Handcuffed hands and feet.
This is how the former president of Honduras was arrested on Tuesday John Orlando Hernandezafter being requested for extradition by the US.
This Wednesday his preventive detention was confirmed after the first judicial hearing.
The arrest on Tuesday, with a wide security device, followed the extradition request, which will be approved or denied by the Honduran justice later.
Images from local media showed the moment in which Hernández left his residence in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday to surrender to National Police agents, who also put a bulletproof vest on him before transferring him to a police headquarters where he underwent a medical evaluation.
In a statement, the Honduran National Police reported that the capture of the former president was the result of a joint effort with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“In coordination with US agencies, especially the Drug Control Administration (DEA), a police operation has been carried out in the last few hours, which involves the capture of the former President of the Republic, lawyer Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado,” the text indicates. .
This Wednesday morning, the former president was brought before the Supreme Court of Justice, which is the one that must assess his extradition.
There he was notified of the charges against him and was ordered to remain in provisional prison. His next hearing was set for March 16.
The US Justice links Hernández, who governed Honduras between 2014 and 2022, with crimes fromdrug trafficking.
And although the extradition request took some Hondurans by surprise, the accusations and suspicions about the former president are not new.
In 2018, Hernández’s brother, Juan Antonio, who was a national deputy, was captured in Miami, also accused of crimes related to drug trafficking.
In March 2021 was found guilty of trafficking 150 tons of cocaine from Honduras to the US. and sentenced to life imprisonment.
It was from this direct family link that suspicions reached the former president. However, Hernández has rejected these accusations in the past and has assured that during his government he dedicated himself to combating the illegal drug business.
Hernández himself indicated through a message on his Twitter account that he remained at the disposal of the authorities.
“My representatives have received the message to be taken to the authorities that I am ready and willing to collaborate and arrive voluntarily at the time that the natural judge appointed by the honorable Supreme Court of Justice so decides, in order to face this situation. and defend myself,” he said Tuesday morning before the arrest.
But what is Hernández really accused of and why is the US asking for his extradition?
In the note sent by the US embassy. in Tegucigalpa to the Honduran government, the reason why the extradition request is made is specified: “Juan Orlando Hernández is wanted to be tried in the United States for drug trafficking and criminal offences. with firearms.”
Although during the eight years that Hernández was in power he became one of Washington’s main allies in the region, things began to get complicated long before he stepped down as president on January 27.
Although his departure from office, which left him without presidential immunity, was the trigger for the judicial measure.
Just days later, on February 9, the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinkenannounced that Hernández would have his visa to enter the country withdrawn for “anti-democratic behavior and acts of corruption.”
The United States is advancing transparency and accountability in Central America by making public visa restrictions against Honduras’ former president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, on account of corrupt actions. No one is above the law.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 7, 2022
“The United States is promoting transparency and accountability in Central America by making public the visa restrictions against former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández due to corruption actions,” Blinken wrote on his Twitter account.
A week ago, Blinken himself indicated in a statement that, according to “credible press reports” and local investigations, Hernández “had been involved to commit or facilitate acts of corruption and drug trafficking and use the proceeds of illicit activities to support political campaigns.”
These accusations referred to the accusations of some drug traffickers before different United States courts, which they would have confessed illicit payments to the closest circle of Hernández to be able to traffic the drug through Honduran territory.
To this was added the trial against his brother Juan Antonio, better known as Tony Hernández, who was a national deputy when he was captured.
During the brother’s trial, it became clear how drug trafficking groups infiltrated almost all spheres of power in Honduras, from the judicial field through the public force to reach power andexecutive.
In fact, the prosecutors in the case themselves singled out Juan Orlando Hernández, accusing him of “facilitating the use of Honduran armed forces personnel as security” for drug traffickers.
Another of the cases that affected Hernández, and that finally triggered the process against the former president, was that of Geovanny Fuentes Ramirezalso tried by a court in New York and found guilty in early February of this year.
Fuentes was sentenced to life in prison for trafficking five tons of cocaine and another 30 years in prison for illegally carrying weapons, considering that he protected his merchandise with the use of machine guns.
During the judicial proceeding against Fuentes Ramírez, it was indicated, through several testimonies, that one of his partners would be Juan Orlando Hernández.
One of the witnesses in that case indicated that he heard Hernández say that he wanted to put drugs “in the noses of the gringos” by flooding the United States with cocaine.
Now, according to local media, the formal charges presented to him were:
- Conspiring to traffic a controlled substance into the United States from a location outside the country, manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance with the intent and knowledge that it would be illegally imported into the United States. Similarly, manufacturing, distributing, and knowingly possessing and distributing a controlled substance aboard an aircraft registered in the United States
- Using or carrying firearms or aiding and abetting the use, carrying and possession of firearms in furtherance of the narcotics importation conspiracy with which he is charged in count one.
- Conspiracy to use or carry firearms in support of narcotics importation conspiracy.
For his part, Hernández’s lawyer said Monday that Hernández has diplomatic immunity because he belongs to the Central American Parliament, or Parlacen, based in Guatemala.
Hernández was sworn in as a member of Parlacen once he handed over his mandate to his successor, Xiomara Castro, January 27.
Although it is true that Parlacen grants its members immunity from prosecution in Central America, that protection can be canceled or suspended if requested by the country of origin of the person in question.
In addition, when the news was known, dozens of people were present in front of Hernández’s residence to celebrate the decision made by the US government.
However, senior officials of the current government -which is opposed to Hernández- told the newspaper Washington Post that the former president could be moving his influences within the judicial body to avoid extradition.
“The judges of the court are people appointed by Hernández, so it is difficult to know what kind of decision they are going to make,” said one of them.
The spokesman for the Judiciary, for his part, said at a press conference that Hernández’s extradition process, if the Court gives the favorable vote, could be delayed if the defense files an amparo appeal.
“One of the variables is that whether or not the defense presents appeals, normally amparo appeals before the Constitutional Chamber, we will have to wait for the resolution of those appeals,” he said.
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