August 4, 2019 / 3:35 AM / a month ago

Honduran president denies links to drug trafficking

FILE PHOTO: Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez holds a news conference at the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa, Honduras May 30, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera/File Photo

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Saturday denied reports from a U.S. court filing linking him to drug trafficking, accusing criminals of seeking revenge against him.

“The drug traffickers are looking for revenge against the only president who’s done what he’s needed to do,” he told a news conference, detailing his efforts to curb illegal drug sales in the small Central American country where drug gangs have prominent strongholds.

Hernandez specifically opposed a report from U.S.-based Spanish language broadcaster Univision in which he said he was described as implicated in a campaign finance conspiracy.

Univision had detailed a 44-page document related to the upcoming drug trafficking trial in New York of Hernandez’s brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, that contained testimony from someone who appeared to be a former official.

“These are false accusations made by a drug trafficker,” Hernandez said, while acknowledging that such a document had been put before a U.S. judge.

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.

In May, a U.S. court filing showed that U.S. authorities had targeted Hernandez in an investigation of large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering, related to the drug trafficking case against Hernandez’s brother.

Tony Hernandez was arrested in Miami in November. A leader of the Cachiros gang had testified during a 2017 trial in New York that Tony Hernandez had taken a bribe to help launder drug funds.

Several other prominent Hondurans, including government officials, have already been prosecuted in Manhattan for drug-related crimes.

Reporting by Orfa Mejia, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Michael Perry

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