Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández with his spouse, Ana García Carías. (Rodrigo Sura / EFE)

When wellness officials in Honduras introduced this 7 days that President Juan Orlando Hernández had been hospitalized soon after tests positive for the coronavirus, there had been the predicted outpourings of support.

But skepticism — voiced by the president’s political opponents as effectively as regular Hondurans — rapidly adopted, with some questioning no matter if Hernández was sick at all.

Memes circulated on-line, which include a greatly shared cartoon demonstrating Hernández in a healthcare facility bed becoming coached on how to look ill.

Erick Benjamins, a 26-12 months-previous barber in the northern office of Santa Barbara, reported he thinks the president is lying to divert consideration from his controversial dealing with of the coronavirus as effectively as a sweeping U.S. drug trafficking investigation that has implicated Hernández and many customers of his family members.

“I imagine it is pure smoke — a distraction,” Benjamins reported.

In an job interview, previous President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa voiced a extensively held concept that Hernández may possibly be “arranging a simulated loss of life” to avoid going through costs.

There is no evidence that Hernández is inventing his disease — or scheming to fake his personal demise. But the simple fact that these theories have received so much traction underscores just how deeply divided this compact Central American nation has turn into — and just how substantially legitimacy Hernández has missing.

Hernández, 51, has been mired in controversy considering that he 1st took workplace as president in 2014, when he admitted that his marketing campaign experienced been funded in section by funds stolen from the country’s Social Protection Institute.

A man burns a picture of President Juan Orlando Hernández for the duration of a protest in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Rodrigo Abd / Involved Push)

In subsequent years, he faced widespread protest actions calling for his ouster, including one particular just after he pushed as a result of a constitutional improve that authorized him to run for a second phrase, and another when he claimed victory in a 2017 election that was marred by irregularities.

As a result of it all, Hernández loved steadfast assist from Presidents Obama and Trump, who preferred his cooperation on initiatives to curtail migration to the United States.

Tale proceeds

But Hernández now faces his most significant obstacle nonetheless: accusations from U.S. prosecutors that he conspired with drug traffickers and used their money to fund his political job.

Hernández was discovered as a co-conspirator in a drug trafficking scenario against his young brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, who was convicted in Oct.

Given that then, prosecutors have indicted numerous other alleged associates of a drug ring that they say was run by the Hernández brothers and their sister Hilda, who reportedly died in a 2017 helicopter crash. Quite a few in Honduras query whether or not she basically died for the reason that the bodies at the crash web page were being not identifiable and numerous people today claimed they under no circumstances noticed her board the aircraft.

Hernández has denied involvement in drug trafficking, arguing that his governing administration has taken a challenging stance towards arranged criminal offense. Yet it seems progressively probable that he may perhaps confront charges, perhaps following he leaves place of work following the following election in 2021.

The president has also arrive beneath scrutiny for his challenging-line reaction to the coronavirus.

A few times after Honduras verified its first circumstances on March 10, Hernandez ordered a in close proximity to-finish lockdown of the country, closing its borders and issuing a curfew that required persons to stay in their homes for all but a several hrs each a week.

Troopers implement a coronavirus-connected curfew in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in March 2020. (Involved Press )

The swift steps seem to have spared Honduras from a mass outbreak — the country has confirmed just 336 deaths, in accordance to the Pan American Wellness Business. But human rights advocates say officials in Honduras have utilized curfew as an justification to violate human rights.

More than 33,266 people today have been arrested for breaking curfew, together with journalists and human rights activists.

“There’s no problem that the govt is utilizing this as a quite total navy takeover of the streets,” explained Dana Frank, a record professor and Honduras professional at UC Santa Cruz. Rumors that Hernández is not unwell have flourished due to the fact of the president’s historical past of dishonesty, she added.

Marvin Ponce, an advisor to the president, reported in an interview Thursday that accusations that Hernández is lying are preposterous.

“He has COVID-19,” Ponce reported. “It can be a polarized country, and [the opposition] is having edge of that to thrust these rumors.”

Ponce stated Hernández was admitted on Wednesday to the navy healthcare facility in Tegucigalpa, the nation’s capital, right after he examined constructive for COVID-19 and soon after X-rays disclosed he experienced pneumonia.

Hernández had introduced his positive prognosis the working day right before in a televised nationwide handle. He explained he experienced gentle signs or symptoms and hoped to recuperate speedily.

“I have confidence in in God, Honduran medical professionals and medicine,” Hernández claimed.

He reported his wife and two of his aides ended up also contaminated, but have been not displaying indicators.

Tirza Flores Lanza, an appeals courtroom choose who has clashed with Hernández in the past, stated she doesn’t know whether or not the president has the coronavirus, and doesn’t really care. But she was nervous about what the rampant conspiracies claimed about the state of matters in Honduras.

“People today below are totally distrustful,” she mentioned. “We never think completely anything, in particular not what comes from the govt.”

Linthicum is a Instances workers writer and Cerrato a special correspondent.

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