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Honduras' ex-president is arrested as the U.S. seeks his extradition on drug charges

TOPSHOT - An image grab from a handout video provided by the Honduran Police shows Honduran former President Juan Orlando Hernandez (C) handcuffed as members of the police take him out of his house after receiving an extradition order from the United States, in Tegucigalpa, on February 15, 2022. - The United States has asked Honduras to extradite its former president Juan Orlando Hernandez, who left office last month and is suspected of drug trafficking, a source close to the matter told AFP Monday. The Honduran Foreign Ministry had said earlier on Twitter that an "official communication from the US Embassy" had been sent to the Supreme Court formally asking for the provisional arrest of an unnamed "Honduran politician" for the purpose of extradition. (Photo by HONDURAN POLICE / AFP) (Photo by -/HONDURAN POLICE/AFP via Getty Images)
Police escort former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, in handcuffs, from his house in Tegucigalpa after receiving an extradition order from the United States.

Updated February 16, 2022 at 12:36 PM ET

The man who was president of Honduras until just a few weeks ago will now face a federal judge.The U.S. has asked that former President Juan Orlando Hernández be extradited to stand trial on drug trafficking and weapons charges. He appeared in court on Wednesday morning in Honduras.Hernández was escorted out of his home Tuesday with chains on his wrists and ankles, police officers lowered a bulletproof vest over his head — all broadcast on live TV.It's quite a fall from grace for the longtime ally of the U.S.Honduran Security Minister Ramón Sabillón told reporters in a raucous press conference that the arrest went off without incident. Sabillon had actually been fired by Hernández in 2014, after making several high-profile arrests of drug traffickers as head of the national police.Sabillón said Hernández conspired with cartels, causing great social harm to Honduras and its justice system.A U.S. Justice Department official told NPR there was no comment regarding the case at this time.However, evidence had been mounting in recent years about Hernández's involvement with international traffickers. In U.S. federal court proceedings — including last year's case against his brother, Tony Hernández — the former president was described as a co-conspirator. Tony Hernández was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison.Hernández has long said that he's innocent and that testimony against him was coerced by prosecutors.Last night in the Honduran capital, drivers honked horns, revelers waved Honduran flags, and some held up pictures of the chained Hernández with the words "Thanks U.S.A." and "This is what we dreamed of."Reporter Paulo Cerrato interviewed several demonstrators for NPR."This is a happy day," said 38-year-old teacher Gilberto Sanabria. But he adds that seeing Hernández chained is just a reminder of all the poverty and corruption he brought to Honduras.Hernández's nearly decade-long tenure was marked by dramatic lawlessness, high homicide rates and record migration out of the country.

The digital version of this story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.