pushed through nearly a billion dollars for the region in the late 1990s in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, which killed more people but wrought a comparable level of damage as the recent storms, aid workers say.

Immediate humanitarian aid could certainly help alleviate hunger, homelessness and other crises spurred by the storms, as it seems to have done after Hurricane Mitch.

undermined efforts to change their economies enough to give the poor a reason to stay at home.

embezzled American aid money through sham nonprofits. Mr. Hernández, the nation’s leader since 2014, has denied the allegations and has not been charged. A spokesman did not provide comment.

“We need to be aggressively addressing the levels of despair that the folks hit by these storms are facing,” said Dan Restrepo, a former top adviser to President Obama. “We need to go big now and we need to be loud about it, because that starts actually factoring into the calculus that people face today, which is, ‘Can I survive here or not?’”

People smugglers are already taking advantage of Mr. Biden’s presence in the White House to win new customers. Moving swiftly and loudly, Mr. Biden undid many of the harsh immigration policies pioneered by his predecessor.

Human traffickers in Honduras are enticing clients by promising a much easier journey north, touting Mr. Biden’s refusal to immediately expel children at the border and making grand promises about how friendly the new administration will be, according to interviews with smugglers.

One trafficker outlined his latest pitch to Honduran families thinking about leaving: “They opened everything back up, now you can get in again,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the illegal nature of his work. “If they catch you, they send you to Mexico. It’s not like before, where they sent you back to your country.”

He added that since Mr. Biden’s inauguration, he had sneaked 75 people across the American border illegally.

“Because of the new president, they are opening more doors,” he said. “It’s a free market. That’s how we see it.”

But rather than point to Mr. Biden, many Hondurans first blurt out their own president’s name as a reason to leave home.

Mr. Hernández’s brother was recently sentenced to life in prison by an American court for trafficking cocaine into the United States. Prosecutors said the president provided protection to his brother and other traffickers in exchange for cash.

For many Hondurans, the past few months in particular have provided a searing case study in how little they seem to matter to their government.

Jesus Membreño’s house was sheared off the side of a mountain in the storms, but with nowhere else to go, he built a shelter over a piece of the cement floor that was left behind.

“We received nothing from the government, not even a sheet of metal to replace our roof,” Mr. Membreño said.

He said he would head north alone in the coming weeks.

Residents in Canaan, a section of the Chamelecón suburb that was flattened in the hurricanes, say the government never even sent any tractors to clear the mud. So Ms. Flores and her neighbors are trying to feed their children by carving off pieces of their ruined homes and selling them as scrap metal.

“It’s enough to buy some beans or rice,” she said, traipsing through mud punctuated by the tips of children’s bicycles and other rubble. “No one, not one politician or government, has helped us.”

The first time Ms. Flores tried to get to the United States was after her ex-husband broke into her house and slashed her face and arms with a machete, in 2016, she said. She never made it.

The second time was this January, she said, after living with her children under an improvised tent after the storms damaged her home. The few possessions she had spent years accumulating — her stove, her fridge, her beds, her television — were swallowed by mud.

“It’s the sadness, the disappointment that hits you,” Ms. Flores said, “It’s very hard to see your home buried. I had nothing left.”

With six of her children, she joined the first migrant caravan of this year, in January, she said. They walked for miles, but turned back after barely eating for days and then getting tear-gassed and beaten by the Guatemalan police. That’s when she stopped believing Mr. Biden was going to welcome anyone with open arms.

“If that were the case, why would they have sent me home?” she asked.

So Ms. Flores used parts of her old wooden house to build a shelter on top of the earth that devoured everything she had.

Now she’s waiting for the next caravan to leave, driven not by hope but by despair.

View Source

Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández Faces Questions in Drug Trial’s Wake

He received briefcases stuffed with cash. He held clandestine meetings with drug traffickers in a rice factory. He sought to invest in a cocaine lab. He vowed to flood the United States with drugs. And he did all of this while pursuing the highest office in Honduras.

These were some of the accusations made about President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras in a federal courtroom in New York this month.

Mr. Hernández, who has repeatedly denied any association with drug traffickers, was not standing trial in the case and has not been charged with any crimes. Rather, Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, a Honduran citizen, was the defendant; he was convicted on Monday on all counts, including conspiracy to traffic cocaine and arms possession.

most trying to reach the United States.

Credit…U.S. District Court

The trial added to the growing mound of evidence gathered by federal prosecutors in recent years that casts Mr. Hernández as a key player in Honduras’ drug-trafficking industry. The proceedings led analysts to believe that formal charges against Mr. Hernández himself may not be far away.

“It’s yet another nail in his coffin,” said Eric L. Olson, director of policy at the Seattle International Foundation and an expert on Latin America. “But more than what this means for Juan Orlando, this sends another message to the people of Honduras that there’s no future for them, and what’s the point of hanging around?”

The swirl of corruption allegations around Mr. Hernández has been building for years.

