(New York) 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, for which he faces life imprisonment.
Updated yesterday at 8:11 p.m.
Escorted and handcuffed, Mr. Hernandez, in power between 2014 and 2022, boarded a US Anti-Drug Agency plane, which took off at 2:27 p.m. local time (8:27 p.m. GMT) from a base of the Honduran army in Tegucigalpa, noted AFP journalists. His plane was to stop in Fort Lauderdale (Florida), before landing in New York, where American justice awaits him. He is due to appear in court on Friday.
The 53-year-old ex-head of state, who ceded power on January 27 to 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 right-wing ex-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.
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 trafficking 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, a trial extradition judge granted the United States’ request, confirmed on March 28 by the Supreme Court of Honduras.
According to prosecutors handling the case in New York, Mr. Hernandez turned Honduras into a “narco-state” by implicating the army and the police in drug trafficking 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.
” Revenge ”
“I am innocent, I am the victim of revenge and a conspiracy,” wrote JOH – his initials and his nickname – 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”, “an orchestrated plot so that no government will ever resist them again”.
But for US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the former head of state “committed or facilitated acts of corruption and drug trafficking” and “used the earnings from illicit activities to (finance) political campaigns “.
In exchange for bribes, JOH “protected the drug traffickers from investigations, (avoiding their) arrest and extradition”, assure the American authorities.
Several properties, financial assets, businesses and other assets “linked to the family nucleus” were seized by the courts on 1er april.