TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – The brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was arrested on Friday in the United States on drug trafficking charges, the Honduran government said on Friday.
Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, a 40-year-old lawyer and former ruling party lawmaker, was arrested by U.S. authorities in Miami, the president’s office said in a statement.
The president’s brother is the latest in a string of prominent Hondurans, including three congressmen, who have been charged in the United States for involvement with drug trafficking.
“This is a heavy blow for the whole family,” the president told reporters in his hometown of Gracias, in western Honduras. “I hope the justice system gives him the room to defend himself, and as a family, we will do what we can to support him.”
Reuters could not immediately contact a lawyer for the president’s brother. He has denied previous accusations of links to the Cachiros drug trafficking organization.
A leader of the Cachiros gang had testified during a trial in March 2017 in New York that “Tony” Hernandez had taken a bribe to help launder drug funds.
The Honduran president, a conservative lawyer who came to power in 2014, has reined in homicides with a tough policy against drug cartels and street gangs that has been supported by the United States and criticized by human rights groups.
Former President Porfirio Lobo, who governed Honduras between 2010 and 2014, has also been linked to the Cachiros criminal organization in trials in the United States and has rejected these accusations.
Last year, one of Lobo’s sons pleaded guilty before a U.S. court to conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Leslie Adler