Honduras leader warns drug cooperation with US endangered

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FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2019 file photo, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks to the reporters as he leaves a meeting at the Organization of American States, in Washington. Newly proposed U.S. legislation introduced Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, targets Orlando Hernandez as allegations of ties to drug trafficking grow. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

TEGUCIGALPÁ – TEGUCIGALPÁHonduran President Juan Orlando Hernández warned Wednesday that antinarcotics cooperation with the United States could “collapse” if U.S. authorities believe “false testimony” in U.S. courts accusing him of cooperating with traffickers.

Hernández spoke before the Central American country's legislature a day after several Democratic U.S. senators backed a bill calling on President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on Hernández and “determine whether he is a specially designated narcotics trafficker.”

Hernández has repeatedly denied testimony by witnesses in U.S. drug prosecutions — one of which convicted his brother — accusing him of protecting and taking bribes from traffickers. He has not been charged, however.

On Wednesday, he again asserted that traffickers, particularly a group known as “Los Cachiros,” were seeking vengeance against him for allowing them to be extradited to the U.S.

“Los Cachiros have been repeatedly lying in the most obvious way,” he told the Honduran Congress.

He suggested that traffickers were trying to manipulate U.S. authorities into helping them take vengeance on the Honduran officials pursuing them.

“It would mean, sooner or later, that the systems of effective cooperation that I helped build, that have been recognized and praised repeatedly by Washington, inevitably would collapse — and not only in Honduras, but in several countries of the Americas,” he said.

His appearance before Congress came as he presented proposals to toughen laws against gangs.