The U.S. Biden administration placed former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández on a classified list of officials suspected of corruption or undermining democracy in Central America, last year while he was still in office. Hernández’s inclusion on the so-called Engel List was classified, and only made public yesterday. Individuals on the list are generally ineligible for visas and admission to the U.S. (Reuters, Associated Press)
The announcement comes as the U.S. Department of Justice is believed to be preparing to bring an indictment against Hernandez after he left office on Jan 27, reports Univisión. The U.S. has a policy of not indicting sitting heads of state.
There has been growing pressure from some U.S. lawmakers to pursue Hernández, who has been identified as a co-conspirator in U.S. federal court filings related to drug trafficking in and through Honduras. Last week, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez submitted a letter to the Biden administration urging the imposition of “accountability measures” against JOH, including the public revocation of his U.S. visa and sanctions designation under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. His comments followed a letter sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland by Rep. Norma Torres, a California Democrat who co-chairs the Central America caucus in Congress, calling for the U.S. Justice Department to indict Hernández.
Speculation has been rife over whether Hernández could be extradited to the U.S. to face charges, though he has several pathways to avoid this, including immunity for serving in the Central American Parliament, or potential exile in Nicaragua or Taiwan Last month Univisión noted that it’s somewhat ironic that Hernández could face extradition to the U.S. under the terms of a treaty he himself negotiated in 2012.
Yesterday Hernández, in a statement, touted his record for pursuing drug cartels, which he said had the support of the Drug Enforcement Administration among other U.S. federal agencies, and questioned why the designation was based on media reports.
He also faces significant hostility at home, where President Xiomara Castro has promised to crack down on entrenched government corruption. This weekend, Castro signed a decree that sets up the implementation of a U.N.-backed anti-corruption commission while simultaneously granting amnesty to those accused of corruption prior to the 2009 coup that overthrew her husband, Mel Zelaya. (Latin America Risk Report)
- Haitian interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry showed no signs of stepping down from power yesterday, the date the current presidential mandate formally ended. Henry hit back at those seeking to install a transitional government, and invited other Haitians of “good will” to join him as he seeks to return Haiti to democratic rule by organizing elections and reforming the constitution this year, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday’s post.)
- Seven months after Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, the true masterminds remain unknown. But the failed “Petit Bois coup” plot that preceded it provides new information about those involved — and what the U.S. and Haitian governments may have known ahead of time, according to a new CEPR investigative article.
- Orphanages have proliferated in Haiti over the past decade, thanks to an influx of Western funding. There are few barriers to opening one, and even fewer mechanisms to hold operators accountable for child welfare. The result, according to BuzzFeed News, is a shadowy industry where kids routinely face abuse, exploitation, living standards that don’t meet state requirements, and sometimes death, while Westerners who fund, operate, or promote many orphanages face minimal oversight.
- Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s sweep in general elections last month was not expected, and shows that Barbadians continue to support her Barbados Labour Part, whatever its shortcomings, writes Kristina Hinds in World Politics Review. The win poses a challenge for democratic accountability, and should push other parties to find ways to reestablish their relevance and credibility in the country.
- The latest installment in InSight Crime‘s investigation of MS-13 in the Northern Triangle looks at a novel non-aggression pact between the MS13 and rival gang Barrio 18 that eventually unraveled in Guatemala amid bloodshed as ambitious MS13 members tried expand their authority.
- The members of Cochabamba female skateboard collective ImillaSkate wear the traditional polleras associated with the Bolivian Indigenous women of the highland regions as a symbol of resistance, reports the Guardian.