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Honduras profile - Leaders


President: Juan Orlando Hernandez

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image captionMr Hernandez has promised to be tough on crime

Juan Orlando Hernandez took office in January 2014, promising zero tolerance against crime in the battle against illegal drugs.

He won elections in the previous November, beating off challenger Xiomara Castro, the wife of former leader Manuel Zelaya - whose ouster in a 2009 coup triggered a deep political crisis.

Mr Hernandez, a lawyer aged 45 at the time of taking office, inherited a deeply divided country where 71% of the population lives in poverty and a spiraling homicide rate has reached 20 murders per day, one of the highest in the world.

He also promised to increase the presence of military and civil police on streets, recruit new troops, and rid criminal elements from the country's police, prosecutors and judges.

At his inauguration he called US drug policy a "double standard" and urged US President Barack Obama to recognize the joint effort required to end the region's drug scourge.

'Matter of life and death'

"It strikes us as a double standard that while our people die and bleed, and we're forced to fight the gangs with our own scarce resources, in North America drugs are just a public health issue," Mr Hernandez said. "For Honduras and the rest of our Central American brothers it's a case of life and death.

"We ask the government of Barack Obama and the US Congress to recognize this shared responsibility ... and that we truly work together to solve this problem, which is also their problem," he added.

Long viewed as Honduras' most powerful politician, Mr Hernandez rose to become a powerful head of the Honduran Congress, often overshadowing his boss and president at the time, Porfirio Lobo.

As the congressional leader, he oversaw a constitutional reform that allowed the extradition of Hondurans involved in organized crime to the United States.

He also rolled out a militarized police force to reclaim control of a drug-ravaged country.