The US Treasury has added the Valles crime clan to its "Kingpin List," the latest move in an unprecedented campaign against what is arguably Honduras' premier drug trafficking organization.
The Treasury designated the group's alleged leader, Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle, and his brothers Luis Alonso and Jose Reynerio, as "significant foreign narcotics traffickers" and hit four Honduran businesses linked to the Valles with financial sanctions.
In its press release, the Treasury identified the Valles as "one of the most prolific Central American narcotics trafficking organizations," and accused them of moving "tens of thousands" of kilos of cocaine a month into the United States. According to the Treasury, the group launders its drug proceeds through a network of Honduran businesses, including coffee, milk and cattle companies.
The designation comes amid an ongoing campaign to seize properties linked to the Valles, with 52 taken so far. At some of the properties, which featured fingerprint operated locks and hidden compartments, officials discovered a small arsenal of high-powered weaponry, reported El Heraldo.
InSight Crime Analysis
The move by the Treasury to add the Valles to its Kingpin List is the latest sign that the impunity enjoyed by this powerful drug trafficking group is coming to an end. The designation follows not only the property seizures in Honduras but also the July arrest of Digna Valle Valle in the United States.
SEE ALSO: Valles Profile
The fact that both countries are simultaneously targeting the family is almost certainly no coincidence and suggests this is the start of a coordinated effort to dismantle the Valles' network. The question that now remains is if and when financial actions -- such as seizures and sanctions -- will lead to further arrests and prosecutions, and whether this will take place on the US or Honduran side.
One of the reasons the Valles have been able to operate freely for so long is the protection they enjoy through corrupt contacts. It may be that authorities are hoping to extradite them to the United States so they cannot exploit such contacts to escape punishment. However, extradition is still in its infancy in Honduras -- only one Honduran has so far been extradited to the United States -- so this process would likely not be without complications.