The U.S. State Department on Friday barred Honduran congressman Oscar Ramon Najera from entering the U.S. due to his involvement in corruption tied to the Honduran drug trafficking organization Los Cachiros.
The organization was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2013. Los Cachiros is said to be responsible for dozens of murders and primarily trafficks large amounts of cocaine, according to the Treasury and the New York Times.
The State Department announced the measure under a law authorizing visa bans on foreign officials involved in gross human rights abuses or significant acts of corruption. In addition to barring Ramon Nojera, the State Department also designated his son.
“Today’s action sends a strong signal that the United States stands with Honduras in its fight against corruption,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
A leader of Los Cachiros had mentioned Ramon Najera as a collaborator during a testimony this year in the trial of Juan Antonio Hernandez, who is also known as “Tony Hernandez"and is the younger brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández. Ramon Najera denied having helped Los Cachiros traffic drugs, and said that “murderer does not go accordingly with my personal characteristics.” Ramon Najera was also listed as a “person of interest” in the trial.
Earlier this week, four men were charged with conspiring with Tony Hernandez to import cocaine into the U.S., as well as weapons offenses.
“Following the recent conviction of former Honduran congressman Tony Hernandez, [Tuesday’s] charges are further proof that even well-connected drug traffickers will be held to account,” said Wendy Woolcock, a special agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “These alleged criminals will stop at nothing to protect their shipments of poison, often resorting to bribery, intimidation, and even violence.”
The four individuals were Mexican nationals Amado Beltran Beltran and Fernando Felix Rodriguez, and Guatemalan nationals Ronald Enrique Salguero Portillo and Otto Rene Salguero Morales, prosecutors said.
They received cocaine shipments in Honduras via air and maritime routes and facilitated the payment of bribes, including to Tony Hernandez, to facilitate the drugs safe passage, prosecutors said. They also provided armed security for the shipments, including individuals carrying machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to prosecutors.
Salguero Morales is linked to a 2011 massacre of 27 people that took place at an estate he owned in Guatemala. The massacre was a result of an alleged land dispute and served as a form of revenge taken against Salguero, who was a well-known cattle rancher in the area at the time.