Bob Menéndez, the congressman who heads the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Thursday for former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández's visa to be revoked and for him to be sanctioned for being "a drug kingpin abroad."
Menéndez said in a statement that he sent a letter to the State Department and the US Treasury making the request.
“The United States must continue to demonstrate its support for the rule of law and the peoples of all of Latin America by identifying, denouncing, and punishing any foreign official implicated in drug trafficking and the undermining of democracy in the hemisphere, regardless of whether or not themselves are presidents or high-ranking officials of allied countries,” Menéndez wrote in his letter.
Hernández has faced accusations of ties to drug trafficking for years in the federal court of the southern district of New York that he has denied. His brother Tony Hernández was sentenced in March 2021 to life in prison for having brought tons of drugs into the United States. Prosecutors allege that the president collaborated with him, although so far there is no formal accusation against him.
The sanctions under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act imply the freezing of the assets that the sanctioned person has in US territory and the prohibition of US citizens from carrying out commercial transactions with the sanctioned person.
Hernández finished his term last month after being elected for the first time in late 2013. The new president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, was sworn in a week ago as the first woman to hold that position.
According to US prosecutors, Hernández received several payments from drug traffickers in exchange for guaranteeing them the protection of the Honduran government. The money, prosecutors say, was used to finance electoral campaigns and buy votes from National Party politicians to help the president.
Former drug traffickers who testified at the Tony Hernández trial in 2019 claimed that President Hernández received various bribes, including a $1 million payment from Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The alleged payment was made in 2013 through Tony Hernandez, they said. That year Hernández was a candidate for the presidency.
Menéndez is not the only congressman who has called for Hernández to be punished.
Norma Torres, a California representative in the lower house, recently sent a letter to the Justice Department asking that criminal charges be brought against Hernández and that he be extradited to the United States. Torres is the only Central American in the US Congress.