Honduras' president has claimed that the recent, unprecedented captures of major drug traffickers is "just the beginning" of the country's fight against organized crime. The question is: what's next?
"We will continue working in a coordinated way with all of the judicial authorities to restore peace and tranquility," President Juan Orlando Hernandez told media on October 5, following the arrests of three brothers in the Valle Valle drug clan, reported El Heraldo. He attributed the recent successful actions to a "system that is functioning," and also defended his criticized militarized security program, claiming that "time has proved us right."
His comments came just two days before the arrest of Hector Emilio Fernandez Rosa, the seventh Honduran drug trafficker wanted in the United States to be captured in Honduras. (One other was arrested in the US, and a second in Mexico.)
Fernandez allegedly headed an apparently not yet named criminal organization that operated out of the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula, shipping US-bound cocaine to Guatemala, reported El Heraldo. He reportedly worked with major Guatemalan traffickers including members of the Lorenzana clan and the structures formerly led by extradited drug traffickers Otto Herrera and Mario Ponce -- the latter of whom was captured in Honduras. According to a 2012 report from Prensa Libre, Fernandez served as their international contact.
He is also the brother of an alternate congressional representative in the Copan province, Carlos Rene Fernandez Rosa, who confirmed this relationship to La Tribuna but denied any ties to the criminal network.
Fernandez now awaits the processing of his extradition request.
InSight Crime Analysis
President Hernandez's statements beg the question of what really is behind the country's recent stream of high-profile captures, and whether Honduras will indeed keep up the pressure in coming months. The Cachiros, a large trafficking group operating from the western part of the country, remain at large, as does Jose "Chepe" Handal Perez, the first suspected Honduran trafficker named by the US Treasury to its kingpin list.
The idea that institutions riddled with corruption and weaknesses could have cleaned up practically overnight as Hernandez suggests is a little hard to swallow but his actions illustrate that often political will, and not institutional overhaul, is the difference between success and failure.
In either case, something significant does seem to have changed. All seven extraditable drug traffickers captured in Honduras have been nabbed since he took office. Although Hernandez's hard-handed security platform has been subject to controversy, it is undeniable that his administration has made unprecedented moves against large drug trafficking networks.
SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles
Fernandez is just the latest feather in the government's cap. This year Honduras successfully completed its first extradition of a Honduran national under 2012 legislation. Then, nearly the entire leadership of the powerful and well-connected Valle Valle clan was taken down in the space of just two months, beginning with the July capture in the United States of Digna Azucena Valle Valle. This has been coupled with numerous seizures of drug trafficker's properties.