Hondurans call for president to step down after drug verdict

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Opposition groups called Saturday for more protests to demand that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández be removed from office after his younger brother was convicted of drug trafficking in a New York court.

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Thousands of Hondurans protested into the early hours of the morning after Juan Antonio "Tony" Hernández was convicted Friday in what U.S. prosecutors described as a conspiracy that relied on "state-sponsored drug trafficking."

Protesters blocked key roads in half of the country's 18 provinces, setting barricades ablaze, while some took advantage of the disturbances to loot stores. Police had not reported any arrests and urged protesters to express their concerns "peacefully without affecting the right of others."

President Hernández insisted via Twitter that the verdict is not against the state of Honduras, saying his government has fought drug trafficking. On Saturday he attended a parade to honor the country's armed forces and posted pictures of himself on Twitter smiling alongside the U.S. chargé d'affaires to Honduras, Colleen Hoey.

With Hoey at the parade, Hernández said he discussed ways to strengthen ties between the two countries while also fighting drug trafficking and organized crime.

The president has accused Honduran drug traffickers extradicted to the U.S. of retaliating against his family by alleging that his younger brother is a drug dealer aided by the government.

Hernández assumed a second four-year term as president in January 2018, despite a constitutional ban on re-election.

The Coalition of the United Opposition against the Dictatorship called for nationwide daily protests to begin Monday and to last until Hernández is out of power.

Convicted drug dealers asserted during the U.S. trial against his brother that they contributed to both of Hernández's campaigns for president on promises that he would protect their businesses and them while in office.

A son of Honduras' previous president, Porfirio Lobo, admitted in 2017 to being part of a cocaine-trafficking network and was sentenced to 24 years of prison in the U.S.