ANTIGUA, Guatemala — A disgraced Honduran former president is set to be extradited to the United States to face drug and arms charges. A plane from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is scheduled to arrive in Honduras early Thursday to take once powerful former President Juan Orlando Hernández to face legal proceedings in New York City.
It’s been a spectacular fall from grace for a leader who was once one of the strongest allies in Central America for the United States. Hernández served as president for eight years — a time most Hondurans recall for its government oppression and corruption. He left office in January after eight years.
It wasn’t until Hernández’s brother Tony, a former Honduran congressman, was arrested in the U.S. on drug charges, that the former president’s reputation as a director of a narco-state came to light. Tony Hernández was given a life sentence for cocaine trafficking in 2021.
U.S. prosecutors accuse the pair of facilitating an international drug network that moved hundreds of tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia via Honduras to the U.S.. Hernández has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying he’s the victim of drug traffickers that his government prosecuted.
Current President Iris Xiomara Castro won elections last November. She accused Hernández of turning Honduras into a “narco-dictatorship” and pledged to overhaul corruption which has reportedly led to a mass migration of citizens to the United States.
However, Castro has already been accused of favoritism herself, appointing several family members to serve in her government. Her allies in congress also passed a law that would effectively grant immunity to members of the administration of her husband and former President Manuel Zelaya.
Last year, it was reported that Hondurans represented the largest nationality crossing the southern U.S. border asking for asylum — more than 200 families a day, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As well as poverty and corruption, two 2020 hurricanes, Eta and Iota, were particularly destructive for Honduras. The White House plans to spend $4 billion over four years in the region.