Authorities in Honduras have arrested a drug trafficker with connections to Colombia who is first in line for extradition to the United States under the country's 2012 extradition law, in a case that will test the new government's commitment to this justice strategy.
Members of Fusina -- a newly created security force -- arrested Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, alias "El Negro," on March 26 at a bakery in San Pedro Sula. In residences linked to him, authorities found nine automobiles and another seven armored vehicles, reported El Heraldo.
Authorities believe El Negro Lobo had entered Honduras days earlier, from another Central American country where he was living to evade capture. Intelligence officials reportedly received a tip off about his arrival, and later determined his location.
Sources linked to the case said he had been under constant surveillance for two years, but could only be arrested after the Extradition Court of First Instance recently issued a warrant.
The US Southern District Court of Florida seeks El Negro's extradition for drug trafficking to that country. The United States also accuses him of working with "Los Mellos de Cassandra" (Cassandra's twins), two twins arrested in January 2013 who ran a drug trafficking operation on Colombia's San Andres island that sourced cocaine from the Rastrojos criminal organization. Honduran authorities are currently working to determine the extent of these connections, reported El Heraldo.
President Juan Orlando Hernandez said of the capture: "This is a country of laws, in which we want to create a culture of peace and tranquility (...) This road has started, and is going, and that is the route!" He said authorities would follow due process in determining whether El Negro will be extradited.
InSight Crime Analysis
Pressure on El Negro Lobo has been increasing since 2011, when 32 of his properties were seized in his three main areas of operation; San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and the largest of Honduras' Bay Islands, Roatan. Authorities were reported to have seized another $2.7 million in properties and bank accounts last May.
The question now is whether El Negro will become the first Honduran extradited to the United States under the January 2012 law that authorizes such a move. There are currently nine "extraditables" in Honduras, and El Negro is at the top of the list, according to El Heraldo.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Extradition
His case will serve as an important test of whether the Honduran government is serious about implementing the extradition law. Since the legislation was passed two years ago, there has been no significant attempt to use it. This may have been in part due to fear of retaliation from drug traffickers, following the murders of a prominent journalist and the country's top money laundering prosecutor.
President Hernandez has promised to be tough on crime, and from an international standpoint, this case could be an opportunity for him to prove it. In December 2013, the country's former security minister told InSight Crime the new president was "ready" to make the first extraditions.