HomeNewsAnalysisWhy the Cachiros Liked Working With Honduras Politicians
ANALYSIS

Why the Cachiros Liked Working With Honduras Politicians

CACHIROS / 18 JUL 2018 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

Authorities in the United States charged a Honduras congressman and several members of a powerful political family with drug trafficking and related weapons crimes, illustrating yet again how the Cachiros criminal organization integrated politicians into its modus operandi.

On July 17, US authorities in New York filed criminal charges against Honduran Congressman Midence Oquelí Martínez Turcios. Criminal charges were also filed against family members Arnaldo, Carlos Fernando, and Miguel Angel Urbina Soto in a separate criminal indictment. The four individuals face charges of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and related weapons charges.

According to the indictments, the notorious Cachiros criminal organization allegedly worked with Martínez Turcios and the Urbina Soto family from at least 2004 until 2014, to receive cocaine shipments sent to Honduras using air and maritime routes from Venezuela and Colombia. The shipments were then transported west — often under the custody of these very officials — to the Honduras-Guatemala border before being sent to the United States in coordination with Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel.

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

The Urbina Soto family, the indictment adds, “capitalized on their power” in northern Yoro department and worked with the Cachiros to receive “cocaine-laden aircraft” at “clandestine airstrips” and “public roads” in Yoro. The three family members also coordinated and at times joined security details overseeing the unloading and transportation of drug shipments, the accusation says.

For his part, Martínez Turcios was an active member of the Cachiros criminal organization, US prosecutors say. The indictment alleges he “personally escorted” cocaine shipments through Honduras, “managed heavily armed security teams” designed to protect drug shipments and “participated in weapons training” given to hired assassins recruited from the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang, in addition to acting at one point as a part-owner of a front company the Cachiros used to launder their criminal proceeds.

The latest charges come after a person described by local media as a Cachiros’ successor, Hernán Natarén, was murdered along with his wife July 16, in the city of La Ceiba in Honduras’ northern Caribbean department of Atlántida. The following day, Honduran authorities arrested Hernán’s brother Saúl in the city of El Progreso in Yoro department on drug trafficking charges. Authorities in Honduras arrested both brothers in September 2016, for coordinating the landing of drug planes, according to La Tribuna.

Martínez Turcios has denied these accusations. He is the second Honduran congressman to be charged by US authorities this year for drug trafficking and weapons crimes. The United States is seeking the extradition of all five individuals charged in the indictments from Honduras. Only Arnaldo Urbina Soto is in jail, after being sentenced to 36 years in jail for money laundering in 2017.

InSight Crime Analysis

The criminal charges filed against another Honduran congressman and a former mayor and his family illustrates what was a clear part of the Cachiros’ modus operandi: using politicians — who have immunity, armed guards and won’t get stopped at checkpoints — to move drug shipments.

This method also came up in the case against former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa’s son, who had links to the Cachiros and pleaded guilty to US drug charges in 2016.

However, politicians offer more than just safe transport. They are also conduits to the halls of power, helping criminals get government contracts for their companies, steering judicial investigations away from them, and keeping regulatory agencies at bay.

As InSight Crime detailed in one part of a three-part investigation on mayors and organized crime in Central America’s Northern Triangle, the Urbina Soto family’s “political tentacles reached to the highest levels,” and they “held a tight rein on local police and judicial matters,” which allowed them to consolidate their “hold on political and underworld power” in and around the Yoro department.

SEE ALSO: A Honduras Political Clan and Its Criminal Fiefdom

The Urbina Soto clan also controlled the local notaries, so they could legalize land they stole from others, and the office that regulated the wood industry. When InSight Crime visited Yoro, locals said they exerted some indirect control over the police as well.

It is in this context that the family struck a deal with the Cachiros. Government investigators told InSight Crime that the criminal group paid the Urbina Soto family “to receive planes loaded with cocaine in their area of influence, store the drugs, and transport them to their next drop-point.”

The Cachiros also allegedly used their lucrative criminal proceeds to pay Martínez Turcios for his services. According to the indictment, the criminal group paid him more than $1 million in bribes, which he used to fund political campaigns and enrich himself, among other things. Authorities allege his political position helped provide an “appearance of legitimacy” to the Cachiros who eventually made contact with the then-President of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo. (See photo below)

Fabio Lobo (far left), Porfirio Lobo (fourth from left), Javier Rivera Maradiaga (fifth from left), Juan Gómez (sixth from left). (Source: US Courts)

Cachiros leaders Javier Eriberto Rivera Maradiaga, alias “Javier Cachiro,” and his brother Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga both turned themselves in to US authorities in 2015. Rivera Maradiaga’s testimony has since implicated a number of Honduran elites, including current Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández and his brother.

The Cachiros’ testimony was clearly the driver behind these latest indictments. Porfirio Lobo and his brother, Ramón, have also come under scrutiny for their contacts with the brothers, as has Diana Urbina Soto — the sister of Arnaldo, Carlos and Mario — who is currently the mayor of Yoro. 

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 4 SEP 2015

Former President Otto Perez Molina's move from presidential palace to prison provides a true test for Guatemala's notoriously corrupt…

BELIZE / 13 NOV 2012

In a sign of increasing discontent with the dominant anti-drug strategy in the hemisphere, the heads of state of three…

ELITES AND CRIME / 7 SEP 2017

In our September 7 Facebook Live session, Co-director Steven Dudley and Senior Editor Mike LaSusa spoke about the ongoing conflict…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…