Two suspected members of what Honduran authorities are calling the "AA Brothers Cartel" have reportedly surrendered to security forces in a negotiated agreement with US authorities.
Honduran police surrounded the suspected drug traffickers who then handed themselves over after having negotiated the terms of their surrender with agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), reported La Tribuna.
An official close to the capture operation told La Tribuna that the suspects were members of the AA Brothers Cartel. No other names were given, but the official added that the group was a rival of the powerful Valle Valle family, most of whom were captured and extradited last year.
Honduran authorities are characterizing the suspects, who they said are actually brothers, as having been involved in rival drug and cattle smuggling operations. And one source told La Tribuna that the negotiations with the DEA have so far revolved around ensuring that the property and cattle of the suspects' relatives will not be confiscated.
InSight Crime Analysis
Just who is the "AA Brothers Cartel"? Suspicion immediately falls on Alexander Ardon, the former mayor of the El Paraiso, Copan, for whom the group presumably gets its name. Authorities said the AA Brothers Cartel controls trafficking routes mostly in the Copan and Ocotepeque departments; the group is considered to have been part of a once-powerful network of criminal organizations that coordinated trafficking operations across the country before infighting and increased pressure from law enforcement led to fragmentation.
The municipality of El Paraiso, where the suspects were arrested, is a largely lawless border zone in which non-state actors and narco elites reign supreme. Ardon fled the municipality in 2014, as authorities closed in on the Valle Valle clan.
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And the brother? It's not clear. Alexander's older brother Hugo Ardon is a possibility. Hugo ran the national government's highway authority, known as the Fondo Vial, up until June of this year. He was also a major member of President Juan Orlando Hernandez's campaign team in the western part of the country. To be sure, the arrests and any subsequent cooperation with authorities could also generate political fallout as the AA Brothers Cartel is thought to be well-connected in national political circles.