Honduras Arrests Ex-President Accused by the US of Drug Trafficking
Honduran authorities detained on Tuesday the country’s former President Juan Orlando Hernández at the request of the United States, where he is accused of being a member of a violent drug trafficking network.
Hernández stepped down in January after having led the country for eight years. U.S. prosecutors believe that since 2004 he facilitated the passage of at least 500 tonnes of cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela through Honduras into the U.S.
Honduran authorities took Hernández to the Supreme Court of Justice on Wednesday for arraignment in his extradition case. The judge stated that Hernández will remain in detention for at least a month when the second hearing will take place.
By arresting the former President himself, “the Honduran government is taking the steps to work with us to bring him to justice, U.S. congresswoman Norma Torres said on Wednesday. "Hernández has been directly linked to major drug trafficking operations, and I look forward to him standing trial here in the U.S.”
The former president’s brother, ex Honduran Congressman Juan Antonio "Tony" Hernández was in 2019 convicted by a U.S. court of smuggling cocaine into the United States while relying on "state-sponsored drug trafficking." He is serving a life sentence.
Tony oversaw and managed many of the bribes paid to his brother. He allegedly secured for his brother more than US$2 million from notorious drug traffickers in Central America. Former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias El Chapo, allegedly gave Tony $1 million to support his brother’s presidential campaign in 2013.
Just last week, a U.S. court sentenced another Honduran national and the ex-president’s alleged co-conspirator to life in prison for distributing tonnes of cocaine to the country.
Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez “facilitated the shipment of large loads of cocaine by bribing Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado,” the Department of Justice said in a statement. “Hernández Alvarado instructed Fuentes Ramirez to report directly to convicted co-conspirator and former Honduran congressman Tony Hernandez, the president’s brother,” it explained.
Hernández told Fuentes Ramírez that he wanted to make the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) think that Honduras was fighting drug trafficking, but that instead he was going to eliminate extradition for his partners in crime and “stuff drugs up the gringos’ noses,” the DOJ said after Fuentes Ramírez’s conviction last year.
In a twist of fate, Hernández was the head of Honduran Congress back in 2012 when lawmakers passed a law that allowed nationals charged with drug trafficking, terrorism, or organized crime to be extradited to the U.S.
Now he is likely to join the infamous list of so far 25 Hondurans handed over to Washington and sentenced for drug trafficking by an American court. Most of them were extradited during Hernández’s presidency, local media reported.