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Honduras Ex-President Hernández Extradited To U.S.


Honduras Ex-President Hernández Extradited To U.S.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduras extradited former President Juan Orlando Hernández to the US on Thursday to face drug trafficking and weapons fees in a dramatic reversal for a pacesetter as soon as touted by U.S. authorities as a key ally within the warfare on the medicine.

Simply three months after leaving workplace, a handcuffed Hernández boarded an airplane with brokers from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration certain for the US, the place he faces fees within the Southern District of New York.

U.S. Legal professional Basic Merrick Garland stated Hernandez “abused his place as President of Honduras from 2014 via 2022 to function the nation as a narco-state.”

In courtroom paperwork, U.S. prosecutors alleged Hernandez was concerned in a “corrupt and violent drug-trafficking conspiracy” that moved greater than 550 tons of cocaine to the US. He was charged with collaborating in a drug trafficking conspiracy, possession of machine weapons and harmful units and conspiracy to own machine weapons and harmful units.

Prosecutors cost that Hernandez acquired hundreds of thousands of {dollars} from drug cartels, together with from infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. They allege he used the cash to finance his political campaigns and engaged in voter fraud within the 2013 and 2017 Honduran presidential elections.

“In return, drug traffickers in Honduras had been allowed to function with digital impunity,” Garland stated. “We allege that Hernández corrupted official public establishments within the nation — together with elements of the nationwide police, navy and nationwide Congress.”

Hernández was arrested at his residence in Tegucigalpa in February on the request of U.S. authorities. He was shackled and paraded in entrance of journalists, a sight many Hondurans by no means imagined seeing.

Honduras’ Supreme Court docket rejected his enchantment of a decide’s determination in favor of extradition.

“Drug trafficking fuels violent crime and dependancy; it devastates households, and it ravages communities,” Garland stated. “The Justice Division is dedicated to disrupting your complete ecosystem of drug trafficking networks that hurt the American individuals, regardless of how far or how excessive we should go.”

Hernández has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. In a video message launched Thursday, he stated, “I’m harmless; I’ve been and I’m being unjustly subjected to prosecution.”

He has stated he’s the sufferer of drug traffickers he extradited who at the moment are mendacity to hunt revenge.

Henry Osorto Canales, a retired Nationwide Police commissioner who’s now an analyst, stated that whereas the extradition was a humiliation for Honduras, it was additionally a historic day.

“It is a begin as a result of it has begun with the most important political piece that the nation had and logically the remainder of the items are going to fall, at the least these closest (to Hernández),” Osorto stated.

U.S. prosecutors have spent years constructing instances from low-level drug traffickers and native politicians to organized crime bosses who used their political connections and ties to drug trafficking cartels in Colombia and Mexico to maneuver tons of cocaine to the US. A lot of them testified about making funds to Hernández or one in all his brothers, additionally a politician.

Hernández’s brother Tony Hernández, a former congressman, was sentenced to life in jail in the identical U.S. courtroom on primarily the identical fees.

Juan Orlando Hernández took workplace in January 2014 and held the presidency till this January, when Xiomara Castro was sworn in as his alternative. Castro campaigned on rooting out Honduras’ corruption and Hernández was seen as the most important goal.

On Wednesday, Honduras’ Supreme Court docket denied an enchantment from the previous chief of the Nationwide Police, Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, higher often called “El Tigre” or “The Tiger.” He was arrested after Hernández on the request of U.S. prosecutors on comparable fees and is anticipated to be extradited within the coming weeks.

U.S. prosecutors allege Bonilla assisted the motion of tons of cocaine via Honduras, working with Hernández and his brother Tony Hernández, each co-conspirators within the case within the Southern District of New York.

Hernández’s transport through helicopter below heavy guard from the police base the place he was held to the airport Thursday was coated dwell by native tv shops.

Some Hondurans stood exterior the airport’s perimeter fence to catch a glimpse of the previous president boarding the airplane with U.S. authorities. When Hernández’s airplane took off some had been seen leaping in celebration.

Hundreds of their countrymen emigrated from the nation throughout Hernández’s administration, typically shouting “Get out JOH!” utilizing his initials as they walked north. They ceaselessly complained of an absence of job alternatives and gang violence.

Balsamo reported from Washington. Related Press author Christopher Sherman in Mexico Metropolis contributed to this report.

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