Witness: ‘El Chapo’ gave $1M to Honduran president’s brother

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CLAUDIA TORRENS, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A Honduran former mayor and drug trafficker testified Monday that Mexican kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán personally gave $1 million to the brother of Honduras’ president in 2013 for the politician’s presidential campaign.

The longtime Sinaloa cartel boss made the payment to be able to smuggle cocaine through Honduras to Guatemala, Amílcar Alexander Ardón alleged in testimony on the fourth day of the Manhattan drug trial of Tony Hernández, brother of President Juan Orlando Hernández.

Between 2007 and 2013 Tony Hernández sold drugs to “El Chapo” and alleged helped him move shipments thanks to information he obtained from top Honduran officials, Ardón said.

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Juan Orlando Hernández has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged. Tony Hernández’s defense argues there is no evidence proving the charges.

“Any accusation that @JuanOrlandoH as a candidate for president may have received or accepted money from El Chapo directly or indirectly is 100% false, absurd and ridiculous,” the Honduran presidency tweeted Monday. “It is craziness like Alice in Wonderland.”

Prosecutors said last week at the start of the trial that jurors would hear testimony about the purported bribe from Guzmán.

In hours of testimony, Ardón gave details of dozens of meetings with traffickers including with Guzmán, whom he said he first met in 2007 and had seen six times through 2013.

Ardón testified that in 2013, $1 million in bundles of $50,000 and $100,000 was put on the table during a meeting in the municipality of El Paraiso, where he was mayor, and delivered there to Tony Hernández.

“We counted it,” he said. “It was in plastic bags.”

Ardón said several others were present at the meeting.

He also alleged that Guzmán used six trucks from the broadcaster Televisa to transport drugs, and each vehicle had a capacity to carry 6,000 kilograms of cocaine.

Televisa said in a brief statement that the company was not aware of the specific nature of the testimony, “but it would not be the first time they try to pass vehicles off as those of Mexican businesses. When we have been aware, the respective complaints have been presented.”

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The witness also said he met with the president and ex-President Porfirio Lobo to discuss payments.

He alleged that in 2008 Lobo asked for $2 million for his presidential campaign and for Juan Orlando Hernández, who at the time was running for president of Honduras’ congress.

Lobo has previously denied allegations against him, calling them “falsehoods from criminals who are trying to reduce their sentences.”

“I have not received money, I have not been, nor am I, nor will I be a friend, partner or much less a collaborator with any criminal,” the ex-president said Friday on Twitter.

Ardón, dressed in his prison uniform, acknowledged being responsible for 56 murders.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Associated Press writer Peter Orsi in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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