JOH got bribes from El Chapo, U.S. prosecutors say (Oct. 3, 2019)
U.S. prosecutors accused Tony Hernández of accepting $1 million from notorious Mexican cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, destined for his elder brother, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández. The allegations were made during the first day of what promises to be a high-profile trial in New York that will last about 10 courtroom days. Though JOH, as he is known, has not been formally charged, prosecutors accuse him of essentially running a narco state and depending on drug money to fund his political campaigns.
Prosecutors also accused JOH of accepting about $1.5 million in drug proceeds to win his first presidential campaign in 2013, in exchange for traffickers receiving protection. It's not clear whether the alleged Chapo bribe is part of that, or separate, nor when the Mexican cartel leader allegedly made the payment.
JOH said on Twitter said it was "100% false, absurd and ridiculous" that he received money from drug traffickers.
Tony Hernández has pleaded not-guilty to charges. Prosecutors say he ran a thriving cocaine network thanks to the political protection afforded by JOH.
Part of the evidence prosecutors will present today includes a notebook which supposedly documents part of the cocaine trafficking Tony Hernández is accused of, that ascribes some payments to "JOH," which could be a reference to the Honduran president.
Court testimony will likely implicate JOH's predecessor, former president Porfirio López, whose 2009 presidential campaign was allegedly financed by a $2 million contribution from the same drug dealer and National Party politician who allegedly financed Hernández, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors will also present the 2009 coup against then-president Manuel Zelaya as a relevant step for the drug conspiracy to later succeed, according to some reports.
The case comes as JOH faces anger at home, where he is deeply unpopular. Protesters seized on the allegations after they became public in an August court filing.
However, the U.S. Trump administration has allied with JOH on migration issues -- last week the two countries signed an agreement that would allow the U.S. to send asylum seekers to Honduras, and U.S. officials praised JOH. At the migration pact signing, U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated Hernández who he said is doing a "fantastic" job. (See Sept. 26's briefs.)
(New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Univisión, Criterio, InSight Crime, El Heraldo, Reuters)
Environmental activism in Honduras can be deadly, but instead of protecting land defenders, the government has sought to criminalize them, writes Meghan Krausch in the Progressive.
Ongoing violent protests threaten to push Haiti into a humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, which said demonstrations are hindering humanitarian organizations' relief work for impoverished Haitians. Already unrest has disrupted hospitals, orphanages and emergency services while keeping some 2 million children from school. Hospitals face significant challenges to operate. Though disturbances waned yesterday, there appears to be an impasse between anti-government protesters and President Jovenel Moïse. (Miami Herald and Associated Press)
Moïse might still be president, but he cannot govern under current circumstances, explains the Latin America Risk Report. However pushing for a swift election to resolve the crisis would be a mistake warns the report. "A rapidly planned poor election process is likely to continue and enhance Haiti’s current challenges."
The protests roiling Haiti are about a lot of things -- including acute fuel shortages, natural disasters, and an inflation plagued economy -- but the main underlying issue is corruption, argues Miami Herald correspondent Jacqueline Charles in an interview with Democracy Now. "Haitians, if you talk to them, when you hear them on the streets, what they are denouncing is impunity and corruption that is happening. Their feeling is that because of mismanagement of the economy, because of the corruption, this is why the social situation is the way that it is. This is why there isn’t fuel or there’s these chronic fuel shortages."
Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra was scheduled to present a new cabinet today -- in the midst of a political crisis after he dissolved Congress this week and lawmakers attempted to suspend him in return. Lawmakers met yesterday and decided to take the case to the Constitutional Tribunal. (La República, Infobae, see yesterday's post and Tuesday's.)
Popular anger against lawmakers helped strengthen Vizcarra's hand in the standoff, reports the Associated Press.
The government said that vice president Mercedes Aráoz's resignation is invalid, because it was submitted to the head of the dissolved Congress. (Infobae)
The Trump administration likely won't lift restrictions on trading Venezuela's debt until President Nicolás Maduro leaves power, reports Bloomberg.
Rather than invoking the mutual defense Rio Treaty with regards to the Venezuela crisis, countries in the region should look to the Larreta Doctrine which -- though never adopted -- sought to create a framework to collectively protect and defend democracy in the Americas, argue Tom Long and Max Paul Friedman in Americas Quarterly.
Venezuela's crisis is affecting Cuban economics, to the point where some are concerned of a return to the post-Soviet era of shortages known as the Special Period, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Ecuador declared a state of exception in the midst of protests spurred by the government's decision to eliminate fuel subsidies, reports El País. (See yesterday's briefs.)
The Bolsonaro administration's plan to pave an Amazon highway would trigger an explosion of deforestation in Amazonas state, say activists. (Reuters)
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised to soon unveil a set of major infrastructure projects drawn up by the private sector to lift the economy, reports Reuters.
Argentina's latest debt crisis happened so fast that Kenneth Rogoff compares it to "60-second Shakespeare," in a Project Syndicate column.
A group of environmental activists have set sail from Amsterdam on a seven-week voyage to Chile, where they will attend a UN climate conference to be held in Santiago in December. (Guardian)
Panama became the first Central American country to ban plastic bags. (Reuters)