Honduras has so far this year handed over two alleged drug traffickers accused by the US Department of Justice of conspiring to introduce cocaine and other drugs into the country.
The former mayor of Yoro, Arnaldo Urbina Soto, was transported under an unprecedented security deployment in the Central American country on January 31 to put him on the Drug Control Administration (DEA) plane; days before, the Honduran Michael Powery, “El Caracol”, had been extradited.
With these two extradited, Honduras accumulates 37 citizens of that country placed in the hands of US justice, including former President Juan Orlando Hernández extradited to the US last year.
This Central American country has on a list 27 other nationals for whom the northern power has requested their capture and open the process to hand them over to US justice.
Guatemala has a similar number, which has 26 extradition requests, but unlike its neighboring country, the processes take place more slowly.
In January, the Guatemalan Public Ministry opened a process to request the withdrawal of immunity from four elected officials from that country, a deputy from the National Congress, an alternate, and two mayors who are being claimed by the United States in courts in Washington, Texas, and New York.
Honduras surpasses countries of “greater interest”
Honduran criminal lawyer Marlon Duarte explains to the voice of america that the Honduran case deserves to be analyzed in depth, having already far surpassed other countries with extradition treaties with the United States, such as Colombia and Mexico.
“Honduras, a country that is well below the level of importance of Colombia and Mexico, where it has had more extradited, it seems to me to say it in a way that we are the justifying argument of the DEA at the Latin American level, as we are easier to accuse, easier to convict and logically there is a justification for the enormous budget managed by the DEA”, says the criminal lawyer.
This lawyer who has worked in defense teams for some extradited persons tells VOA that practically in all the cases –ventilated by the Honduran justice system- the defenders have the chances of losing 99.9%, because the procedure is carried out literally according to what the “Auto Acordado” says.
This expert considers that when reviewing the extradition procedures, failures can be seen, if “legal doctrine” is applied and seen for various reasons ranging from the short time established by the agreement, “we are the easiest country to extradite,” he points out.
In his opinion, the Treaty prevents contemplating the “procedural guarantees” mandated by the country’s legal system. “These are hearings where the defenders do not have the possibility to refute the accusations because the accuser (Department of Justice) does not appear at the hearing, he is the natural judge who reads the charges.”
Duarte adds that “given the opacity that Honduras does not claim that the Extradition Treaty must conform to the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras where it says that no Honduran should be expatriated if the penalties are greater in the country requesting extradition,” and that this represents a very comfortable situation for the United States.
“I think that the United States, given the opacity of Honduras, is the country that most requests extradition,” says the lawyer.
The two alleged drug traffickers extradited so far this year were required by the United States Department of Justice on charges of “drug trafficking and use of weapons to introduce drugs into that country.”
When the former mayor of Yoro was transferred under a strong security deployment, even superior to the logistics set up to transfer former president Juan Orlando Hernández, the director of Prevention and Community Security of Honduras, Miguel Pérez Suazo, told the press that Urbina, who He was wearing white overalls like those worn by health personnel during the pandemic “it is an objective of high strategic value” for the United States.
And that the DEA had warned the Honduran authorities that he was a “highly dangerous” extraditable, whom the country’s Supreme Court of Justice had dismissed charges of drug trafficking while he was in custody last year, but who was not released because In parallel, the northern power made the extradition request and a judge gave the green light to the process.
Between Engel List and other alerts
The United States request to extradite Honduran congressman José Armando Ubico, whom the State Department included in the Engel List for acts of corruption in the Northern Triangle, it will not be easy, according to experts quoted by Guatemalan media.
Ubico and the other three officials accused by the US justice system are currently part of the political forces of the party in power.
The Public Ministry of Guatemala opened the process so that it is the National Congress that removes the immunity of the congressman elected in 2019 and who is part of the Guatemalan National Defense Commission, has received recognition from the Minister of Defense, Henry Reyes Chigua.
This legislator as well as the substitute deputy to the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), Freddy Arnoldo Salazar Flores, also required by a federal court in the US capital.
Added to this are two mayors who are being targeted by the Department of Justice for trafficking cocaine and other synthetic drugs, this is the municipal chief of El Rodio, in San Marco, Crysthian Omar Escobar, claimed in a Texas court, and Fernando Marroquín Tupas, mayor of Cuilapa, Santa Rosa, accused in the same courtroom.
When proceeding with the process at the end of December, the Public Ministry in charge of the Attorney General Consuelo Porras He said that the request for “withdrawal of pre-trial” to remove the jurisdiction of the two deputies and the mayors” is the first step to be able to stop and advance the extradition request.
“This request stems from the petition filed by the government of the United States of America, requesting the provisional detention and formal extradition of the four people to that country for issues related to drug trafficking,” said the prosecutor’s office.
The United States accuses these elected officials of having relations with organized crime for the “manufacturing and trafficking of cocaine.”
None of those indicated has issued opinions in this regard while the process is open with the extradition request, nor to plead innocence.
According to the United States, “José Armando Ubico Aguilar, a representative of a political party, was sentenced to 46 months in prison in 2003 in the United States for heroin trafficking. After his early release on parole, in 2005 and subsequent deportation, Ubico was elected to Congress,” reads the US report, which considers that the extraditable has continued in organized crime activities, for which reason he requests extradition.
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