The trial against JOH does not alter the existing reality in Honduras

Written by: Fernando Destephen y Amílcar Izaguirre

Photography: Fernando Destephen, Amílcar Izaguirre y Jorge Cabrera

Translation: Amy Patricia Morales



“You have to learn to respect the opinions of others, what I’m telling you is that anything can happen and it’s possible that in the end JOH will walk free,” said one man to another in a store next to the old train lines, an area occupied by street vendors in San Pedro Sula, northern Honduras.


The ongoing trial of ex-President Juan Orlando Hernández, also referred to as JOH, at the Southern District Court of New York is being followed minute by minute across social networks, television and radio as if it were a long soccer match, complete with heated discussions. 


Tensions rose in the store as the debate intensified: “Don’t fool yourself, the United States is not going to detain an ex-president and then release him for not having proof, if they’ve taken him it is because they have a strong case. Do you think the gringos are going to risk losing a multi-billion dollar lawsuit just because they couldn’t prove JOH’s guilt?” argued the other person. The discussion remained unresolved because the arrival of a customer served as a reminder that they must get back to work to sustain their livelihood; the JOH trial is merely a part of the ongoing entertainment.


Meanwhile, in Tegucigalpa, Juan Orlando Hernández’s political party appears to be in decline. Even its anniversary party resembled a funeral. On Thursday, February 26, a group of Nationalist Party youth gathered in La Leona Park, ahead of the party’s 122nd anniversary. Reynaldo Hernández, the president of the Nationalist youth, expressed his belief in JOH’s innocence and conveyed his anticipation of a fair trial.


While Reynaldo coordinated the event, the park’s usual activities continued undisturbed; basketball games and exercise routines carried on, with many participants seemingly unaware of the celebration unfolding at the foot of the statue of Manuel Bonilla. Bonilla, a military figure and founder of the National Party, has his historical origins questioned by some historians, as he was elected president while affiliated with the Liberal Party.


In conjunction with its anniversary festivities, the Nationalists aligned with the ruling party to determine appointments for the heads of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Superior Court of Accounts, the Institute for Access to Public Information, and the Clean Policy Unit. This move successfully secured cooperative governance in Congress. However, allies of the National Party within the Citizen Opposition Bloc (BOC) distanced themselves from this decision, leading to the fragmentation of the alliance and further isolating the National Party.


The most worrying thing is unemployment


In another sector of San Pedro Sula, a Zip Calpules maquila worker downplayed the importance of the trial result, since he does not believe that things in the country will change with the conviction or release of JOH: “What worries me is that more maquilas will close, look how many have already closed.  That worries us, although in this government not even a hundred pesos have been raised in wages”, commented the worker, originally from Santa Rita de Yoro.


In a different part of San Pedro Sula, an employee at a Zip Calpules maquila downplayed the significance of the trial outcome, expressing skepticism about any meaningful change in the country’s situation with Juan Orlando Hernández’s conviction or release. The worker, originally from Santa Rita de Yoro, voiced concern about the ongoing closure of maquilas, stating, “What troubles me is the increasing number of closures – just look at how many have shut down already. This is a concern for us, especially considering that not even a hundred pesos have been raised by this government.”


The following day, Daniel Durón, president of the Central de Trabajadores de Honduras (CTH), announced that in a negotiation between employers, government and workers, a 5.5% to 7% increase in the minimum wage in Honduras had been agreed upon.

The state of emergency remains in force in Honduras and despite this the population continues without seeing its achievements in terms of security. Tegucigalpa, February 2024. Photo CC/Jorge Cabrera.

Another worker at the same industrial park characterized the president’s behavior as an acknowledgment that in Honduras, politicians committing acts of corruption are not held accountable. “I hope JOH returns, it is true that he stole, but he helped a lot of people. In Santa Barbara several of my people worked cleaning streets, but as soon as Xiomara arrived they were left without jobs”, he remarked. 


In the court of the Southern District of New York, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, leader of Los Cachiros, testified against former Nationalist President Juan Orlando Hernández on Tuesday, February 27, the same day that the National Party of Honduras celebrated its 122nd anniversary. Notably absent from the event held at the National Party’s Central Committee were former Mayor Nasry Asfura and former President Porfirio Lobo Sosa.


On Tuesday, February 27, in the Southern District Court of New York, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, the leader of Los Cachiros, testified against former Nationalist President Juan Orlando Hernández. This significant development coincided with the celebration of the 122nd anniversary of the National Party of Honduras. Notably, former Mayor Nasry Asfura and former President Porfirio Lobo Sosa were absent from the event held at the National Party’s Central Committee.

Recently, graffiti belonging to mara and gangs has resurfaced in the neighborhoods of Tegucigalpa. Tegucigalpa, February 2024. Photo CC/Jorge Cabrera.

In Honduras everything goes on as usual; the usual chaos in the capital, protests, sit-ins, premature political campaigns and violence. The year 2023 closed with 3,035 violent deaths, a 17.1 decrease in homicides compared to 2022, and an undeclared femicide emergency. According to data from the Women’s Rights Center (CDM), as of January 31, 2024, 26 violent deaths of women had been registered, despite the state of emergency extended until now.


Among the people consulted, some describe how functional the justice system is in the United States, and take for granted that JOH will be convicted. Others avoid the subject of the trial and instead focus on contrasting the accused’s government with the present administration, highlighting issues such as disparities in unemployment rates and the price of the basic food basket. 


As the trial against Hernandez continues in New York, the majority of Hondurans continue to grapple with the challenges of everyday survival. Meanwhile, certain politicians implicated in the trial for alleged collaboration with criminals and accepting bribes from drug traffickers are left with little recourse but to deny their involvement.

Total Posts: 51
Fernando Destephen 1985 Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photojournalist and storyteller.
Total Posts: 37
Nicaraguan and Honduran nationality. Photojournalist with 20 years of experience covering international content. "Photojournalism has been present in my life for more than two decades and continues to be so day after day. "

Share this article

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.