Honduran police arrested former president Juan Orlando Hernandez on Tuesday at the request of the United States, which wants him extradited to face trial on charges of involvement in the drug trade.
Honduran Security Minister Ramon Sabillon said, “This is a success of the President (Xiomara Castro). The government has demonstrated strict, thorough and precise compliance with the law.”
Hernandez, who left his post three weeks ago, was escorted from his home in Tegucigalpa in handcuffs and wearing a flak jacket.
The Supreme Court selected a judge to take on the case, and the judge signed an arrest warrant for the former president. Police, who have surrounded Hernandez’s home since Monday, took him into custody.
“This is not an easy time. I wish I hadn’t done this to anyone,” Hernandez said in an audio message he posted on his Twitter account Tuesday morning. He said he was ready to go with the police to “face this situation and defend yourself.”
The extradition request states that since 2004, Hernandez has allowed tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia through Honduras on its way to the United States, while protecting drug traffickers from investigation, in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes.
Hernandez was repeatedly implicated as a co-conspirator by New York prosecutors in his brother’s drug trafficking trial in 2019. His brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, was found guilty of drug and gun-related charges and sentenced to life in prison.
Hernandez is a key regional ally of former US President Donald Trump.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this month there were credible reports that Hernandez “had engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of corruption and drug trafficking” and using the proceeds to fund his political career.
After eight years as president, Hernandez was sworn in as Honduras’ representative to the Central American Parliament on January 27, just hours after his successor, Xiomara Castro, became the country’s first female president. His lawyer said Hernandez had immunity from extradition because he was a member of the regional parliament.
The extradition process is likely to take several weeks. [uh/ab]