Honduras' ex-president is arrested as the U.S. seeks his extradition on drug charges
Updated February 16, 2022 at 12:36 PM ET
The man who was president of Honduras until just a few weeks ago will now face a federal judge.
The U.S. has asked that former President Juan Orlando Hernández be extradited to stand trial on drug trafficking and weapons charges. He appeared in court on Wednesday morning in Honduras.
Hernández was escorted out of his home Tuesday with chains on his wrists and ankles, police officers lowered a bulletproof vest over his head — all broadcast on live TV.
It's quite a fall from grace for the longtime ally of the U.S.
Honduran Security Minister Ramón Sabillón told reporters in a raucous press conference that the arrest went off without incident. Sabillón had actually been fired by Hernández in 2014, after making several high-profile arrests of drug traffickers as head of the national police.
Sabillón said Hernández conspired with cartels, causing great social harm to Honduras and its justice system.
A U.S. Justice Department official told NPR there was no comment regarding the case at this time.
However, evidence had been mounting in recent years about Hernández's involvement with international traffickers. In U.S. federal court proceedings — including last year's case against his brother, Tony Hernández — the former president was described as a co-conspirator. Tony Hernández was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison.
Hernández has long said that he's innocent and that testimony against him was coerced by prosecutors.
Last night in the Honduran capital, drivers honked horns, revelers waved Honduran flags, and some held up pictures of the chained Hernández with the words "Thanks U.S.A." and "This is what we dreamed of."
Reporter Paulo Cerrato interviewed several demonstrators for NPR.
"This is a happy day," said 38-year-old teacher Gilberto Sanabria. But he adds that seeing Hernández chained is just a reminder of all the poverty and corruption he brought to Honduras.
Hernández's nearly decade-long tenure was marked by dramatic lawlessness, high homicide rates and record migration out of the country.
The digital version of this story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.
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