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Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hern√°ndez Extradited to US on Drug Trafficking Charges

Sputnik News


Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hern√°ndez boarded a plane to the United States in the custody of US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents on Thursday. A Tegucigalpa judge approved Hernandez's extradition last month and the Honduran Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

Hernandez faces three charges in the US: conspiracy to import and distribute drugs to the United States, using firearms in support of a drug trafficking conspiracy and conspiracy to use firearms in support of drug trafficking. He has denied any wrongdoing.

He is accused of using drug trafficking money to fuel his political rise, including a $1 million bribe allegedly offered to him by El Chapo, head of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, according to a witness at the New York trial of Juan Antonio "Tony" Hernandez, the president's brother, in 2019. Tony received a life sentence in 2021 for cocaine trafficking.

Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, a Honduran drug dealer and former leader of the Los Cachiros cartel, also claimed in an unrelated trial last year that he had repeatedly bribed the former head of state.

The right-wing Hernandez took office in 2014, five years after a US-backed "constitutional coup" ousted President Manuel Zelaya for becoming too close to other leftist Latin American governments. Hernandez's presidency continued the trend that began in 2009, with privatizations spreading through many social services, including even city governments. Meanwhile, a mass exodus of poor Hondurans, especially from the indigenous and LGBTQ communities, departed the country in droves, traveling northward in caravans to the United States.

Hernandez's successor, leftist Xiomara Castro, has moved quickly to depart from many aspects of his regime, although not yet straying too far from the US' orbit. After her January 27 inauguration, Castro restored relations with Venezuela that had been severed in 2019, when Hernandez's government recognized US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido's claim to be Venezuela's interim leader. Then, in early February, Hernandez was arrested at the request of US authorities.

However, in other areas, Castro has tacked close to the wind, retaining Honduras' relations with Taiwan after promising on the campaign trail to switch recognition of the Chinese government from Taipei to Beijing.

Hernandez is not the first former head of state to be extradited.

In 2011, former Panamanian President Manuel Noriega was extradited from France to Panama to be jailed for his convictions for murder, corruption and embezzlement. Former Yugoslav President Solobdan Milosevic was extradited to The Hague in 2001 on accusations of war crimes, but died before his trial concluded. Former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998 for crimes against humanity associated with his years of brutal military rule, but bizarrely had been charged by a Spanish magistrate, not a Chilean one, and the UK had no extradition request. He was released in 2000.

© Sputnik

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