Last Monday, the Honduras Supreme Court unanimously ratified the decision taken earlier this month by Judge Edwin Ortez to extradite former President Juan Orlando Hernández to the United States. Hernández, who left office last January at the end of his second term, is accused by U.S. prosecutors in the Southern District of New York of participating in an international drug conspiracy responsible for trafficking 500 tons of cocaine from Honduras to the United States for nearly two decades.
According to prosecutors, Hernández received millions of dollars in bribes from Mexican cartels in exchange for granting them legal protection and providing security to conduct their operations. Following the Supreme Court ruling, Ana García de Hernández, wife of former President Hernández, published an open letter hand-written by her husband, where he declares himself “innocent” and a “victim of a vendetta and a conspiracy.” With no further appeal procedures available to him, Hernández will become Honduras’ first former president to be extradited.
This unprecedented decision comes at a time when the new administration of President Xiomara Castro is seeking to implement a comprehensive anti-corruption agenda. Castro has repeatedly expressed her intentions to crack down on the structures that have transformed Honduras into a “narco-state.” Last month, Honduras officially asked the United Nations to create an International Commission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras to support the administration’s efforts to strengthen the judicial system and dismantle the criminal structures that have gripped the Central American country for decades.