The heir of one of Honduras’ most notorious drug trafficking groups is negotiating a plea deal in the United States, adding to the growing list of Honduran capos in talks with US authorities.
In exchange for the right deal, Juan Ramón Matta Waldurraga would provide officials in the United States with information and plead guilty to trafficking cocaine into the United States between 2005 and 2010.
The indictment against Matta Waldurraga was filed in the Eastern District Court of New York on August 1, 2014, but unsealed in August 2017. He pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to introduce more than five kilograms of cocaine into the United States and money laundering charges.
Matta surrendered to US authorities in Panama days before his appearance in New York, La Prensa reported.
In June of this year, Honduran authorities seized 49 properties linked to Matta Waldurraga during the final stage of "Operation Earthquake," a drug trafficking investigation opened by the Honduran National Police in 2001 that included the monitoring of bank accounts and telephone intercepts.
After the operation, the police said that Matta Waldurraga had operated a drug trafficking operation from the San Esteban estate in the department of Olancho. Authorities allege this is where he received drugs from Colombian suppliers that he then sent to the United States. According to El Heraldo, Matta Waldurraga also had state contracts in the private security and hydroelectric generation sectors.
Matta Waldurraga is the son of Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros, who was one of Honduras' most influential drug traffickers during the 1980s. Matta Ballesteros was even a US ally during the so-called Iran-Contra scandal, the illegal operation that took place under the administration of former US President Ronald Reagan that used money from arms sales to Iran to organize a guerrilla insurgency in Honduras against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. In exchange for his collaboration, Matta Ballesteros secured alliances and pacts with the Honduran elites that made him the primary ally of the Medellín Cartel.
InSight Crime Analysis
The story of Matta Waldurraga shows the deep legacy organized crime has left on this Central American country, as well as the close ties between Honduran political power and drug trafficking that have used the nation as a bridge since his father's era.
The case against Matta Waldurraga adds to the growing list of Honduran drug traffickers who have been arrested or prosecuted in the United States and have testified against other actors in their country of origin, including top-level politicians and businessmen in exchange for benefits from the US Attorney General's Office.
The most recent case is that of Devis Leonel Rodríguez Maradiaga, the alleged leader of one of Honduras' largest drug trafficking groups, the Cachiros. His testimony has accused current Honduras president Juan Orlando Hernández of accepting bribes from drug traffickers, something the president has denied.
Honduran elites from all sectors would be wise to worry about what Matta might offer to prosecutors in exchanged for a reduced sentence.