Police arrested former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez at his home on Tuesday after a US government request for his extradition on drug and arms trafficking charges.
The arrest came less than three weeks after Hernandez left his post. It follows years of U.S. prosecutors accusing him of alleged ties to drug dealers.
Hernandez left the house with a police escort, shackled wrists and ankles, and a bulletproof jacket. He got into the police car and drove away. A police helicopter waiting nearby took off and appeared to be escorting the caravan.
On Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court appointed a judge to hear the case, and a few hours later the judge signed a warrant for Hernandez’s arrest, court spokesman Melvin Duarte said. The Department of Security, which had surrounded Hernandez’s home since Monday evening, quickly took him into custody.
Honduran security minister Ramon Sabillon, who was fired by Hernandez as head of the national police in 2014, said that Hernandez colluded “with cartels to trade (drugs) and bribe many public institutions, which led to a deterioration in the social situation and undermined the administration of justice. in Honduras.”
He said the main charges Hernandez faces in the U.S. are drug trafficking, the use of weapons for drug trafficking, and conspiracy to use weapons for drug trafficking.
Hernandez denied allegations by the New York federal prosecutor’s office that he protected drug lords, including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, in exchange for bribes and tried to flood the streets of the United States with drugs.
Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, at the center of the chain, is shown to the press at police headquarters in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Tuesday. Police arrested Hernandez at his home after a US government request for his extradition on drug and arms trafficking charges.
Dozens of Honduran security forces (pictured) surrounded the residence of former President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Monday evening after the United States requested his arrest and extradition.
SWAT police were seen surrounding Hernandez’s residence in the capital Tegucigalpa on Monday evening (pictured) after the US demanded the arrest of the former president less than three weeks after he left office.
On Monday evening, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted that it had notified the Supreme Court of Honduras of the “formal provisional arrest of a Honduran politician with a view to extradition to the United States of America.”
Hernandez (pictured) denied allegations by the New York federal prosecutor’s office that he protected drug lords, including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, in exchange for bribes, and tried to flood the streets of the United States with drugs.
The former president, whose brother Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez was convicted of drug trafficking in October 2019 in New York City, was implicated when his name came up in a previous drug trafficking investigation into Giovanni Fuentes Ramirez.
Fuentes Ramirez, who was arrested while trying to board a plane at Miami International Airport on March 1, 2020, is charged with conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States and killing several people to protect his business.
Specific allegations against Hernandez are unknown and he has long denied any wrongdoing.
At the police barrier in the neighborhood, Raselle Tome, vice president of the newly elected National Congress, said Hernandez must turn himself in or be arrested at 6 am on Tuesday.
It was a welcome downfall for a leader who was reviled in his home country, who enjoyed the support of the Trump administration but was at arm’s length by the Biden White House, which targeted pervasive corruption in Central America as the main reason for migration.
Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Justice, declined to comment.
Hernandez left office on January 27 following the swearing in of President Giomara Castro. On the same day, he was sworn in as the representative of Honduras in the Parliament of Central America.
His lawyer, Hermes Ramirez, told local media that his client has immunity as a member of the regional parliament and said government forces were not following due process. He said Hernandez was in the house.
New York federal prosecutors are linking Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who received $1 million from the notorious drug lord ahead of his 2013 presidential campaign.
Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez (pictured in 2017) was convicted in New York federal court in a massive drug conspiracy case in October 2019. He is the brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
Various national police contingents, including special forces, as well as military police, were in the Hernandez area on Monday evening. Barriers at all entrances kept the media and even residents out.
Law enforcement officers entered the territory with weapons, in balaclavas and with handcuffs hanging from bulletproof vests. Some neighbors said that the house was dark and, in their opinion, no one was there.
Hernandez often pointed to the fact that Honduras began to allow the extradition of Hondurans on drug trafficking charges when he was congressional president, as part of his defense.
But US prosecutors said he took bribes from drug dealers for promising to protect them when he was president of Honduras.
U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York charged him multiple times in his brother’s drug dealing lawsuit in 2019, alleging that his political rise was fueled by drug profits.
Various national police contingents, including special forces, as well as military police, were in the Hernandez area on Monday evening. Barriers at all entrances kept the media and even residents out
Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, a former Honduran congressman, was sentenced to life in prison on drug and weapons charges in March 2021. At sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Laroche described the crimes as “state-sponsored drug trafficking”.
Juan Orlando Hernandez took office on January 27, 2014. Hernandez used the friendly Supreme Court to overcome Honduras’ constitutional ban on re-election and won a second term in 2017 in an election marred by irregularities.
Around midnight on Monday, Jorge Arturo Vega, 56, a supporter of Castro’s Freedom and Renaissance party, stood outside a police barricade in the Hernandez neighborhood, celebrating.
“This is the party we’ve been waiting for,” Vega said, recalling the dozen years since Hernandez showed up at the convention. “We could no longer tolerate this drug dealer, criminal, murderer of his in the presidential house.”
Hernandez has denied all allegations and claims the allegations are part of a revenge plot by the same drug lords his government captured or extradited to the United States.