Wednesday, February 16, 2022

JOH detained in shackles (Feb. 16, 2022)

Former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández was detained by police in Tegucigalpa yesterday, after an extradition request by the United States, where federal prosecutors have accused him of participating in a "violent drug-trafficking conspiracy." He presented himself voluntarily to security officers in front of his home, and was escorted away wearing a bulletproof vest and shackles that bound him hand and foot. (Washington Post, See yesterday's post.)

Hernández is expected to be presented in court today, but the legal battle over his extradition could last months. 

The DEA has spent almost a decade building the case that led them to Juan Orlando Hernández, reports Univisión. Between approximately 2005 and 2017, the former president of Honduras allegedly received millions of dollars in illicit campaign financing – “bribes” according to U.S. prosecutors – from a who’s who of Mexican and Honduran drug traffickers. If Hernández is extradited, the accusations of bribes - which Hernández denies - could finally be put to the test in front of a jury.

But, though U.S. prosecutors moved swiftly once Hernández left office, the former president's fate is not sealed, reports InSight Crime. Hernández has spent years weathering allegations of drug trafficking. Nonetheless, his claims to immunity from prosecution are unlikely to hold water, according to legal experts.

Hernández is widely disliked in Honduras. Fireworks exploded around Tegucigalpa almost immediately after Hernández was detained, and about a hundred protesters gathered around his residence to celebrate, reports the New York Times.

The detention is a spectacular fall from grace for a man who was once considered one of Washington’s top allies in Central America, reports the Guardian. And indeed, while the U.S. is now pursuing Hernández, it supported his government for years, despite human rights violations and a 2017 marked by irregularities.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy criticized the U.S.'s historic support for the former president: "Throughout the past eight years of decay, depravity, and impunity, successive U.S. administrations sullied our reputation by treating Hernández as a friend and partner."

More Honduras
  • Criterio reports on the fortune amassed by the Hernández family in its years of political power.

  • The six detained Guapinol environmental defenders still have not been released from pretrial detention, following a Supreme Court order to liberate them on Friday. Reports indicate they could be released today. (Radio Progreso, see Friday's briefs and yesterday's.)
News Briefs

  • Cuban courts sentenced 20 defendants on charges of sedition in relation to anti-government protests last July. Some protesters have been sentenced for up to 20 years in prison and hundreds of other people await verdicts following trials elsewhere in the country, reports the Associated Press.
  • Nicaragua's government started trials against seven opposition leaders yesterday, the latest in a series of judicial actions against political detainees that could keep critics locked up for years. So far, all 21 of those tried have been found guilty and have been sentenced to up to 13 years in prison. Juan Sebastián Chamorro and two other former presidential candidates were among the group put on trial yesterday. The trials -- characterized as farcical by observers -- are expected to continue in the El Chipote prison today, behind closed doors, reports Confidencial. The trials are “an attack on all types of dissidence,” WOLA president Carolina Jiménez told the Washington Post.
Regional Relations
  • The U.S. Biden administration urged Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to defend "democratic principles" in Moscow, after he disregarded a U.S. request to call off an upcoming meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • A preliminary agreement announced between Argentina’s government and the International Monetary Fund does little to address the country's long term economic problems, but is likely the least negative course of action the IMF could have taken for Argentine society, writes Alejandro Werner, the IMF's former director for the Western Hemisphere in Americas Quarterly.
  • A Jamaican judge again postponed the hearing of former Haitian Senator John Joël Joseph, accused of involvement in the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, who has requested asylum in Jamaica. U.S. authorities have their eyes on Joseph and FBI agents have already started interviewing him, reports the Miami Herald.

  • Haiti's government will lead an international donors’ conference today in hopes of raising billions of dollars toward the recovery and reconstruction of the country's southern peninsula, devastated by a deadly earthquake six months ago. (Miami Herald)
  • Lawyers for the Agua Caliente Maya Q'eqchi' Indigenous community in Guatemala made arguments before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights last week. The community is demanding that the Guatemalan government give them title to their land and the right to determine how its natural resources are exploited, a case that could have far-reaching implications for Indigenous communities throughout the Americas, reports the Associated Press.

  • This is the first time the Guatemalan state has faced judgement in an international court for violating the ancestral land rights of Indigenous communities. A ruling in favor of Agua Caliente would be a victory for all 16 Q’eqchi’ communities in the municipality of El Estor, whose demands to be consulted on the Fénix mine and other megaprojects have been repeatedly ignored. Their resistance has historically led to deadly repression, reports Nacla.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing

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