U.S. charges ex-Honduras president Hernandez with drugs, weapons crimes -Breaking
Kanishka Singh, Luc Cohen
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK – Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was charged by the United States for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to import cocaine and other firearm offenses. Hernandez was transferred to the United States on Thursday.
This indictment was a shocking fall from grace by the ex-ally Washington who led Central America from 2014 to 2022. Hernandez departed Tegucigalpa earlier Thursday afternoon aboard a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration plane.
Manhattan federal prosecutors claimed that Hernandez was a recipient of millions from drug trafficking groups, including the ex-leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. They also said Hernandez used these funds to finance and enrich his personal life.
According to indictment, Hernandez and other Honduran officials gave drug traffickers protection against investigation and arrest. They also had access to military information and law enforcement, which prevented them from being extradited to the United States.
The U.S. Justice Department stated that Hernandez was accused of abusing his position in Honduran to work with drug traffickers who were among the most powerful and violent in the world. He trafficked hundreds of thousands of kilograms cocaine through Honduras to be distributed in the United States.
Prosecutors wrote that Hernandez had “abused his presidency of Honduras in order to run the country as an narco state.”
Although the indictment was filed Jan. 27, the date Hernandez was defeated by Xiomara Cruz, a leftist activist following the November win over Nasry Asfura (the candidate from Hernandez’s right-leaning National Party), it was sealed and kept secret until Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Justice does not indict sitting heads of state.
According to a U.S. Embassy document, Hernandez was detained by Honduran police in February after he requested extradition.
His extradition was authorized by the Honduran Supreme Court on March 3.
Both the Obama and Trump administrations saw Hernandez as a crucial ally in their anti-narcotics operation and immigration efforts. In court documents last year, U.S.prosecutors disclosed that Hernandez (53), was being investigated as part of an extensive probe into the bloody drug trade in Honduras.
Since January 2021 when he took office, President Joe Biden has been focusing on fighting corruption in Central America. He also aims to stem the flow of migrants from this region to the United States.
Hernandez’s older brother Tony Hernandez (a former Honduran Congressman) was sentenced to life imprisonment in America in March 2021 following an earlier conviction for drug trafficking.
He strongly denied these allegations and argued that captured drug traffickers had smeared his government to get revenge on him. He has made himself out to be a staunch opponent of drug trafficking.