Honduran police arrested former President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Tuesday at the request of the United States, which is seeking his extradition to stand trial for his alleged involvement in illicit drug trafficking.
Hernandez, who left office three weeks ago, was escorted from his home in Tegucigalpa in shackles and a bulletproof jacket.
The Supreme Court of Justice chose a judge to handle the case, and that judge signed an order for the former president’s arrest. Police, who had surrounded Hernandez’s home since Monday, took him into custody.
“It is not an easy time. I don’t wish to do this to anyone,” Hernandez said in an audio message posted on his Twitter profile early Tuesday morning. He said he was ready to go with police in order to “face this situation and defend myself.”
The extradition request said that since 2004, Hernandez allowed tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia to travel through Honduras on its way to the United States, while protecting drug traffickers from investigation, in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes.
Hernandez was repeatedly implicated as a co-conspirator in his brother’s 2019 drug trafficking trial by New York prosecutors. The brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, was found guilty of drug and weapons charges and sentenced to life in prison.
Hernandez was once a key regional ally of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this month there were credible reports that Hernandez “has engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of corruption and narco-trafficking” and using the proceeds to fund his political career.
After eight years as president, Hernandez was sworn in as Honduras’ representative to the Central American Parliament on January 27, just hours after his successor, Xiomara Castro, became the country’s first woman president. His lawyer says he has immunity from extradition because he is a member of the regional parliament.
The extradition process is likely to last for several weeks.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.