Honduras: ex-president Zelaya arrested at airport with $ 18,000 in backpack

Steph Deschamps / November 29, 2020


Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was arrested for several hours at Tegucigalpa airport on Friday, accused of being in possession of undeclared $ 18,000, an amount he claims was unwittingly placed in his luggage.


The leftist politician wrote on Twitter that he was "unfairly detained" as he was about to leave the country for Mexico, where he was scheduled to attend a seminar.


"The cause: a bag containing money with $ 18,000, which does not belong to me," he said, adding that he had been brought before a prosecutor.


When the authorities scanned the carry-on suitcase, they detected that there was a bag in it with the incriminated money, he told local press.


The law requires passengers to declare and justify to the customs authorities amounts exceeding 10,000 dollars.


If they do not make such a declaration, they can face a fine of one-third of the unreported money.


Reason to rejoice


Manuel Zelaya was released about six hours later and told reporters the prosecution would investigate who put the money in his backpack.


"I didn't know there was a bag with $ 18,000," he said.


He said he was happy that the money had not been discovered at the airport in the US city of Houston, where a layover was scheduled, because the problem "would have been worse »


In a security video released by the local press, Zelaya in a black coat is seen removing an envelope with the money from her backpack, and customs officials asking her to count the bills.


Hundreds of supporters of the leftist party Libertad y Refundacion (Libre), coordinated by Manuel Zelaya, went to the airport and blocked the access boulevard by setting tires on fire, to demand the release of the former president.


Dozens of police dispersed them with tear gas canisters.


Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in June 2009 by an alliance of military and civilians, including members of his government, after a political crisis.


Criticized for his ties to then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, he has been accused of treason. On his return from exile, he founded his party, Libre.

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