Carlos “El Negro” Lobo has become the first Honduran drug trafficker to be extradited from Honduras to the United States, in a rapidly completed process apparently bereft of appeals, which can be taken as a statement of intent from the Honduran government.
The extradition came little more than six weeks after Lobo was arrested following a reported two-year surveillance operation. His extradition is the first to be carried out since a law allowing the measure was passed in 2012.
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According to La Tribuna, the extradition took place at 10.45 pm, when Lobo was flown by helicopter to Miami. El Heraldo reported the trafficker would face charges related to four individual drug shipments that entered the United States between 2010 and 2012.
A US State Department press release commended Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez for the country’s first extradition of a Honduran national, which it said “strikes a blow against impunity for organized crime and narcotics trafficking.”
In December 2011, Guatemalan drug trafficker Mario Ponce became the first person to be extradited to the United States from Honduras in over a century, following his capture in San Pedro Sula in May that year.
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While Lobo’s status as the first drug trafficker to be extradited to the United States is historic in itself, what is more remarkable is the speed at which he has been processed.
Neighbor Guatemala has long pursued an extradition policy, but the system has been criticized in the past, as criminals have managed to drag out the procedure for months or even years by claiming a violation of their constitutional rights.
While there were fears the process could become similary tangled in Honduras, it seems the government of the recently elected President Hernandez is determined to push through the process rapidly, in what appears to be a statement of intent over extradition.
With eight other at large Honduran drug traffickers among the so-called list of “extraditables” eligible to be sent to face justice in the United States, it now remains to be seen whether the rest will be rigorously pursued and extradited in a similarly swift fashion.
Relations between the United States and Honduras have at times been rocky over recent years, following acrimony in the aftermath of a 2009 coup, as well as the recent withdrawal of US anti-drug support in the face of a drug plane “shoot-down” law.
The speed at which Lobo’s extradition has been carried out could help strengthen ties between the countries and earn a measure of goodwill towards Hernandez, whose ability to make significant security gains amid economic dire straits could be largely dependent on the level of support from the United States.