A Honduran judge authorized the extradition of ex-president Juan Orlando Hernandez, a month after police arrested him at his house per the request of the United States government, reports The Washington Post. The Associated Press notes that allegations against Hernandez were revealed in the trials of both Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, a former Honduran congressman, and the president’s brother, and Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez. Hernandez will face charges of manufacturing, trafficking, and distribution of drugs and firearms in southern New York.
According to the U.S. State Department, the ex-head-of-state was placed on the department’s Corrupt and Undemocratic Actors list on July 1, 2021, effectively prohibiting listed individuals from applying for visas or being admitted into the United States. It is alleged that Hernandez accepted bribes and support from traffickers to fund his political career, which he began as the congressional representative to a rural state in western Honduras, then as the President of the National Congress, and, finally, serving two terms as President of Honduras. In exchange for the bribes, Hernandez allowed drug traffickers to operate freely, provided information to evade authorities, and allowed national security forces to aid them in their illegal operations. According to The New York Times, Hernandez enabled the transport of nearly 500 tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia through Honduras to the United States.
The extradition of Hernandez is not an isolated event but rather one part of a broad pattern of corruption within the Honduran government. The trial of Juan Antonio Hernandez revealed that his brother had also used state security forces to facilitate drug trafficking, as well as murder political rivals. Of note, these state security forces had received training from American troops along with millions of dollars in aid, according to Foreign Policy. While this is already politically damaging, there is further evidence that cartels have infiltrated many facets of the Honduran government. According to U.S. authorities, Hernandez accepted about $1.6 million from a drug trafficker to aid his 2013 campaign for President, as well as the campaigns of other politicians from his party. He continued to receive bribes from drug traffickers after he took office in 2014, allowing drugs to move through the country.
Hernandez’s arrest is a symptom of a greater faulty approach to foreign policy from American leaders. The United States’ War on Drugs, beginning in 1971, provided funds for numerous Latin and South American governments, in the hopes that they would crack down on drug trafficking. However, in states like Honduras, drug trafficking extends into the government, in turn enabling criminals to use American funds to facilitate their activities. In addition to direct government funding, BBC News mentions that Latin American security forces have benefitted from training by the U.S. military, using these skills to conduct kidnappings and non-state-sanctioned executions, as well as taking part in the transport of drugs throughout the region. Such operations drive citizens out of their home countries towards the U.S. border in search of safer lives, in turn encouraging further investment on border patrol and immigration policies.
Regarding his extradition, Hernandez’s lawyers must file an appeal, which will be heard in front of the Supreme Court of Honduras. The court’s decision can come within a few days and, if approved, Hernandez would be extradited almost immediately to begin the legal process in the United States.