TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Wed. Mar. 30, 2022– The Supreme Court in Honduras has authorized the extradition of the country’s former president, Juan Orlando Hernández, to the United States, where he will be facing drug trafficking and firearms possession charges after being accused by US prosecutors of participating in a wide-ranging drug-trafficking scheme between 2004 and 2022.
An unprecedented investigation, which highlights Honduras’ role as a critical transit point for the smuggling of massive amounts of cocaine from South America to the United States, uncovered evidence indicating that the former president allegedly shielded persons engaged in the illicit activity.
According to Honduran news outlets, Hernandez accepted millions of dollars in bribe money in exchange for protecting drug traffickers from investigation and prosecution as well as aiding those persons in the use of weapons, which include machine guns.
While Hernandez has denied all claims made against him, he was arrested in mid-February during an expansive stakeout at his home and since then, he has been in police custody.
A statement issued by the family of Hernandez pointed out that the decision made to extradite the former president does not amount to a criminal conviction. The statement further claims that the accusations are in fact the handiwork of Honduran narcos themselves.
“We’re ready and confident that we’ll be able to show the U.S. justice system that these accusations are a revenge plot from Honduran narcos whose empire of crime and violence Juan Orlando destroyed,” the statement asserted.
Hernandez’s lawyer, Hermes Ramírez, told Honduran media that his client was ambushed by authorities and claims that the warrant used is illegal, because he has immunity as a member of the regional Central American parliament.
“They are trying to trample on the rights of President Hernandez,” Ramirez said.
Tony Hernandez, the former president’s brother, is currently serving a life sentence with an additional 30 years in a US federal prison in connection with a related drug trafficking investigation. US authorities believe former president Hernandez was a co-conspirator in the operation, channeling drug money to help fund his presidential campaigns. However, those allegations have been denied by Hernandez.
Hernandez was replaced as president last month by leftist leader Xiomara Castro, Honduras’ first female president, after serving 8 years in office.