The US government has turned on the right-wing former dictator of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, after it spent years supporting him. Hernández is the latest in a series of brutal authoritarians who were key US allies until they outlived their usefulness, from Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo to Panama’s Manuel Noriega. This February, the United States requested the extradition of Honduran ex-president Juan Orlando Hernández on charges of trafficking cocaine and guns. Local authorities arrested him on February 15. Hernández, who is popularly known by his initials JOH, served two terms in office, from 2014 to 2022. It was widely known that JOH used drug money to fund his presidential campaigns, and blatantly stole the 2013 and 2017 elections in broad daylight.
On Tuesday, Honduran national police arrested JOH from his residence in the capital Tegucigalpa. It came a day after the US government requested JOH’s extradition by the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice for allegedly conspiring to traffic drugs in the US. On Tuesday morning, Supreme Court judge Edwin Ortez formally accepted the extradition request and issued an arrest warrant for Hernández. Hours later, Hernández was handcuffed by officials and moved to a high-security detention center.
Former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández has been arrested, a day after the US Department of Justice requested his extradition over drug trafficking and weapons charges, culminating a spectacular fall from grace for a man who was once considered one of Washington’s top allies in Central America. On Tuesday afternoon Hernández left his home in a wealthy neighborhood in the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa, where he was cuffed at the hands and feet and provided a bullet-proof vest before being taken away in a police caravan to a special forces base. He will appear before a judge for his first hearing within 24 hours.According to the extradition request submitted to Honduras, Hernández was part of a “violent drug-trafficking” conspiracy that trafficked roughly 500,000 kilos of cocaine since 2004.
Castro’s victory is just the latest in a year of leftist victories in Latin America, including Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Pedro Castillo in Peru, and Luis Arce in Bolivia, all of which represent significant setbacks for the US’ agenda in the region. "There will be no more abuse of power in this country," Castro said in an unofficial victory speech on Sunday. “Today, the people have made justice. We have reversed authoritarianism.” With 40% of votes counted, she held a commanding lead of 53.3% over her chief rival, National Party candidate Nasry Asfura, who Sputnik News journalist Wyatt Reed described as the “handpicked successor to Juan Orlando Hernandez,” the right-wing president whose two election victories were widely marred by fraud.
Beginning in mid-March, Venezuelan army units have been attacking and expelling Colombian operatives active in Apure state. These have long used Venezuela’s border region to prepare cocaine arriving from Colombia and ship it to the United States and Europe. The fighting has subsided; eight Venezuelan troops were killed. Seeking safety, 3,500 Venezuelans crossed the Meta River—an Orinoco tributary—to Arauca in Colombia. The bi-national border is unmonitored and long enough, at 1367 miles, to encourage smuggling and the undocumented passage of cross-border travelers, in this instance the embattled Colombians in Apure. Among these are armed paramilitaries, bands of former FARC-EP insurgents and narcotraffickers—pilots, truckers, laboratory workers, and more.
The US drug trial against the brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández brought the nexus between organized crime and political power to the forefront, undermining the country’s purported role as an ally in the fight against corruption and powerful drug trafficking groups. Over the course of the two-week trial that ended with the conviction of former Honduran congressman Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández — the president’s brother — on drug and weapons charges, little doubt remained about the importance his connections to political power and dirty members of the country’s security forces played in facilitating his network. Still, it’s unclear if this conviction alone — especially in the wake of past convictions that in hindsight only temporarily shook up Honduras’ elite — will knock down the criminal structures firmly in place.