Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez landed Thursday evening in New York in handcuffs and escorted by US law enforcement officers as he was being extradited to stand trial for drug trafficking.
Upon his arrival, Hernández was housed at a federal detention center in Brooklyn to spend the night.
Hernández is said to have received millions of US dollars from drug cartels, including that of Chapo Guzmán in exchange for operating in Honduras with total impunity.
The 53-year-old Hernández has been indicted for drug and weapons offenses. “Hernandez abused his position as President of Honduras … to operate the country as a narco-state,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters. With his actions, the former President turned his country into a “narco-state.”
A ruling by Honduras’ Supreme Court in late March cleared the way for Hernandez, who served as president from 2014 until January of this year, to be extradited to face charges in a New York court.
Hernandez, who was once regarded as a key US ally in the war on drugs, “participated in a corrupt and violent drug-trafficking conspiracy to facilitate the importation of hundreds of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States.”
The former president, who lost his immunity after handing power to Xiomara Castro Jan. 27, has denied all charges, saying they are part of a plot orchestrated by enemies trying to get back at him.
Damian Williams, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Thursday evening that Hernandez was involved in “rampant corruption and massive cocaine trafficking” that spurred violence in the Central American country.
Some Hondurans celebrated Hernandez's arrested in February following the US extradition request.
Most allegations against Hernandez emerged during trials in New York against Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, the president’s brother and himself a former Honduran Congressman, and Geovanny Fuentes Ramírez, who are now serving life prison sentences.
The former president's family has said in a statement that they were “ready and confident that we’ll be able to show the US justice system that these accusations are a revenge plot from Honduran narcos whose empire of crime and violence Juan Orlando destroyed.”