WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Democracy, and Human Rights—released the following statement after the U.S. formally sought the arrest and extradition of former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández:
“This extradition request is a long-overdue signal that the U.S. is seeking a fresh and more constructive pathway for U.S.-Honduran relations, one that prioritizes the fight against corruption and impunity and respect for the rule of law.
“It was completely unacceptable that the U.S. government was supporting former President Hernández despite his extensive ties to narco-trafficking, including an alleged pattern of using campaign funds and taxpayer resources to protect and facilitate drug shipments to the United States. The U.S. should be working with credible partners in the region, not providing cover to anti-democratic leaders who are personally entrenched in corruption.
“I am pleased that since the introduction of my Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act (S. 388) last February, the Biden administration has taken steps to recalibrate this relationship by establishing the fight against corruption as a core national security interest, targeting Juan Orlando Hernández for sanctions last July, building on the momentum of Honduras’s democratic elections in November, prioritizing relationships with civil society partners, and now with this extradition request. We still have much work ahead of us to combat corruption and impunity in Honduras and to help support the rule of law and inclusive economic development that Hondurans deserve, but today’s news is an important milestone in that effort.”
Merkley was one of the first members of Congress to call for sanctions against Juan Orlando Hernández for corruption and to encourage his identification as a specially-designated narcotics trafficker. He led an initial group of eight of his Senate colleagues in making that call over a year ago through the introduction of the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act (S. 388), now supported by eleven Senate cosponsors, which paved the path for the Biden administration’s request to arrest and extradite Juan Orlando Hernández today.