The former president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, was extradited yesterday, Thursday April 21, to the United States. The New York court intends to try him for his participation in a gigantic traffic of 500 tons of cocaine between 2004 and 2022.
The 53-year-old former head of state, who ceded power on January 27 to the new left-wing president Xiomara Castro, was arrested less than three weeks later, on February 15, at his residence in Tegucigalpa, the capital.
Escorted and handcuffed, Juan Orlando Hernandez, in power in Honduras between 2014 and 2022, boarded a plane from the American Anti-Drug Agency to land in New York, where American justice awaited him. He was due to appear before a judge on Friday and faces life imprisonment.
The fall was excessively rapid for the former head of state: on March 17, an extradition judge at first instance had acceded to the request of the United States, confirmed on March 28 by the Supreme Court of Honduras.
US Justice Secretary Merrick Garland accused him of ‘abusing his position as president of Honduras from 2014 to 2022 to operate the country like a narco-state’ in a press statement. Thursday.
He added, “Hernández is suspected of having received millions of dollars from several drug trafficking organizations.” Notably, in 2013 “a million dollar bribe from El Chapo, who was the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, in exchange for a promise to protect drug trafficking from the cartels in Honduras”, detailed Manhattan Federal Prosecutor Damian Williams.
From former ally to enemy
“Because of these alleged crimes, communities in the United States have suffered and the people of Honduras have suffered,” insisted Merrick Garland. However, Juan Orlando Hernandez, who presented himself as the champion of the fight against drug trafficking, was first seen by the United States as an ally in this fight. Washington was in 2017 one of the first capitals to recognize his re-election when the opposition denounced fraud against the backdrop of demonstrations that left around 30 people dead.
According to the prosecutors in charge of the case in New York, Mr. Hernandez made Honduras a “narco-state” by implicating the army and the police in the drug trafficking to the United States.
American justice has since sentenced his brother, ex-MP “Tony” Hernandez, in March 2021 to life imprisonment for having worked alongside drug traffickers in this vast traffic to the United States.
The former head of the national police between 2012 and 2013, Juan Carlos “Tigre” Bonilla, arrested on March 9 will also be extradited soon, prosecuted by the same court for having “supervised” the operations.
The former president of Honduras has meanwhile proclaimed his innocence. “I am innocent, I am the victim of a revenge and a conspiracy,” he wrote in a handwritten letter written in prison intended for the members of the Supreme Court before their final decision.
These accusations are, according to him, a “revenge of the cartels” or even “an orchestrated plot so that no government will ever resist them again”.