The trial of Fabio Lobo, son of former president Porfirio Lobo, revealed that the tentacles of organized crime have reached the elite members of the Honduran National Party. It was easy for the U.S. Attorney’s office to prove Fabio Lobo’s abuse of power, and by mid-September of this year, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison on charges of drug trafficking. The U.S. attorney’s office also exposed many pieces of evidence against the former president’s son.
Amongst the evidence are recordings and text messages via BlackBerry Messenger in which Fabio Lobo and Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga (Leaders of the Cachiros Cartel) discuss bribing police and current deputies of the Honduran National Congress to facilitate the transfer of narcotics through Honduran territory and to expedite payments owed on behalf of the government in public contracts to companies used to launder the assets of the Cachiros.
According to Rivera’s testimony in the Federal Court of New York (page 56), Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez met with the Cachiros regularly, to facilitate government payments to INRIMAR (Inmobiliaria Rivera Maradiaga) in exchange for bribes.
While there has been much talk about the supposed conspiracy between the heads of the current presidential family and the criminal organization of the “Cartel de los Cachiros,” very little is heard of his direct involvement with members of the “Valle-Valle Cartel” that came to light when these BlackBerry Messenger conversations were exposed.
One of the proofs presented by the American prosecutor was the “Government Exhibit 8-15 Cr. 174 (LGS)” which is a BlackBerry Messenger conversation dated July and August 2014, between Fabio Lobo and Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga. At this time, the current president and presidential candidate for the National Party, Juan Orlando Hernández, was already in charge of the country
The BlackBerry messages between the leaders of the Cachiros Cartel, Fabio Lobo and Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga revealed the links of the current President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernández and his brother, congressman for the department (department, is what you would call ‘State’ in the United States) of Lempira, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández Alvarado with the alleged criminal organization of the Urbina Soto Family. The Urbina Soto family has been linked to the criminal organization Valle-Valle Cartel prosecuted in October, 2016.
The evidence linking the presidential family to drug trafficking begins on page 7 of this text dated July 2014, where Fabio Lobo warns Rivera Maradiaga that they are in need of money. Rivera Maradiaga sarcastically informs Lobo that Juan Orlando Hernández has taken everything away from him and that he wants to control all of the economic power of the country such as business, concessions and tolls.
On page 10, Fabio Lobo mentions a supposed “boss” that would be in charge to help Rivera Maradiaga mediate with Juan Orlando Hernández. Followed, Fabio Lobo tells Rivera Maradiaga that he portrayed him as a good person before this “boss.” Rivera Maradiaga was interested in negotiating with the government so that they would not continue to confiscate properties and advised to leave the gringos alone in their eagerness to affect the Cartel.
On page 11, it is mentioned that the “boss” asks Lobo if he met often with Rivera Maradiaga but he answered that they rarely met, only when he went to the area where the Cachiros operated.
In these dates of mid-2014, the Honduran press mentioned a supposed plan to end with the life of Juan Orlando Hernández. On page 11, Fabio Lobo says that there was never such a plan, it was smokescreen created by themselves.
On page 12 (August 2014), Rivera Maradiaga mentions to Fabio Lobo his desire to meet with his father, former President Lobo for 5 minutes. Rivera Maradiaga told Fabio Lobo that he told Juan Gómez (former deputy for the department of Colón of the National Party killed in an attack in Tocoa, on January 22, 2015) to help him coordinate a meeting.
Then, Fabio Lobo suggested that the meeting would be better to plan it with Oscar Nájera (deputy for the department of Colón National Party) with whom he had held meetings of that size with in the past. Next, they talked about how Juan Gómez was talking badly about the leaders of the Cachiros (Fabio Lobo and Devis Rivera Maradiaga).
At that time, Rivera Maradiaga confirmed that Juan Gómez was talking badly about the Cachiros. Lobo and Rivera Maradiaga argued about how they considered him ungrateful since they had been responsible for his recent prosperity and that in the end Juan Gómez only cared to wash his hands of the wrong done. Rivera Maradiaga ended by saying “Well you pay for everything here Comando (Comando, Nickname given by Devis Rivera Maradiaga to Fabio Lobo)”.
