The recent arrests of two Guatemalan drug traffickers linked to Antonio “Tony” Hernández, a former Honduran congressman jailed for drug trafficking in the United States, has shed new light on the influence of the Sinaloa Cartel in Honduras.
The two cousins, Otto and Ronald Salguero, turned themselves in to US authorities and are set to appear before a court in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), according to a report by Univisión.
Last December, the US Justice Department charged the two men with being part of a drug trafficking ring in Honduras and Guatemala led by Tony Hernández, the brother of current Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández.
"These defendants conspired with the corrupt Honduran officials they bribed to facilitate the importation into the US of large quantities of cocaine for the Sinaloa Cartel," wrote US Attorney Geoffrey Berman in the indictment.
SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile
A witness in the case against Tony Hernández told US prosecutors that the Salguero cousins were present at a meeting where Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias "El Chapo" and the former leader of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, gave Hernández $1 million to finance the presidential campaign of his brother Juan Orlando in 2013.
President Hernández and his entourage have repeatedly denied having any links to drug trafficking or the Sinaloa Cartel. They state that these accusations were invented by drug traffickers captured by the Honduran government and handed over to the United States.
These new links between the two men and the Sinaloa Cartel have put a spotlight on the Hernández brothers and their alleged ties to one of Mexico's most infamous cartels.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Salguero cousins could prove crucial to completing the map of the international drug trafficking network that Tony Hernández and others ran from Central America's Northern Triangle with the assistance of the Sinaloa Cartel.
In 2011, the name of Otto Salguero appeared for the first time in the Guatemalan press when 27 farmers were murdered at one of his properties in the northern department of Petén, which was then at the heart of a drug trafficking route being fought over by the Zetas, Sinaloa Cartel and local groups.
SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles
After changes to the Guatemalan drug trafficking landscape at the start of the decade, marked by the failed Zetas incursion, a number of local groups had established contacts with the Sinaloa Cartel, which maintained a strong presence in Guatemala and along the Honduras border, according to a number of witness statements and documents included in the trial against Tony Hernández.
All of this shows that, beyond the connections between the Salguero cousins, Guzmán Loera and Hernández, other Honduran operators, such as former mayor Alexander Ardón and the Valle Valle clan leaders, were also part of the Sinaloa Cartel's long history with Central America.