Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández (2014-2022) will be extradited on Thursday to the United States, which demands that he be tried for drug trafficking, a crime punishable in this country by a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
While Hernández’s departure was initially scheduled for 7 a.m. local time (1300 GMT), Security Minister Ramón Sabillón informed Thursday that it was postponed to 1300 (1900 GMT).
“I wanted to advise of the delay that the DEA [U.S. anti-drug agency] flight had: it arrives until one o’clock in the afternoon and that postponed our plans, ”explained the minister during a press conference.
Hernandez, a former Washington ally, is being held in a jail at the special police forces barracks in eastern Tegucigalpa, known as Los Cobras. From there, he will be taken to the Honduran Air Force base at Toncontin airport in the south.
He will then board an American plane which will take him to New York, where he will be imprisoned and judged.
In the request, U.S. prosecutors claimed that between 2004 and 2022, even before he was president, “Hernández participated in the violent drug trafficking conspiracy to receive multi-ton shipments of cocaine.”
The conspiracy transported “approximately 500,000 kilograms of cocaine through Honduras to the United States,” the document adds.
Lawyers in New York
The extradition, initially approved by a judge, was then ratified at the end of March by the 15 magistrates of the Plenary Assembly of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), all appointed under the first Hernández administration.
In a press release, the family of the former president announced that they had hired lawyers Raymond Colón and Daniel Pérez in New York to take charge of his case and now be the spokespersons for the trial.
Hernández’s family reaffirmed the former president’s “innocence” and considered him “a victim of revenge by drug traffickers whom he himself extradited or forced to flee to the United States” .
According to the former president, the drug lords his government helped extradite are seeking settlements with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to reduce their sentences, “and based on lies, accuse the former president of committing acts contrary to US law.
The former governor even went so far as to proudly display Washington’s praise for his government’s work in drug busts.
Even in 2017, when he managed to get elected to a second term amid accusations of opposition fraud and citizen clashes that left around 30 people dead, the United States was one of the first governments to hail its triumph.
Hernández left power on January 27, 2022. A few days later, the State Department announced his inclusion in a list of corrupt figures, to then request his extradition.
JOH, as he is known by his initials, was arrested on February 15, at the request of the United States.
His brother, former congressman Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, was sentenced to life in prison in March 2021, also accused of manufacturing his own cocaine under the brand name of his initials, “TH”.
At trial, federal prosecutors said “Tony” operated with his brother and government institutions, turning Honduras into a “narco-state.”
Another former official awaiting extradition is former national police chief Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, accused of “supervising” the former president’s drug trafficking operations.
“Three life sentences could make me the living dead,” Hernandez said, anticipating the harsh sentences that could await him.
“I never believed that this struggle for peace for us Hondurans would lead to us being known as a narco-state. I knew that this fight would not be easy, that it would involve many risks”, he lamented a few days ago.
by Noé LEIVA