Employees of the Valle Valle family have protested against the Honduran authorities' recent seizure of the alleged drug clan's properties, according to local media reports, illustrating the economic and social importance large criminal organizations can have in their areas of influence.
According to La Tribuna, hundreds of farmers and employees working at the Valles' recently seized properties and businesses marched to demand that President Juan Orlando Hernandez guarantee their future employment.
Protesters told the newspaper that they were marching because the government's actions had cut off the source of income for hundreds of families.
Anonymous official sources told the newspaper the protests were a show of solidarity with the Valles, who, they said, not only provided locals with jobs but also with land to grow their own crops.
Honduran authorities have said that operations to locate Valle Valle family members and the group's other properties in the country are ongoing, reported La Tribuna.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Valle crime clan, who are arguably Honduras' leading drug transport group, have been firmly in the sights of both the Honduran and US authorities in recent weeks.
Following the arrest of Digna Valle Valle in Florida, authorities in Honduras seized 52 properties belonging to the family, while the US Treasury added the group to its "Kingpin List," imposing financial sanctions on the family and associated businesses.
SEE ALSO: Valles Profile
The protests in Copan highlight the knock-on effect such actions can have, especially in small economies like Honduras. In such regions, where poverty is rife and employment opportunities few, organized crime groups can be a major driver of the local economy, bringing investment and jobs through their money laundering activities. This can generate a sense of loyalty towards the criminal bosses.
The contrast between the vast wealth of these networks and the poverty of Honduras is striking; according to the US Treasury, another of Honduras' transport groups, the Cachiros, have an estimated $500 million in assets, which if true means their wealth stands at 2.7 percent of the entire country's GDP.
Nevertheless, supposed expressions of solidarity by communities close to these types of groups must be taken with a grain of salt. As InSight Crime has noted previously, protests by members of the public can be instigated by criminal organizations to further their own goals.