In 2017, international observers documented many irregularities in his election to a second term, prompting weeks of violent protests around the country. The opposition said he should not have been on the ballot in the first place, arguing that Mr. Hernández had unfairly stacked the Supreme Court with his supporters, who then lifted the nation’s constitutional ban on re-election.

More recently, federal prosecutors in the United States have sought to show that the president built a symbiotic relationship with drug traffickers who provided financial support for his political ascent in return for protection from prosecution.

was convicted in federal court in New York on drug trafficking charges and is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

The accusations made by American government lawyers over the years have made for a jarring contrast with the United States’ continued political support for Mr. Hernández, who has cast himself as a willing partner in the effort to stem the flow of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border.

In testimony during the trial this month, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, who once ran a violent drug gang called Los Cachiros, testified that in 2012 he gave $250,000 in cash to Mr. Hernández — transferring it by way of the president’s sister, Hilda Hernández — in exchange for the promise that he would not be arrested and extradited to the United States. Mr. Hernández, at the time, was running for his party’s presidential nomination.

Another witness, a Honduran accountant who testified under the pseudonym José Sánchez, said he witnessed Mr. Hernández accepting bribes from Mr. Fuentes and negotiating access to the drug trafficker’s cocaine lab during meetings at the offices of Graneros Nacionales, the biggest rice producer in Honduras.

“I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” Mr. Sánchez said of an encounter in 2013, when Mr. Hernández was running for president on his party’s ticket. “I was looking at the presidential candidate meeting with a drug trafficker.”

Mr. Sánchez said that in those meetings, Mr. Hernández was twice given bribes of cash stuffed into briefcases, one with $15,000 and the other with $10,000. The accountant said he was personally responsible for counting the cash: $20 bills wrapped in rubber bands.

Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School.

Mr. Hernández has denied the allegations of corruption and has argued that the testimony in the Fuentes case, as in the trial of his brother, came from unreliable witnesses who were trying to punish him for his efforts to clean Honduras of drug trafficking. Moments after the jury returned its verdict on Monday, he took to Twitter to defend himself, citing what he called an “unprecedented 95 percent reduction” in drug trafficking across Honduras.

The trial played out in Honduras against the backdrop of presidential and congressional campaigns that have further underscored the degree to which corruption riddles the political system.

Charles Call, an associate professor of peace and conflict resolution at American University in Washington.

Following the verdict this week, Hondurans expressed a sense of fatigue, and widespread cynicism that anything would change.

“We do not live in a state of law,” said Edwin Kelly, 35, a data analyst from La Ceiba who lamented “the power of the narco-president.”

The latest revelations might, though, drive even more migrants to head north.

There are many reasons more Honduras have been leaving in recent years, among them insecurity and poverty, said Mr. Olson, of the Seattle International Foundation.

“But there’s a meta-story, which is the failure of government,” he said “We need to give the people of Central America a sense of hope. And that starts with fighting corruption and ending this ridiculous theft of Hondurans’ future.”

View Source

Honduran Leader Vowed to Help Flood U.S. With Cocaine, Prosecutor Says

“I will maintain international cooperation,” he wrote. “But the next government and those of other countries? How will the future be if the narcos win benefits from the USA for their false testimonies, with obvious lies?”

He added, “Inevitable collapse.”

The trial of Mr. Fuentes, who has denied the charges against him, is expected to run into next week. A defense lawyer for Mr. Fuentes, Eylan Schulman, said in his opening argument that his client was “an innocent man wrongly accused of very serious crimes.”

If Tuesday’s statements, coupled with court filings, are any indication, prosecutors are likely to draw a stark portrait of Mr. Hernández as a key player in the drug trafficking industry, which has contributed to the dysfunction and violence that has driven many Hondurans to leave the country in search of safety and better opportunity.

Mr. Gutwillig, the prosecutor, did not mince words in his opening arguments on Tuesday: He called Honduras “a narco-state.”

Mr. Fuentes, he said, “distributed massive quantities of cocaine to the United States,” a business that was enabled through his connections “to police, military and political power in Honduras: mayors, congressmen, military generals and police chiefs, even the current president of Honduras.”

“The defendant owned them all — bought and paid for,” Mr. Gutwillig said.

Mr. Fuentes developed a relationship with Mr. Hernández, who took office in 2014, in a series of secret meetings in 2013 and 2014 during which the men “plotted to send as much cocaine as possible to the United States,” the prosecutor said. Mr. Fuentes paid Mr. Hernández $25,000 for the help.

Mr. Hernández, he said, “made the defendant bulletproof.”

Court records describe conversations between Mr. Hernández and Mr. Fuentes in which the president tells the accused trafficker not to worry about arrest, extradition or the long reach of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. According to prosecutors, Mr. Hernández told Mr. Fuentes that his fight against drug trafficking was a bluff and that he planned to get rid of the extradition policy and swamp the United States with cocaine.

View Source