Honduras’ Hernandez Will Face Justice, but His Narco-State Could Live On

Honduras’ Hernandez Will Face Justice, but His Narco-State Could Live On
Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, center in chains, is shown to the press at the Police Headquarters in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Feb. 15, 2022 (AP photo by Elmer Martinez).

On Feb. 14, the U.S. Department of Justice requested the extradition of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on drug trafficking and weapons charges. Hernandez was arrested the following day, just two weeks after he left office and a mere week after Washington had revoked his visa. Hernandez was led away from his home in handcuffs and a bullet-proof vest, and he will likely remain detained in the military headquarters of Honduras’ special forces until his extradition hearing, which is set to take place on March 16. 

Hernandez’s arrest and the outcome of the extradition hearing signal a watershed moment for Honduras’ political future, just weeks into the term of President Xiomara Castro, who was elected in large part due to her pledge to fight corruption and tackle insecurity.

Honduras has been awash in corruption and violence since the 2009 coup that removed then- President Manuel Zelaya, Castro’s husband, from office. In the aftermath of the coup, the country devolved into a full-blown narco-state, and for much of that time, Hernandez was president. Elected in 2013, Hernandez had previously served as the president of the first post-coup National Congress from 2010-2013.

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