Honduras arrested two leaders of a prominent drug trafficking organization, further evidence of the growing effectiveness of the Honduran security forces, and how US assistance has aided the country's battle against organized crime.
In a joint operation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Guatemalan authorities, Honduran police arrested Miguel Arnulfo and Luis Alonso Valle Valle on October 5 in the province of Copan.
The two are believed to be the leaders of the Valles, a family-run organization that moves cocaine from South American drug traffickers to Mexican groups like the Sinaloa Cartel. The Valles came under intense scrutiny by the US earlier this year, after the Treasury Department added members of the family -- including Miguel Arnulfo and Luis Alonso -- to its "Kingpin list."
This accompanied an intensive crackdown on the Valles within Honduras. Another member of the organization, Jose Inocente Valle, was arrested October 3, also in Copan department, the family's center of operations. His brothers, Miguel and Luis, are currently in police custody in the Honduran capital and may be extradited to the US, as El Heraldo reports.
InSight Crime Analysis
With the top leadership of the Valles all arrested within a matter of days, this a historic achievement for Honduras. Notably, the DEA and Guatemalan and Honduran security forces weren't limited to pursuing Valle operatives within Honduras -- as elPeriodico reported, on September 27 these authorities attempted to arrest a key ally of the Valles, Jose Manuel Lopez Morales, in Guatemala. Lopez managed to evade capture, but the fact that the US, Honduras and Guatemala were coordinating such an extensive joint operation against the Valles is indicative of what major players the family are thought to be in Central America's drug trade.
SEE ALSO: Valles Profile
The US will be able to point to these captures as evidence that their controversial support of Honduran police and anti-drug forces is paying off. The US faced a backlash in 2012 after a joint operation between the DEA and Honduran police resulted in the deaths of four people, reported to be unarmed civilians. At times, reports of rampant police corruption and abuse by Honduran authorities put the US in a difficult position. The takedown of the Valles leadership may assuage some of these concerns, yet perhaps importantly, the arrests once again signal that the game has changed in Honduras: the international drug traffickers based here can no longer operate with the impunity they once enjoyed.