The Valles are one of Honduras’ largest transport groups, using their base along the Guatemalan border to fortify their position as a key go-between for Mexican, Colombian and Guatemalan organizations. Like the other major Honduran group, the Cachiros, the Valles are a family-run group that has become an important link in the transit of cocaine from South American producers to Mexican distributors, particularly the Sinaloa Cartel.
The US Treasury Department estimates the Valles move “tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine” into the United States each month. They have been known to take in more than $800,000 from a single shipment, according to testimony from former associates. Though the majority of their trafficked cocaine ends up in the United States, they have established links with local distributors and provide cocaine to the domestic market as well.
Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle, alias “Colocho”
Luis Alonso Valle Valle
Jose Reynerio Valle Valle
Drug trafficking, money laundering, arms trafficking
In addition to drug transport, the Valle family is heavily involved in real estate, with hotels and other property in the capital of Copan and smaller municipalities. Like many other transport groups, they seem to have a diverse criminal repertoire beyond cocaine transport, including links to arms smuggling and money laundering.
Nearly the entire leadership structure of the group has been dismantled, with top leaders extradited to stand trial in the United States, leaving the future of the organization in question.
The Valles’ origins as drug traffickers are unclear, but Luis Alonso and his older brother Miguel Arnulfo, alias “Colocho,” Valle created one of the region’s most influential and best-organized groups of traffickers controlling the borders. Compared to other groups like the Cachiros, they employ a relatively small number of people, most of whom maintain a very low profile.
The family lived in the town of La Entrada, about 20 miles from the Guatemala border, but their base of operations was the village of El Espiritu, a small town located an hour’s walk from an unsupervised border crossing in the middle of the forest. Though the town has only a few thousand residents, it is filled with luxury cars and large houses protected by security cameras. The family owns significant property there, including a large hacienda that has hosted “El Chapo” on at least one of his visits.
In July 2014, the Valles sister, Digna Valle Valle, was arrested in the US state of Florida. Shortly afterward, in August, Honduran authorities moved against the Valles’ properties, seizing more than 50 in one operation. Days later, the US Treasury added the three brothers — Miguel Arnulfo, Luis Alfonso and Jose Reynerio — to its “Kingpin list,” drawing the future of the group into question.
In a quick succession of high-profile arrests in the months following the kingpin designation, Honduran security forces dismantled almost the entire leadership structure of the Valles.
The Valles were allegedly led by Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle, alias “Colocho,” along with his two brothers Luis Alonso and Jose Reynerio.
Miguel Arnulfo and and Luis Alonso were captured in October 2014 and extradited to the United States that December. Just days earlier, Honduran authorities arrested Jose Inocente Valle Valle, a younger brother not thought to play a major role in the group’s leadership.
Aside from reported second-in-command Gualberto Alonso Chinchilla, authorities have identified few associates linked to the Valles.
The group operates primarily in Copan province, a once rumored hideout of captured Mexican drug lord and Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The province is also home to the outlet of the international cocaine trafficking route known as the “road of death,” which runs from the Cachiros territory in Gracias a Dios at the Nicaragua border to this Guatemalan border crossing.
Allies and enemies
The Valles’ longstanding associations with El Chapo and the Sinaloa Cartel granted them significant protection and freedom within their territory. The brothers appeared to have enough influence and ranking to interact directly with Mexican cartel representatives, who are often spotted in towns in Copan.
They also had an alleged ally in Alexander Ardon, the mayor of El Paraiso, a wealthy Copan municipality on the Guatemala border. Ardon has been described as “eccentric” for his habit of traveling in an armored vehicle accompanied by 40 armed bodyguards, building a mayoral residence modeled after the White House complete with a rooftop helipad, and flying in norteña music acts from as far away as Mexico for private concerts.
Less diplomatic sources have described him as a drug trade facilitator and beneficiary who plays host to Sinaloa Cartel representatives and local traffickers like the Valles, who seem to have carte blanche to carry out their activities within the region. In the only interview he has ever given to the press, Ardon described himself as “the king of the village” — a village that is, by all accounts, almost entirely controlled by the Valles and supporters like Ardon.
The Valles also have associates on the route between the Honduran border and Mexico. The brothers reportedly maintained a five-year working relationship with notorious Salvadoran transportista Jorge Ernesto Ulloa Sibrian, alias “Repollo,” who has also been linked to to the Sinaloa Cartel. Ulloa stands accused of trafficking a total of 16 tons of cocaine through Guatemala and El Salvador between 2000 and his arrest in March 2013 — much of it through alliances with the Valles and their infrastructure.
Despite their local notoriety, the Valles for years faced relatively little legal trouble. That changed dramatically in 2014, largely due to US pressure and President Juan Orlando’s willingness to join the fight against the transnational drug trade. Now, most of the Valles’ leadership has been extradited to the United States to stand trial, with the exception of Jose Reynerio.