With a United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) plane landing in the Honduran capital on the last day of the Former President Juan Orlando Hernández before his extradition to New York, where a court forces him to smuggle more than 500,000 kilos of cocaine into the United States. The former president again assured that he was innocent and his family said they had hired two lawyers for the trial. Hernández, 53, became the first former head of state to be extradited to the United States for drug trafficking.
Hernandez in New York
Between 800 and 1,000 Honduran police officers were part of the “Operation Liberation” contingent, the name given by the American DEA to the extradition of Hernández. Despite the fact that it was around thirty degrees in Tegucigalpa, the former Honduran president was wearing a warm jacket and also despite the New York spring waiting for him to start the trial where he is accused of large-scale drug trafficking .
In the early hours of the morning, the plane that will take the former president to the United States landed, where He will be tried on three counts related to drug trafficking: conspiracy to import a controlled substance into the United States, knowing that it would be illegally imported on board an aircraft registered in that country; use or possession of firearms, machine guns and destructive devices in support of the conspiracy to import narcotics listed in Count 1; and conspiracy to use or carry firearms to import drugs into the United States.
In the extradition request Prosecutors say the former president and leader of the Conservative National Party’s criminal activity dates back to 2004. “Hernández participated in the violent drug trafficking conspiracy to receive shipments of several tons of cocaine”, according to the document published by the United States, in which they also specify that Hernández conspired to transport “approximately 500,000 kilograms of cocaine through Honduras to the United States”. The extradition request was ratified on March 28 by the 15 judges of the plenary session of the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ), appointed during Hernández’s first term.
The extradition operation
Shortly before noon, the former president was transferred by helicopter from the National Directorate of Special Forces facilities to the headquarters of the Special Operations Command (COBRAS), where he had been held in protective custody since mid-February. , to the Honduran Air Base Hernán Acosta Mejía located south of the capital. Hernández was handcuffed and accompanied by the current security secretary, Ramón Sabillón, who a few months ago headed the operation that captured the former president in his residence in Tegucigalpa.
Before boarding the helicopter, Hernández reiterated his innocence. “I am innocent, I have been and am subjected to an unjust trial.” JOH’s family has announced that they have hired attorneys Daniel Pérez, a former assistant Florida state attorney, and Raymond Colon in New York. to defend the former president in court for the Southern District of New York. Last year, the then president’s brother and former MP Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years in prison in the United States. In these investigations, the American justice qualified JOH as CC-4 (co-conspirator number 4).
A historical fact
Dozens of people gathered at Isy Obed Murillo Square, located near the airfield to celebrate the extradition of JOH. Murillo, 19, was the first martyr of the 2009 coup, an event that was the prelude to the regime established by Hernández. “The dictatorship has already fallen” chanted a group of young people hoping to witness Hernández’s final steps in the Central American country he ruled for the past eight years.
At around two o’clock in the afternoon, Honduran Defense Minister José Manuel Zelaya (Junior) reported that he had completed the necessary migration process before JOH boarded the American plane. A few minutes later, he was escorted by DEA agents to board the American plane which took him to New York.
Hernández’s extradition is one of the events most awaited by the Honduran population, which closely followed the capture, the hearings and finally the departure of the former president. Hondurans were awaiting the departure of the former president, which was broadcast by local media that detailed every moment of the extradition day. National Police spokesman Edgardo Barahona assured that there could be caravans and celebratory carnivals during the night as it is a historic event for the country.
“It’s a message to reflect on. Within days of being the country’s first citizen, he became a person of interest, captured, detained and sent to the United States,” the spokesperson said. police, who in turn assured that there will be more extraditions. .
The Supreme Court of Justice on Wednesday ratified the extradition to the United States of the former head of the Honduran national police between 2012 and 2013, Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, required for the offenses of drug trafficking and the use of weapons. Bonilla could be sentenced to life imprisonment by the American justice.