A double-turboprop Beechcraft belonging to the US Drug Enforcement Agency took off from a Honduran Air Force base at 2:27 p.m. local time (20:27 GMT) with Hernández on board, handcuffed and guarded. The former president was wearing a blue jacket and jeans.
Amid a heavy security deployment, Hernández left the prison he had occupied since mid-February, the headquarters of the Special Police Forces, known as Los Cobras, in eastern Tegucigalpa. He was transferred by helicopter to an air base of the Honduran Air Force in Toncontin, south of the capital.
As he descended, he was flanked by the Minister of Security, Ramón Sabillón, and a group of police officers. In a building at the air base, he awaited the arrival of the DEA plane that later took him to the United States.
“I am innocent and I am being unfairly subjected to a process…(…) injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere,” said the 53-year-old former president, in a video broadcast this Thursday by the local press. .
“You know that I worked tirelessly with the purpose of recovering peace in Honduras, we gave our maximum effort for our nation and it is unfortunate that those who turned Honduras into one of the most violent countries on the face of the earth, those villains, now want be heroes,” he added.
His wife, Ana García, said she believed in his innocence. “My love (…) We are convinced that you will return, of course you will return because you are innocent,” she wrote on Twitter.
– Lawyers in New York –
Once an ally of Washington, Hernández is wanted by US prosecutors because he “participated in a violent drug trafficking conspiracy to receive shipments of multiple tons of cocaine” between 2004 and 2022.
Through the conspiracy, “approximately 500,000 kilograms of cocaine were transported through Honduras to the United States,” according to his indictment.
The extradition, initially approved by a judge, was ratified at the end of March by the 15 magistrates of the plenary of the Supreme Court of Justice, all of them appointed during the first government of Hernández.
In a statement, the former president’s family announced that they hired lawyers Raymond Colón and Daniel Pérez in New York to take on their case and henceforth be the spokespersons for the process.
Hernández’s family reiterated the “innocence” of the former president and considered him “a victim of the revenge of the drug traffickers that he himself extradited or that forced him to flee to the United States.”
As the former president has argued, drug lords that his government helped extradite seek agreements with the US prosecutor’s office to reduce their sentences, “and based on lies” they accuse the former president “of committing acts at odds with the law of that country.”
During his administration, the former president proudly showed Washington’s praise for his work in drug seizures.
Even in 2017, when he managed to be elected for a second term amid accusations of fraud by the opposition and citizen clashes that left thirty people dead, the United States was one of the first governments to salute his victory.
Hernández left power on January 27, 2022. Days later, the State Department announced his inclusion on a list of corrupt characters, and then requested his extradition.
– A “narco-state” –
JOH, as he is known by his initials, was arrested on February 15, at the request of the United States.
His brother, former deputy Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, was sentenced to life in prison in March 2021, accused of sending the United States 140,000 kilos of cocaine from 2004 to 2016, including bricks marked with his initials, “TH”.
At trial, federal prosecutors pointed out that “Tony” operated with his brother and government institutions, and that Honduras was a “narco-state.”
Another former official awaiting extradition is the former head of the National Police Juan Carlos ‘El Tigre’ Bonilla, accused of “supervising” the drug trafficking operations of the former president.
“Three life sentences could make me a living dead,” said Hernandez, anticipating the harsh sentences that may await him for the three crimes of drug trafficking and carrying weapons of which he is accused.