A key witness in the New York drug trial of a Honduran businessman told the court on Thursday he paid bribes totaling $1.25 million dollars to top politicians, including president Juan Orlando Hernandez.
Of that money, $250,000 dollars was paid to Hernandez’ sister Hilda Hernandez, in 2012, prior to that years' presidential primary, according to Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, a powerful former drug lord who surrendered to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2015. He said the bribe was arranged by a local legislator and paid to Hilda Hernandez to secure “protection so that we would not be arrested ... and so that my brother and I would not be extradited."
At the time Juan Orlando Hernandez was president of the National Assembly and was running as a candidate for president for the ruling National Party.
Hernandez has previously been accused of receiving bribes from other drug traffickers, including $1 million in 2013 from Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman.
Another $500,000 dollars was paid to Ricardo Alvarez, the former mayor of Tegucigalpa who was also a candidate for president, but lost his party's primary to Hernandez. Alvarez is the current vice president of Honduras.
Rivera was testifying in the New York drug trial of Honduran businessman Geovanny Fuentes who prosecutors say ran a cocaine laboratory in northern Honduras, partnering with president Hernandez to flood the United States with drugs.
Rivera, the former head of the 'Los Cachiros' crime family, also testified to an earlier bribe in 2006 of $500,000 dollars to former president and Liberal Party leader, Mel Zelaya.
President Hernandez, has accused 'Los Cachiros' of using lies against him to win reduced sentences in return. "Los Cachiros ... have been lying repeatedly. They have no evidence to back up their lies," he told the Honduran Congress in a speech on February 24.
In fact, Los Cachiros were driven out of Honduras by the government's firm actions against drug traffickers, he claimed. "They surrendered to the United States because with my government their party was over," Hernandez said.