Honduras and U.S. cooperate to fight Los Valles drug trafficking organization
By Dialogo September 24, 2014
Honduras and the United States are waging a cooperative campaign against the Honduran drug trafficking organization Los Valles.
A force of 200 Honduran police, prosecutors and personnel from the Administrative Office of Seized Assets (OABI) seized on August 18 more than 50 properties allegedly belonging to members of the Valle family in the departments of Copán and Cortés. Authorities seized luxury homes, country estates, bank accounts, a hardware store and a café among other properties, according to a report in El Heraldo.
Two days after those seizures, the U.S. Treasury Department designated three Valle family members -- Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle, the alleged leader, and his brothers, Luis Alonso Valle Valle and Jose Reynerio Valle Valle -- as "significant foreign narcotics traffickers" under the provisions of the U.S. “Kingpin Act.” The Treasury Department also imposed economic sanctions against four businesses controlled by the brothers, including three coffee companies and a dairy operation, that allegedly were used to launder drug profits.
Los Valles drug trafficking organization
Treasury officials described the Los Valles drug trafficking organization as “one of the most prolific Central American narcotics trafficking organizations,” responsible for the distribution of tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine per month directly into the United States. The Valle organization is closely aligned with the Mexican transnational criminal organization the Sinaloa Cartel.
“Today’s designation, coupled with the actions taken by the Honduran government early this week (to seize the family’s assets), is another example of our continued coordinated effort to dismantle this illicit organization,” U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Director Adam J. Szubin said. “OFAC stands with the Honduran authorities to combat the drug trafficking threat.”
The combined seizures and economic sanctions by Honduras and the U.S. followed the arrest in Florida of Digna Valle Valle, the sister of Los Valles brothers, in July.
Digna Valle Valle and two of her brothers, Miguel Arnulfo and Luis Alfonso Valle Valle, allegedly conspired to traffic cocaine through Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico to the United States between 2009 and November 2013, according to a U.S. indictment unsealed after her arrest. Digna Valle Valle is in a Florida jail awaiting trial on cocaine trafficking charges.
The seizure of the Valle family properties by Honduran authorities did not result in any arrests, as the seized residences had been abandoned.
Ongoing Honduran-U.S. cooperation
The combined Honduran-U.S. actions against the Valle family are only the latest cooperative efforts by the two countries against alleged drug trafficking organizations in Honduras.
For example, in September 2013, U.S. Treasury Department officials imposed sanctions against seven individuals and five businesses tied to the drug trafficking organization Los Cachiros, which coordinates the movement of drugs to and from Honduras for Colombian and Mexican drug trafficking organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel. Los Cachiros controls as much as 90 percent of the clandestine drug smuggling airstrips in Honduras, according to U.S. officials.
The U.S. sanctions were levied against alleged leaders of Los Cachiros - Javier Eriberto Rivera Maradiaga and Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga - and their parents, sister and brother. In conjunction with the U.S. action, Honduran authorities launched “Operation Neptune,” during which they seized more than $500 million in assets from individuals and businesses associated with Los Cachiros. The seized assets included a cattle ranch, a palm oil plantation, a mining company, several hotels, and a zoo.
In another cooperative blow against Los Cachiros, in May, 2014, Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, 40, also known as “The Black Wolf,” an alleged high-level associate of Los Cachiros, was extradited from Honduras to the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. Honduran National Police captured The Black Wolf in March. In April the U.S. Treasury Department levied sanctions against The Black Wolf under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act for allegedly trafficking multi-ton loads of cocaine.
The U.S. Treasury alleges that the Black Wolf controlled seaborne drug trafficking operations for Los Cachiros and the Sinaloa Cartel. He allegedly owned and operated several dozen vessels off the eastern coast of Honduras which he outfitted to smuggle drugs, primarily cocaine. The Black Wolf and his associates allegedly transported the drugs from Colombia and Panama to Honduras, then into Guatemala and beyond into other countries, including Mexico, and ultimately into the United States.
The Black Wolf is the first Honduran citizen to be extradited to the U.S. from Honduras under a 2012 law that allows extradition of Hondurans charged with drug trafficking, terrorism, or organized crime. He now faces charges in U.S. court in Florida related to four drug shipments that entered the United States between 2010 and 2012.
The importance of cooperation
Cooperation between Honduran and U.S. security forces in the fight against international drug trafficking is crucial, said Armando Rodríguez Luna, a security analyst with the National Autónomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
“The cooperation campaign launched by the governments of Honduras and the United States against a major drug trafficking organization is very important. The trust between the authorities of both countries is being consolidated with this type of security action in the fight against criminal organizations.”
Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this article.
Why did they take so long to put these people in jail? When it was clear that during the Lobo Sosa-Hernandez Alvarado administration the government was not willing to do so. Watch the interview on Oppenheimer Presenta (CNN) with ex President Calderon of Mexico, and a U.S. journalist. We know that both characters allowed people like the Valle, Cachiros, etc., launder billions of $ without these public officials doing anything. Rather the question is how much money was laundered, with permission, complacency or the complicity of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, Juan O Hernandez, their families and close friends.
The issue with the elections, fear, using public funds and bald-face corruption by the already mentioned politicians could trigger a long-term investigation, which could reveal enough legal evidence to bring a suit against these gentlemen.
Honduras is a country where things are being done that NEVER should be done. The advantage we have at this point is that lots of us know about the reality in our homeland, and that if nothing is done in this regard. What will remain is a people without a country.
Honduras shows every indication of being a failed state. Magnificent The "Black Wolf" wasn't the first to be extradited from Honduras for drug trafficking. We need to remember Mata Ballesteros, which happened during the Azcona del Hoyo administration.