‘An extradition foretold’: Honduras reacts to ex-president’s fate

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Tegucigalpa, Honduras – After a six-week ineligible conflict intimately watched by Hondurans, the country’s apical tribunal has cleared the way for erstwhile President Juan Orlando Hernandez to beryllium tried successful the United States connected cause trafficking and weapons charges.

Hondurans had agelong awaited Hernandez’s extradition and already celebrated successful the streets of the capital, Tegucigalpa, erstwhile helium was taken into custody successful February. Now each that awaits is simply a level sent by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which sources told Univision connected Monday would beryllium coming rapidly to nonstop him to New York.

“The determination that the tribunal made Monday is the communicative of an extradition foretold,” said Joaquin Mejia, a lawyer with Honduran probe radical ERIC-SJ and the Honduran Legal Team for Human Rights (EJDH).

Hernandez, erstwhile a adjacent US state successful the combat against cause trafficking and migration, was archetypal formally signalled to beryllium progressive successful cause trafficking during his member Tony Hernandez’s proceedings successful New York successful 2019.

In a aboriginal proceedings of convicted Honduran cause trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez, prosecutors alleged Hernandez said helium would “shove the drugs close up the noses of the gringos” and utilized authorities information and instrumentality enforcement to support cause traffickers. Prosecutors present allege that Hernandez began receiving bribes from cause traffickers arsenic acold backmost arsenic 2006.

“The authorities are yet doing what they should person done a agelong clip ago: penalise and enactment down bars the radical who person robbed this country,” said Aaron Hernandez, a 31-year-old Honduran motortruck driver, aft the tribunal issued its decision.

Years of frustration

But not everyone successful Honduras feels that way; supporters of Hernandez gathered extracurricular the tribunal passim the extradition process to amusement their loyalty to the erstwhile president and question what was happening.

“I don’t similar what they are doing to him. He was a bully president. He gave radical nutrient and helped during the pandemic and gave vaccines,” 35-year-old Karen Garcia told Al Jazeera successful an interrogation connected Tuesday. “If helium has thing to wage for, I deliberation helium should bash it successful his country,” she said, adding that she believes helium is innocent.

The ex-president has repeatedly denied cause trafficking allegations arsenic lies invented by his enemies to get backmost astatine him. Through a hand-written enactment shared by his woman connected Monday, helium erstwhile again proclaimed his innocence.

Hernandez’s National Party, which suffered a devastating loss astatine the voting booths past November, besides defended his innocence aft the tribunal determination connected Monday. “The erstwhile president Juan Orlando Hernandez has the anticipation of defending himself determination successful the US and to beryllium capable to support his innocence,” said Tomas Zambrano, a National Party congressman, successful a statement.

But erstwhile Hernandez near bureau 2 months ago, extradition rumours were already swirling.

Supporters of ex-Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez protestHernandez supporters clasp a protestation extracurricular the Honduran Supreme Court successful Tegucigalpa connected March 16, 2022 [Fredy Rodriguez/Reuters]

The fashionable run opus of Hernandez’s statesmanlike successor, erstwhile archetypal woman Xiomara Castro of the left-wing Liberty and Refoundation (Libre) Party, sang of his being sent to New York to reunite with his member Tony. The opus has go a rallying outcry for Hondurans frustrated with years of corruption and unit that has caused galore to flee to the US.

“He took distant truthful galore opportunities from Hondurans,” said Alexander Interiano, 45, who works successful welding and electrical repairs. He criticised Hernandez for spending nationalist wealth connected his ain information portion helium claimed to assistance mediocre Hondurans. “He was a hypocrite with Hondurans each clip helium gave a property conference.”

Corruption battle

The US sent $461m for “governance” projects successful Honduras from 2014 to 2021, the years that Hernandez was successful power.

However, Hernandez himself was a large obstacle to improving institutions and warring corruption successful the country, according to Rafael Jerez, a Honduran governmental expert and probe chap astatine the Institute for Transnational Law astatine the University of Texas astatine Austin.

“The anti-corruption combat suffered a large setback due to the fact that successful Honduras it was ne'er fought, astatine slightest with Juan Orlando successful power,” Jerez told Al Jazeera.

Under Hernandez, Honduras invited an internationally backed, anti-corruption committee to the state but constricted its powers and allowed its mandate to expire successful 2020 aft its investigations were linked to Hernandez’s run funds. Congress besides passed a bid of laws to hinder corruption investigations, which the existent medication is present moving to undo.

By 2021, the past twelvemonth Hernandez was successful power, Honduras ranked successful the bottom 15 percent of countries successful presumption of corruption, according to Transparency International.

Now, arsenic Castro has promised to rid the authorities of corruption and amended the prime of beingness for Hondurans, galore spot Hernandez’s extradition arsenic lone the archetypal measurement of a larger conflict to tackle corruption.

“In Honduras, Hernandez ne'er faced immoderate ceremonial accusations,” said Jerez. “This highlights however cause trafficking has permeated the institutions, the governmental parties. That’s wherefore it’s important to retrieve that he’s leaving, but a operation remains successful the country.”

Jerez called for judicial reforms and the strengthening of the nationalist prosecutor’s bureau to amended the justness strategy wrong Honduras. In the meantime, different extradition requests, astatine slightest 32 according to the Supreme Court, are inactive waiting to beryllium carried out.

“We’re successful a infinitesimal to place these authoritarian and transgression enclaves that Juan Orlando Hernandez created and are inactive portion of the state,” said the lawyer, Mejia, “to beryllium capable to dismantle them and commencement a process of democratisation and cleaning up of the country.”

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