Last week, Donald Trump became the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges, when a New York grand jury indicted him on more than 30 counts of business fraud. The charges relate to accusations that he paid hush money to a former porn star to keep her allegations of a past affair with Trump out of the news prior to the 2016 presidential election that he went on to win.
The unprecedented development leaves the U.S. in uncharted waters. But while there may not be other U.S. examples to go by, the rest of the Western Hemisphere provides plenty of lessons for what happens when a former president is indicted.
The worst-case scenario for a former president is a successful trial, conviction, jailing and disgrace. Guatemala’s Otto Perez Molina was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison in December on corruption charges that forced him to resign back in 2015. Honduras’ Juan Orlando Hernandez was indicted and extradited to the U.S. a month after leaving office in January 2022, on charges that he was directly involved in the trafficking of significant quantities of cocaine. El Salvador’s Tony Saca was sentenced to 10 years in prison for embezzlement and money laundering. And Peru’s Alberto Fujimori has spent years in prison on charges of abuse of power and major human rights abuses, though he has received several medical releases over the years.