Outgoing Honduran President gains immunity from US extradition

Outgoing Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández, who faced possible extradition to America over accusations of aiding drug traffickers, has gained immunity hours after leaving office on 27th January.

Hours after Honduras swore in its first female president Xiomara Castro, Hernández was sworn in as a member of the Central American parliament, known as Parlacen. The Guatemala-based organisation grants immunity from prosecution within Central America, though this can be removed or suspended if the member’s home country requests. In line with the organisation’s mandate to incorporate former leaders of Central America, Hernández’s term is expected to last four years. 

Hernández has served a total of eight years as president, following his controversial 2016 decision to run for re-election despite the constitution forbidding it. Throughout his term, he became a close ally to America in anti-narcotic operations, his efforts were praised by several US agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration. However, Hernández has faced allegations of aiding drug traffickers, which the former president has continued to deny.

US Representative Norma Torres said in a statement “President Hernández has been a central figure in undermining the rule of law in his own country and in protecting and assisting drug traffickers.” Last year, during a case against now-convicted Honduran drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez, prosecutors accused Hernández of using Honduran law enforcement to protect drug traffickers. In a case also heard last year, Hernández’s brother was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years on drug trafficking charges by a US judge. Prosecutors named Hernández as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case in what the prosecutors described as “state-sponsored drug trafficking.” Hernández has denied all allegations of drug trafficking and cartel association. 

Should the United States charge Hernández and pursue extradition, the Honduran government could pass the case to Parlacen to decide.

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Aislinn Wright

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August 2022
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