A prominent Honduran congressman with close ties to President Juan Orlando Hernandez, was sanctioned on Friday by the Trump administration for “involvement in significant corruption” related to drug trafficking.
U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, named Oscar Ramon Najera, 69, and his son Oscar Roberto Najera as having ties to the Los Cachiros drug trafficking organization, adding that they, and their immediate family members, were no longer eligible for entry into the United States.
“Today’s action sends a strong signal that the United States stands with Honduras in its fight against corruption,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The sanctions against Najera and his son are the latest in a series of political embarrassments for the ruling National Party in Honduras, and comes only two months after the New York conviction of the president’s brother, former congressman Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernandez, on drug trafficking charges.
Tony Hernandez is due to be sentenced on January 17. President Hernández, whom prosecutors identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case of his brother, has rejected the accusations against him, describing them as a fairy tale, comparable to 'Alice in Wonderland'.
"This means nothing," Najera responded in a Honduran television appearance. "Personally, it doesn't bother me because I have always stuck to the right path in my personal life," he added.
Najera’s name has long been linked to corruption in Honduras and has also been mentioned in several recent drug trafficking cases. Devis Rivera, one of the leaders of Los Cachiros, testified in the October trial of Tony Hernandez that Najera gave protection to their drug shipments “with information of government investigations” and military and police checkpoints. “Oscar Najera would move them. When we needed him to -- move them away when we needed to go through the checkpoints, he would have them removed, sir. Whenever I asked him to,” Rivera told the court.
In his closing argument, prosecutor Emil Bove described Najera as “a close friend” of Tony Hernandez “who was a part of setting all of this up so that the Honduran government could be used to protects drug traffickers.”
When Hernandez was arrested at Miami International Airport in November 2018, he had Najera's contact information in his phone. Photos found on the phone also showed Najera in a hot tub with Hernandez. Another photo showed Najera with Juan Orlando Hernandez.
According to legal documents obtained by Univision, Los Cachiros supported Najera “with money, cattle, cars, helicopter rental for use in campaign” valued at approximately $1 million. In a document outlining evidence he would offer the U.S. government in return for his cooperation, Rivera told prosecutors that Najera promised to use his influence with Hernandez to “help stop extradition to US” of accused traffickers.
The Trump administration continues to work closely with the Honduran government on a variety of issues, from migration to drug interdiction.
President Trump acknowledged the role of president Hernández in combating drug trafficking in a speech in Miami last week. During the National Summit of the American Israeli Council, Trump said that "we are delighted to have with us President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras and the First Lady of Honduras. And I have to tell you, thank you sir, that President Hernández is working with the United States very closely ... and we're winning after years and years of losing. We're stopping drugs at a level that has never happened. "