Juan Orlando Hern ndez, who was President of Honduras for eight years, was sent to New York on Thursday to face charges of engineering a massive effort to flood the United States with cocaine.
In February Hern ndez was arrested at his home in Tegucigalpa less than a month after stepping down from office, a rare extradition of a former head of state. The Justice Department accused him of participating in a violent drug traffickers operation that sent 500 tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia to the U.S. through Honduras.
We allege that Hern ndez corrupted legitimate public institutions in the country - including parts of the national police, military, and national Congress, said Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday. We allege that Hern ndez worked closely with other public officials to protect shipments of cocaine bound for the United States. Because of these alleged crimes, communities in the United States suffered and the people of Honduras suffered. The charges said he received millions of dollars for shielding drug traffickers from arrest, including from the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, known as El Chapo, and for facilitating their shipments.
A grand jury indictment was unveiled Thursday, saying Hern ndez used the money to enrich himself, finance his political campaigns, and commit voter fraud, including in connection with the 2013 and 2017 Honduran presidential elections.
The charges said he abused his position as the president of Honduras to operate the country as a narco-state in order to enrich himself and corruptly gain and maintain power.
The former president said on social media this year that the U.S. charges were based on claims of drug traffickers and confessed assassins who were extradited by my government. A Honduran judge ruled last month that Hern ndez could be extradited to the U.S. After arriving in New York, Hernandez will be taken to a federal courtroom in Manhattan to face the charges.
Juan Antonio Hern ndez, the former president's brother, was sentenced last year to life in prison after being convicted for drug trafficking and weapons violations. During the trial, federal prosecutors said that then-President Hern ndez agreed to use his country's military forces to provide security for drug traffickers.
The extradition of Hern ndez is one of the few times a former head of state has been brought to the U.S. to face charges. In 1990, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was arrested on drug traffickers charges during a U.S. military operation. He was convicted in federal court in Miami. Noriega died in 2017 at the Santo Tomas Hospital in Panama City.