Ex-Honduras president extradited to US on suspicion of drug trafficking

He faces life imprisonment. The former president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, was extradited Thursday to the United States where a New York court intends to try him for his participation in a gigantic traffic of 500 tons of cocaine between 2004 and 2022.

Escorted and handcuffed, Hernandez, in power between 2014 and 2022, boarded a plane from the United States Anti-Drug Agency, which took off at 2:27 p.m. local time (2027 GMT) from a Honduran army base in Tegucigalpa, noted AFP journalists. His plane was to stop in Fort Lauderdale (Florida), before landing in New York, where American justice awaits him.

The 53-year-old ex-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 the capital. .


The day before, the federal court in Manhattan had filed a formal request for the extradition of the former right-wing president for his alleged participation in a “criminal association (which) transported more than 500 tons of cocaine to the United States” . US Attorney General 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 statement to the press on Thursday.

“Hernández is suspected of having received millions of dollars from several drug trafficking organizations,” added the minister in Washington. 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. “Because of these alleged crimes, communities in the United States have suffered and the people of Honduras have suffered,” insisted Merrick Garland.

Former ally of the United States

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.

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. US prosecutors believe that the former president – ​​elected deputy from 1998 then president of Parliament from 2009 – is also involved in the importation of hundreds of tons of cocaine.

The fall was excessively rapid for the former head of state. On March 17, an extradition judge at first instance granted the request of the United States, confirmed on March 28 by the Supreme Court of Honduras. 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.

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