Supporters want convicted Honduran money launderer for president

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - A former Honduran presidential candidate who confessed to laundering drug money arrived in his home country on Friday afternoon, after serving a three-year sentence in a U.S. prison.

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Some members of former minister Yani Rosenthal’s opposition Liberal Party said he should run in the November 2021 election.

A banker and former lawmaker, Rosenthal landed in the northern city of San Pedro Sula on a private plane and was greeted by supporters, some with banners that read “Yani for president”

Honduras’ political elite has become entangled with traffickers that use the Central American nation as a staging post for cocaine moving from Colombia to the United States.

“I spent the past six months locked up in a six-foot-by-six-foot cell,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t know what’s happening here in Honduras, so I’m going to take a bit of time.”

President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s brother, a former lawmaker, last year was convicted of drug trafficking in a U.S. trial in which accusations were aired linking the president to cartels. Hernandez has denied wrongdoing.

Rosenthal, 55, a member of a prominent and politically connected business family, held the post of minister of the presidency from 2006 to 2008.

Legislator Christian Saavedra said Rosenthal was the best to unite the Liberal Party, one of the country’s two traditional ruling forces, and that some 14 of its 26 congress members support him.

In 2017, a New York federal court sentenced Rosenthal to three years imprisonment and issued a $2.5 million fine after he pleaded guilty to laundering money for the Los Cachiros gang through companies of the Inversiones Continental group his family owned. Most have since shut.

His cousin Yankel Rosenthal, a former minister for Hernandez, was sentenced to five months for the same offense.

Editing by Leslie Adler