A judge has unexpectedly released the son of a leader of Honduras' Valle Valle drug clan, who allegedly took the reins of the family business following the capture and extradition of the group's leaders.
A juvenile court in the western department of Copán has released the underage son of drug kingpin Luis Alonso Valle Valle following his arrest on suspicion of murder, El Heraldo reported. Valle Valle's defendant stated that "there was a lack of evidence ... that the youth participated in the assassination of three people."
Unidentified sources told news outlet El Heraldo that the minor is currently the Valle Valle clan's second-in-command and runs drug trafficking operations in various locations around the country. The Valle Valle's top leaders -- brothers Luis Alonso and Miguel Arnulfo -- were arrested and extradited to the United States on drug trafficking charges in 2014.
The Public Ministry (Ministerio Público - MP) announced that it will appeal the judge's call for the temporary suspension of proceedings.
"We are surprised by the judge's decision," the MP statement reads. "For the first time in a case of its kind, [the judicial official] did not admit as evidence the telephone recordings, which demonstrate [the suspect's] participation in the crime."
Members of the military police and Technical Criminal Investigation Agency (Agencia Técnica de Investigación Criminal - ATIC) detained the minor, whose identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons, on September 9 after an arrest warrant was issued against him. Two other people were captured in the operation in the western department of Comayagua, and firearms were seized from the suspect's vehicle.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although still unverified, reports that Luis Alonso's son has taken the reins of his father's criminal group are certainly plausible. The Valle Valle's cocaine trafficking activities were largely a family-run operation, and the youth could be the clan's natural successor.
Nor would he be the first son of a powerful crime boss to follow in his father's footsteps. The sons of Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán and Iván Archivaldo Guzmán, have both been blacklisted by the US Treasury "for their criminal activities on behalf of their father, Chapo Guzman, and the Sinaloa Cartel." Jesús Alfredo has been described as one of his father's right-hand men. Iván Archivaldo was arrested in Mexico for money laundering in 2005, and later released. Both were in the headlines recently after they were allegedly kidnapped by a rival cartel.
El Chapo's main partner in the Sinaloa Cartel, Ismael Zambada García, alias "El Mayo," has reportedly been preparing his sons to take over his business for years. A number of El Mayo's children have already been arrested, and at least one has been extradited to the United States for trafficking multiple tons of cocaine into the country.
Following the demobilization of the paramilitary umbrella group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC) in the 2000s, it emerged that sons and other relatives of extradited paramilitary chiefs were taking over a new generation of drug trafficking organizations known as "bandas criminales," or BACRIM. In 2009, for example, authorities arrested Hernán Giraldo Ochoa, alias "Rambo" -- the son of paramilitary boss Hernán Giraldo Serna -- for being the second-in-command of "Los Nevados," a trafficking group born out of his father's demobilized paramilitary bloc in northern Colombia.
Several sons and daughters of the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, who ran the now-defunct Cali Cartel, have also been accused of laundering drug trafficking profits for their fathers. And Guatemalan kingpin Walther Overdick's son Kevin Paúl Overdick Barrios was arrested in July 2011 at a "narco-party" on suspicion of being a member of the Zetas criminal organization.