The US Treasury has added an aspiring congressman in Honduras to its “Kingpin” list in what is likely an attempt to increase the pressure not only on his criminal organization but also the Honduran authorities.
Jose Miguel Handal Perez, alias “Chepe Handal,” heads a Honduras-based trafficking organization that links suppliers in Colombia to traffickers from Mexico, among them the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, according to the Treasury.
Handal allegedly invests in shipments of cocaine, which are flown to Honduras from Apure, Venezuela. Then he coordinates their transport across the country and into Guatemala, where they are picked by Mexican operatives.
Several members of Handal’s family and a number of his businesses were also added to the list, which freezes their assets and makes doing businesses with them a crime for US citizens. (See US Treasury’s schematic below.)
In 2011, a Florida court indicted Handal on drug trafficking charges. (See indictment below.) Handal, who is currently running for election to Honduras’ Congress, has denied all charges.
InSight Crime Analysis
An estimated 80 percent of drug flights leaving South America carrying drugs bound for the United States stop in Honduras, many following similar routes to those allegedly employed by Handal.
One of the reasons drug trafficking has flourished in Honduras is the protection offered to traffickers by endemic official corruption, which makes it highly unlikely a high-end trafficker such as Handal will be prosecuted in his own country. There is an extradition treaty in place, but no Honduran trafficker has been sent to the United States and he faces no charges in Honduras.
The decision to place his operation on the Kingpin list therefore, may be an attempt to increase the pressure on Handal and a reminder to the Honduran authorities that US law enforcement agencies are aware of who operates in the country, and that the US is willing to act against these alleged traffickers, with or without Honduran support.