” Rivera said.
Yenandez is listed as a co-conspirator in Fuentes’ indictment, but has repeatedly denied any involvement in drug smuggling. Fuentes 8 also did not plead guilty.
After the U.S. sanctioned the shell company that Rivera claimed to own, Rivera struck a deal with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2013 and turned himself in about two years later.
The bribe money given to Yenandez was also used to ensure that the Honduran government would continue to provide road work contracts in order to “continue to launder the money from drug smuggling,” said Levera.
Rivera also noted that he paid former Macronix President Manuel Zelaya $500,000 in 2006 to make his cousin the security minister, but the personnel check was never cashed.
Zelaya denied the allegations and tweeted on social media, “I never appointed a criminal organizer as a minister, nor was I pressured by the U.S. Embassy (to appoint a minister), and this is hard evidence that I never took a bribe.”
According to the latest revelations, Rivera alleges that he also paid incumbent Vice President Ricardo Alvarez $500,000 when Alvarez was a presidential candidate. Rivera paid the bribe in exchange for not being arrested or extradited; Alvarez allegedly promised to repeal extradition laws between the U.S. and Honduras if he was elected president.
Rivera said, “I’m bothered because the DEA and the New York court only mentioned myself and my brother, but not the corrupt drug smuggling politicians we bribed, nor the police and military we worked with.”
Alvarez strongly denied in a tweet that he had taken money from Rivera or anyone accused of smuggling drugs and committing other forms of criminal acts.
He said, “I have nothing to hide. Given that I can prove the legitimacy of the income, I am at the disposal of my government.”
The allegations could complicate the actions of the new U.S. President Joe Biden administration, which wants to solve the Central American migration problem by investing $4 billion.