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In an Explosive Honduras Drug Case, It Was a Trial by Twitter

When I reported these developments, many Hondurans tweeted back at me. So did the Casa Presidencial — the Honduran equivalent of the White House — who responded in Spanish: “How can one trust in a narcotrafficker and confessed killer? That is something that never happened. That is a total lie.”

Throughout the trial, everyday Hondurans engaged directly with what was said in the courtroom, largely expressing distrust in their president (who continued to deny the accusations).

Such a movement might seem unremarkable, except that the country of more than 9 million people rarely uses the site. Twitter declined to provide specific data regarding its use in Honduras, but according to StatCounter, a web analytics service, Twitter use among Hondurans increased from 2.26 percent in September to 6.39 percent in October so far. Additionally, many Hondurans shared tweets via WhatsApp, which is commonly used throughout Central and South America.

Most Honduran news outlets are distrusted in the country. For all the drama that passed through the courtroom, comparatively few Honduran media outlets came to New York to cover it. (One notable exception was UNE TV, which runs independently from the government.)

After all, one of the main television channels, TNH, is run by the government — common in Latin American countries — and most other media outlets, like TN5, Canal 10 and Q’Hubo TV, are known as “medios tarifados,” which exchange taxes for government publicity which is “established exclusively with the president of the Republic” or another delegate.

The law enabling such a deal passed under President Hernández, then the head of the National Congress, and within months of Chapo’s visits to Honduras. Some other outlets are widely believed to be supported by cartels, while another now-defunct newspaper, Diario Tiempo, was owned by the Rosenthal family, mentioned in court in conjunction with the same conspiracy, until 2015 when members of the family were indicted on money laundering charges. Another newspaper now uses that name.

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