On Tuesday, Honduran authorities arrested former President Juan Orlando Hernández after receiving an extradition request from the U.S. Department of Justice. The request alleges Hernández conducted a “violent drug-trafficking conspiracy” that since 2004 transported 500 tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia to the United States via Honduras. According to investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other U.S. agencies, Hernández has amassed millions of dollars in bribes for facilitating drug shipments and harboring traffickers. The Honduran Supreme Court unanimously appointed Judge Edwin Ortez Cruz to evaluate the request.
During her inauguration speech in January, President Xiomara Castro pledged to root out the corruption and impunity that she alleges took place under Hernández’s rule. Unlike other countries where isolated power structures facilitate drug trafficking, U.S. prosecutors say Honduran drug trafficking is unique in scale because it has infiltrated many state institutions, including the police, military, executive, judiciary, congress, and local governments.
In 2012, under National Party control, the Honduran Congress passed a constitutional reform to allow the extradition of Hondurans charged with drug trafficking, terrorism, or organized crime. Although Honduran authorities have never refused an extradition request from the United States, Hernández’s case will mark the first time a president faces extradition.