Sinaloa Cartel operatives fight for power in Honduras after security forces capture the ‘Black Wolf’
By Dialogo June 18, 2014
Honduran security forces have captured key members of the Sinaloa Cartel, which has prompted a violent battle among members of the drug trafficking group for control of the cartel’s operations in Honduras.
The cartel operatives are fighting over criminal enterprises which generate about $18 million (USD) annually. They are fighting over control of drug trafficking routes, properties owned by the cartel, some of which are worth millions of dollars, and weapons, La Prensa reported on June 9.
Since January 1, the bloody conflict has claimed the lives of more than a dozen people.
Some Sinaloa Cartel operatives in Honduras are killing each other as they seek power, according to Armando Rodríguez Luna, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
“The Sinaloa Cartel has lost some command and control over criminal cells that operate in Honduras after various arrests have been made by security forces in Mexico. Some members of the cartel are looking to make more gains,” Rodríguez Luna said.
The battle for control of Sinaloa Cartel operations in Honduras has led to 13 violent deaths since January 1, authorities said. Eleven of the victims were suspected of being linked to organized crime, César Johnson, spokesman for the National Police of Honduras, said during a press conference that was reported by Proceso on May 28.
A father and son are killed
A father and son from Mexico were among those killed in the battle for control of Sinaloa Cartel operations in Honduras.
Heavily-armed gunmen killed Juan José López Gómez and his son Adolfo León López Marín in the industrial city of San Pedro Sula on May 21.
The two were also known as Juan Carlos Rivera Guerra and Luis Adolfo Rivera, respectively. The father and son were in their car on May 21 when eight men armed with AR-15 rifles surrounded them, officials said. The gunmen opened fire and killed both men.
The two men were killed because other organized crime operatives suspected they had stolen Sinaloa Cartel safe boxes, which contained money and weapons. A Honduran, Dennys Roberto Bonilla Guzmán, who worked for the Lopezes, also helped take the safe boxes.
Five days after gunmen killed the Lopezes, on May 26, Sinaloa Cartel operatives fatally shot Bonilla Guzmán in the parking lot of a shopping center. Two law-abiding people who were not involved in cartel activities, medical student Karen Alvarado and security guard Dany Umanzor were also killed during the attack.
Security agents have recovered the stolen safe boxes, which contained $700,000 (USD) and documents which showed that Bonilla Guzmán was a treasurer for the Sinaloa Cartel, La Tribuna reported on June 11.
Cartel leader killed
The Lopezes and Bonilla Guzmán were top lieutenants of Nelson Molina, a Guatemalan who was second-in-command of the Sinaloa Cartel in Honduras. An attacker or attackers killed Molina on April 29 in his home in the Villa San Antonio neighborhood.
Less than two weeks later, on May 12, gunmen killed another alleged Sinaloa Cartel operative, Miguel Ángel Martínez Bueno, of Venezuela, during a gun battle in the Trejo neighborhood.
“All these deaths are linked to and involve the same cartel with the ulterior motive being money and power,” said Johnson, the National Police spokesman.
The capture of the ‘Black Wolf’
The infighting among Sinaloa Cartel operatives began after Honduran authorities captured Carlos Arnaldo Lobo, an alleged drug trafficker who is suspected of having worked closely with the Sinaloa Cartel. Lobo is also known as the “Black Wolf.”
Special agents from the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime (FESCO) captured the Black Wolf on March 27 in San Pedro Sula.
U.S. federal authorities allege the Black Wolf transported tons of cocaine through Honduras and Mexico to the United States.
Honduran authorities extradited the Black Wolf to the U.S., where he is accused of drug trafficking, on May 8.
The capture of the Black Wolf created a power vacuum within the Sinaloa Cartel’s operations in Honduras, said security analyst Rodríguez Luna.
“There will obviously be new criminals who need to settle in San Pedro Sula to show loyalty to the new commanders,” he said. Honduran authorities must remain vigilant and develop and use “intelligence capabilities” to fight the alliances formed by international drug cartels and local gangs.
The Sinaloa Cartel and other transnational criminal organizations, such as Los Zetas, smuggle large quantities of cocaine from South America through Honduras and ultimately to Mexico, the United States, Canada, and other destinations.
The Sinaloa Cartel has forged criminal alliances with local gangs in Honduras, such as Mara Salvatrucha, which is also known as MS-13, and Barrio 18, which is also known as 18th Street. The cartel also works with the drug trafficking group Los Cachiros.
The violence generated by the Sinaloa Cartel and other organized crime groups put San Pedro Sula first on the list of the 50 most violent cities in the world, according to a study by the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice based in Mexico.
In 2012, the country averaged 21 killings a day. Thanks to the efforts of Honduran security forces, that figure has since been reduced to about 14 killings a day. Authorities are working to reduce the level of violence even further, Security Minister, Arturo Corrales Álvarez said on June 9 during a commemoration for National Police Day.
An objective analysis on the actions of transnational organized crime.