A New York Trial Transfixes a Small and Ravaged Nation

In the clamor of the New York City news cycle, the criminal case currently playing out in Lower Manhattan against former President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras hardly registers.

To Hondurans, it is a rare chance for national justice.

The prosecution of Mr. Hernández in Federal District Court on charges of conspiracy to import narcotics has gripped the tiny Central American country and its expatriates, drawing a cross-section of the 40,000 Hondurans who live in New York City, as well as others from out of state and even from Honduras itself.

“He sent our country to hell,” said Flavio Ulises Yuja, 62, who had traveled from Honduras to Florida for a vacation but abruptly changed plans and flew to New York to attend the trial.

The trial is a spotlight on the woes of a country plagued by corruption, poverty and lawlessness. And even as Americans debate weaknesses in their own democracy and justice system, Hondurans see American courts as a venue for something unavailable back home: a fair trial and a measure of justice.

Hondurans are a daily presence outside the courthouse. During the first week of the trial, dozens gathered in the cold, chanting through bullhorns and marching with Honduran flags and homemade signs denouncing Mr. Hernández. A woman from Brooklyn hawked $7 homemade tuna-and-turkey sandwiches from a cooler.

Each day, Mr. Hernández is led into a packed courtroom in front of a squadron of Honduran reporters taking notes. Mr. Hernández led his country for eight years until early 2022, when he was extradited to the United States shortly after leaving office.

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