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Honduran police arrest ‘drug trafficking’ ex-president who ‘conspired to smuggle cocaine’


Police arrested former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández at his home on Tuesday, following a request by the United States government for his extradition on drug trafficking and weapons charges.

The arrest came less than three weeks after Hernández left office. It follows years of allegations by U.S. prosecutors of his alleged links to drug traffickers.

Hernández exited his home flanked by police, shackled at the wrists and ankles, and wearing a bulletproof jacket. He got into a police vehicle and was driven away. A police helicopter waiting nearby took flight and appeared to be escorting the caravan.

The Supreme Court of Justice had designated a judge Tuesday morning to handle the case and hours later the judge signed an order for Hernández’s arrest, said court spokesman Melvin Duarte. The security ministry, which had Hernández’s home surrounded since Monday evening, moved quickly to take him into custody.

Honduran Security Minister Ramón Sabillón, who was fired by Hernández as head of the National Police in 2014, said that Hernández had conspired ‘with cartels to traffic (drugs) and corrupt many public institutions, which led to social deterioration and undermined the application of justice in Honduras.’

He said the main charges Hernández faces in the U.S. are drug trafficking, using weapons for drug trafficking and conspiracy to use weapons in drug trafficking.

Hernandez has denied accusations made by federal prosecutors in New York, that he shielded drug lords, including Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, in exchange for bribes, and sought to flood the streets of the United States with drugs. 

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, center in chains, is shown to the press at the Police Headquarters in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Tuesday. Police arrested Hernandez at his home, following a request by the United States government for his extradition on drug trafficking and weapons charges

Special Forces Police block a street near the house of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, late Monday, Feb. 14, 2022. After years of speculation in Honduras, the United States formally requested the arrest and extradition of Hernández less than three weeks after he left office. (AP Photo/Elmer Martinez)

Tens of Honduran security forces (pictured) surrounded former President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s residence on Monday night after the United States demanded his arrest and extradition 

Police special forces were seen encircling Hernandez's residence in the capital city of Tegucigalpa on Monday evening (pictured) after the US requested the former president's arrest less than three weeks after he left office

Police special forces were seen encircling Hernandez’s residence in the capital city of Tegucigalpa on Monday evening (pictured) after the US requested the former president’s arrest less than three weeks after he left office

The foreign affairs ministry tweeted on Monday night that it had notified Honduras's Supreme Court 'requesting the formal provisional arrest of a Honduran politician for the purpose of extradition to the United States of America'

The foreign affairs ministry tweeted on Monday night that it had notified Honduras’s Supreme Court ‘requesting the formal provisional arrest of a Honduran politician for the purpose of extradition to the United States of America’

Hernandez (pictured) has denied accusations made by federal prosecutors in New York, that he shielded drug lords, including Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, in exchange for bribes, and sought to flood the streets of the United States with drugs

Hernandez (pictured) has denied accusations made by federal prosecutors in New York, that he shielded drug lords, including Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, in exchange for bribes, and sought to flood the streets of the United States with drugs

The former president, whose brother Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernández was convicted of drug trafficking in October 2019 in New York, was implicated when his name had come up in a previous investigation in the drug trafficking case of Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez.

Fuentes Ramírez, who was arrested while attempting to board a plane at Miami International Airport on March 1, 2020, is accused of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States and of killing several people to protect his business.

The specific charges Hernandez’s faces are not known and he has long denied any wrongdoing. 

At a police barrier to the neighborhood, Rasel Tome, vice president of the newly elected National Congress, said that Hernandez had to turn himself in or he would be arrested at 6am Tuesday.

It was a long-awaited fall for a leader reviled in his home country, who enjoyed support from the Trump administration, but had been kept at arm’s length by a Biden White House targeting Central America’s endemic corruption as a root cause of migration. 

Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice, declined to comment.

Hernandez left office January 27 with the swearing in of President Xiomara Castro. The same day he was sworn in as Honduras’ representative to the Central American Parliament.

His lawyer, Hermes Ramirez, told local media his client had immunity as a member of the regional parliament and said government forces were not following proper procedures. He said Hernandez was inside the home. 

Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán's is being linked by federal prosecutors in New York to Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández, who received $1 million from the notorious drug lord ahead of his presidential campaign in 2013

Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s is being linked by federal prosecutors in New York to Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández, who received $1 million from the notorious drug lord ahead of his presidential campaign in 2013

Juan Antonio 'Tony' Hernandez (pictured in 2017) was convicted in a massive drug conspiracy case in a New York City federal court in October 2019. He is the brother of Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández

Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernandez (pictured in 2017) was convicted in a massive drug conspiracy case in a New York City federal court in October 2019. He is the brother of Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández

Various contingents of the National Police, including special forces, as well as military police were present around Hernandez’s neighborhood Monday night. Barriers at all of the entrances kept out media and even residents.

Members of the security forces entered the area with weapons, wearing balaclavas and with handcuffs dangling from their ballistic vests. Some neighbors said the house had been dark and they believe unoccupied.

Hernandez often pointed to the fact that Honduras began allowing the extradition of Hondurans on drug trafficking charges while he was president of the congress as part of his defense.

But U.S. prosecutors have alleged that he was taking bribes from drug traffickers on the promise of protecting them once he was Honduras’ president.

U.S. prosecutors in New York repeatedly implicated him in his brother’s 2019 drug trafficking trial, alleging that his political rise was fueled by drug profits.

Various contingents of the National Police, including special forces, as well as military police were present around Hernandez's neighborhood Monday night. Barriers at all of the entrances kept out media and even residents

Various contingents of the National Police, including special forces, as well as military police were present around Hernandez’s neighborhood Monday night. Barriers at all of the entrances kept out media and even residents 

Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernandez, himself a former Honduran congressman, was sentenced to life in prison on drug and weapons charges in March 2021. At his sentencing Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Laroche characterized the crimes as ‘state-sponsored drug trafficking.’

Juan Orlando Hernandez took office in January 27, 2014. Hernandez used a friendly Supreme Court to overcome Honduras’ constitutional ban on reelection and won a second term in 2017 in elections marred by irregularities.

Around midnight on Monday, 56-year-old Jorge Arturo Vega, a supporter of Castro’s Liberty and Refoundation party, stood outside a police barricade at Hernandez’s neighborhood celebrating.

‘This is a party we’ve been waiting a long time for,’ Vega said, thinking back over the dozen years since Hernandez came up in the congress. ‘We couldn’t stand this his drug trafficker, criminal, killer in the presidential house any longer.’ 

Hernandez has denied all charges and claims the accusations are a part of a revenge plot from the same drug lords that his government captured or extradited to the United States. 



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