News / Americas

New Honduras President Takes Helm, Criticizes US Drug Policy

Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez, left, and his wife Ana Rosalinda wave after his swearing in ceremony as new president in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jan. 27, 2014.
Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez, left, and his wife Ana Rosalinda wave after his swearing in ceremony as new president in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jan. 27, 2014.
Reuters
Honduras' new president, former Congress head Juan Hernandez, took office on Monday, calling U.S. drug policy a "double standard" and urging U.S. President Barack Obama to recognize the joint effort required to end the region's drug scourge.

Hernandez, of the ruling National Party, won against the wife of ousted former leftist leader Manuel Zelaya in November's disputed presidential election on a pledge to use the military to clean up the blood-soaked country.

Decades of gang warfare, weak institutions and endemic corruption have provided fertile ground for cartels to expand their operations in Honduras, using the country as a pit-stop for United States-bound cocaine.

But in his comments, delivered after being sworn in as president, Hernandez said the United States had not kept up its side of the bargain in the war on drugs, noting that Central America was suffering as a result of U.S. drug consumption.

"It strikes us as a double standard that while our people die and bleed, and we're forced to fight the gangs with our own scarce resources, in North America drugs are just a public health issue," Hernandez said. "For Honduras and the rest of our Central American brothers it's a case of life and death."

"We ask the government of Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to recognize this shared responsibility ... and that we truly work together to solve this problem, which is also their problem," Hernandez added.

His candid comments were striking given Honduras' strong ties with the United States, and appeared to tap into a growing vein of discontent across the region at the U.S.-led 40-year war on drugs.

Frustrated by ceaseless bloodshed and a perception that the United States has not done enough to curb its own drug consumption, many leaders in the region, such as Guatemalan President Otto Perez, are now speaking openly about the possibility of legalizing drugs.

 According to the United Nations, in 2012 Honduras, the United States' top ally in Central America, had a murder rate of 85.5 per 100,000 people - the world's highest. The sight of dismembered bodies and corpses hanging from bridges is increasingly common across the country.

Hernandez, a graduate of Honduras' army academy, has vowed a no-nonsense response to the drug scourge - a worry for those who fear rights abuses. He advocates using a newly formed militarized police force alongside the army to combat the gangs and plans to extradite criminals to the United States.

A law passed earlier this month gives Honduras the power to shoot down planes believed to be carrying drugs. Nearly 90 percent of the cocaine from South America heading for the United States moves through the country.

"If we can stop the planes carrying drugs passing through our territories, then we will make a big advance in the fight against drug traffickers, who cause so much violence and death in our country," said former Security Minister Oscar Alvarez, who is part of Hernandez' transition team.

But putting a stop to the increasingly violent spiral of drug crime is just one of the challenges facing Hernandez, who must also tackle Honduras' shaky economy.  Despite being the region's top coffee producer, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Americas, afflicted by rampant unemployment, a feeble tax take and a yawning fiscal deficit that, at 7.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), ended 2013 at its highest level in nearly 20 years.

The deficit has already lea to strikes across the country from unpaid public sector workers, while hospitals often go without drugs for routine operations. A lack of money for police investigations exacerbates widespread impunity.

In a recent legislative blitz, lawmakers signed off on a 2014 budget that seeks to nearly halve the deficit to 4.7 percent of GDP by the end of this year, a tax reform that aims to generate up to $800 million a year and a breakup of the loss-making state electricity company.  

During the campaign, Hernandez vowed not to devalue the Lempira currency, which trades at around 20 to the dollar, despite the fact a devaluation is widely seen as a pre-condition for a new, much-needed International Monetary Fund (IMF) credit deal.

He also said he would sign a new deal with the IMF within six months of taking office.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

More Americas News

Massive Fire Engulfs Mexican Oil Rig, Four Dead

State-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) says there is no evidence of a major oil spill following the blast, which injured 16 workers
More

Floods Death Toll Rises in Chile, President Cancels Trips

Freak torrential downpours in Atacama desert, normally the driest in the world, destroyed homes and bridges, cut off roads, and left thousands stranded
More

Rio Residents Protest Olympic Eviction With Road Block

Cars gridlocked for at least five kilometers in southern neighborhood of Barra de Tijuca as residents rally against demolition of favela
More

Peru's PM, Government to Resign After Censure Vote

Move delivers a blow to President Ollanta Humala, who will now have to form another new government
More

Argentine Workers Strike Over Income Tax Rate

With economy already weak, public transport stops, many businesses close and garbage piles up on one-day walkout
More

Tickets Go on Sale for 2016 Rio Olympics

More than half of the 7.5 million tickets will cost 70 Brazilian reais ($22) or less
More