A cousin of the Honduran president has been charged by United States prosecutors for his alleged role in a scheme to import multi-ton loads of cocaine into the US.
Mauricio Hernandez Pineda, who previously served as a high-ranking official in the country’s national police force, participated in and supported the drug-trafficking activities of, among others, his cousin Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado, the younger brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, prosecutors said.
The younger Hernandez, himself a former lawmaker pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial on drugs and weapons charges in the same case. His trial is scheduled to start Oct. 2.
Juan Orlando Hernandez, who was implicated in his brother’s case by US prosecutors in a court filing, has “categorically denied” the allegations against him. The swirl of allegations has undermined his self-created image of a crime fighter. Thousands protested against him in August in the wake of the US allegations, clashing with riot police.
The indictment of Hernandez Pineda marks the latest escalation in US investigations of drug trafficking through Honduras, which is seen as a transit country for cocaine bound for the US. The case was covered in Honduran media. Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado’s lawyer claims his client denies a relation to Hernandez Pineda. Court records filed in the case say they are cousins.
Hernandez Pineda provided armed security, including individuals carrying machine guns, for multi-ton cocaine shipments sent through Honduras, US prosecutors said. And he provided co-conspirators with sensitive law enforcement information concerning planned operations so they could evade detection, prosecutors said. Hernandez Pineda received hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds for his efforts, according to prosecutors.