The former President of Honduras has been extradited to the United States less than three months after leaving office. Juan Orlando Hernández was handed over to DEA officials at the airport in the capital Tegucigalpa on Thursday (local time), as was seen live on television. The 53-year-old faces charges of drug smuggling conspiracy and weapons offenses in federal court in New York.
According to the indictment he is said to have turned Honduras into a “drug state” in order to corrupt the country’s institutions and enrich himself. The politician and later president is said to have helped drug smugglers to smuggle around 500,000 kilograms of cocaine via Honduras to the United States since 2004.
Hernández, who ruled the Central American country for eight years, rejects the allegations. “I am innocent and I am being subjected to an unfair trial,” he said in a video message sent by his wife, Ana García, shortly before extradition published on Twitter. In his view, the allegations are revenge by drug dealers who were handed over to the US judiciary by him. They would have lied to get agreements to reduce their sentences.
A year ago, Hernández’s brother Juan Antonio was sentenced to life in prison for smuggling cocaine in the United States. The then President was also charged in the court proceedings. The fate of the conservative ex-head of state changed immediately after the end of his two four-year terms in office. On January 27, left-wing politician Xiomara Castro became the first woman to take power, and almost three weeks later he was arrested outside his home in Tegucigalpa. The Honduran Supreme Court approved extradition to the United States.