At the end of Page 14 is when the conversation becomes revealing, at the moment when Rivera Maradiaga explains to Lobo how “the situation is hot” referring to how Juan Orlando Hernández is capturing the people who supported him in Yoro, referring to the then Mayor of Yoro, Arnaldo Urbina Soto (nicknamed “Moreno”) and members of his family.
Arnaldo Urbina Soto was found guilty and sentenced on March 27, 2017 for money laundering since he could not prove the increase of his assets in relation to the income received from 2009 to 2014.
The time period from 2009 to 2014 coincides with the years that the Valle-Valle cartel was active according to the Valle-Valle Cartel Formal Indictment in the Court of South Florida. Therefore, the hypothesis that Arnaldo Urbina Soto and Valle-Valle were partners becomes valid
It is worth mentioning that the Court entered the case only for the crimes of Money Laundering and Illegal Possession of Weapons of Prohibited and Commercial Use; However, at the time of the formalization of the accusation, the crime of extortion was extended to the criminal proceedings against the Urbina Soto brothers and during the conclusion stage the Public Ministry tried to broaden the accusation for the crimes of Illicit Association and Preparatory Acts for the Illicit Trafficking of Drugs, which was declared null because it was not the appropriate procedural moment to present an extension of the tax requirement.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Honduras requests 17 years in prison for the Former Mayor of Yoro. In the future, if the United States opens a case for the charges of Illicit Association and Preparatory Acts for Illicit Drug Trafficking, Arnaldo Urbina Soto would have to first serve his sentence in Honduras, and then go through an extradition process. It can be concluded that the Honduran justice might be shielding a possible extradition to the United States by sending Urbina Soto to serve prison time in Honduras for a long period.
At the end of the U.S. Attorney’s document, Lobo tells Rivera Maradiaga that he never trusted Juan Orlando Hernández. Rivera Maradiaga replied “Comander but his brother, Tony Hernández is working with the Valle-Valle Cartel”. To this Lobo answered with a “Yes, but you know that he’s (JOH) like that, he’s not loyal”.
This heated conversation between the leaders of the Cachiros ends with the prediction of Fabio Lobo who suspects that he will only be accused (referring to Arnaldo Urbina) for illegal carrying of weapons. Rivera Maradiaga mentions that the Urbina Soto “are bad people” and Lobo ends by saying, “It looks like JOH (Juan Orlando Hernández) is going to be eternal in that post.”
The BlackBerry Messenger Conversation presented by the United States Attorney’s Office throws a new line of investigation into how former mayor Arnaldo Urbina Soto worked closely with the presidential family (Hernández) and the “Valle-Valle Cartel.” Arnaldo Urbina Soto was a direct collaborator in politics of the current Presidential candidate for the National Party, Juan Orlando Hernández.
The proof presented by the US Attorney’s Office incriminates the former Mayor of Yoro as a collaborator of the Valle Valle Cartel. That is why it can be concluded that with laundered money the political campaign (period 2014-2018) of the Urbina Soto Family (Diana and Arnaldo Urbina Soto) was founded with dirty funds as well as the campaign of their political collaborator, Juan Orlando Hernández.
The evidence of where the campaign funds from the period 2014-2018 came from may never be known if Juan Orlando Hernández wins his reelection on November 26, 2017. This case is only an extension to the long list of cases where the Presidential Campaign of the National Party was founded with dirty money, such as the emblematic corruption case of the embezzlement of funds from the IHSS (Honduran Institute of Social Security) that went to the National Party Presidential campaign.
The popular magazine of American and Colombian origin Insight Crime that is dedicated to investigating organized crime in Latin America, also referred to the past, present and future of the family Urbina Soto in a note entitled “A Honduras Political Clan and its Criminal Fiefdom“. This note explains all the relationship of the Urbina Soto family with the political elites and with the different criminal organizations of Honduras.