Photo: Protest against Juan Orlando Hernández in San Francisco. Credit: Peg Hunter
Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, who led a corrupt and dictatorial regime from 2014 until last month, appeared in court yesterday as he fights possible extradition to the United States on drug trafficking and weapons charges. On Monday, Honduran national police surrounded Hernández at his residence in the country’s capital Tegucigalpa. Honduras’ Supreme Court held an emergency session early Tuesday and ordered that Hernández be taken into custody at the headquarters of an elite unit of the national police, where he currently remains.
In a press release, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated that Hernández “engaged in significant corruption by committing or facilitating acts of corruption and narco-trafficking, and using the proceeds of illicit activity to facilitate political campaigns.” What this statement leaves out is Washington’s direct culpability in backing Hernández’s regime.
Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf referred to the Hernández government as “a valued and proven partner for the United States.” Since Hernández took office in 2014, the Pentagon has provided the country over $50 million of aid. And most importantly, the United States installed the right-wing National Party regime from which Hernández emerged by backing the overthrow of democratically-elected progressive President Manuel Zelaya in a 2009 military coup.
Since then, National Party officials have ruled in accordance with U.S. interests through brutal violence and repression that left the Honduran people in a dire economic and political crisis, forcing many to immigrate to the United States. After taking power in 2014, Hernández intensified political repression during his two presidential terms secured through fraudulent elections. One of many infamous acts of corruption committed under his regime was the embezzlement of up to $300 million from the Honduran Social Security Institute, a national program for pensions and healthcare.
Hernández was also implicated as an accomplice in a high profile trial in New York that sentenced his brother, former congressman Juan Antonio Hernández, to life in prison in the United States in 2019 for his role as a key figure in one of the world’s largest and most violent drug-trafficking conspiracies. Both Juan Antonio and Juan Orlando received drug money in exchange for providing protection to major traffickers — serving as links between the government and organized crime.
Hernández’s close ties to the drug trade was well known since at least 2014. Ironically, the Drug Enforcement Administration praised Hernández early on for his efforts to extradite drug traffickers. But now that Hernández is out of office and no longer of any use to the United States, it has turned on its former puppet. This, the managers of U.S. imperial foreign policy hope, will help cover up the embarrassing relationship they maintained for so many years with a drug trafficking kingpin.
Hernández left office after losing in a landslide last November to current president Xiomara Castro. Castro is a member of the left-wing Libre Party, formed by a coalition of people’s organizations opposed to the 2009 coup.
Hernández now faces a legal process before the country’s Supreme Court, which will decide whether or not to grant the U.S. request for extradition.