Mexican Gang, Linked to Facundo Cabral Murder, Sentenced in Nicaragua

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The head of Mexican drug trafficking organization the Charros, which has been linked to investigations into the murder of Argentine folk singer Facundo Cabral, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison by a Nicaraguan court.

On April 13, a judge in Managua sentenced former Mexican federal police officer Gabriel Maldonado Soler, who headed the Charros, to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking and money laundering. Fourteen other members of the group — one Mexican, one Salvadoran and several Nicaraguans — have been sentenced to between six and 30 years in prison, a court official told reporters.

The group reportedly worked with the Mexican Familia Michoacana gang, trafficking drugs from Panama through Central America to Mexico.

Nicaraguan and Costa Rican authorities dismantled the Charros in operations spanning late 2011 and early 2012.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Charros are another example of Mexican criminal organizations’ control over the drug trade through Central America. In the nineties, when Colombian trafficking groups were more powerful, they would generally control the shipment of the product north to Mexico. Now, with Colombia’s improved security situation, Mexican groups are stronger, and often handle the shipping of drugs all the way up from the Andes, raking in a bigger share of the profits.

In both Nicaragua and Costa Rica, most of the trade is handled by foreign trafficking organizations rather than home-grown groups — particularly Mexicans.

The Charros are also significant because they are thought to have had dealings with Henry Fariñas, the Nicaraguan nightclub owner who was the target of a hit that killed Argentine folk singer Facundo Cabral in Guatemala last year. The investigation into Cabral’s death has spanned at least four countries, with the main suspect in the case arrested in Colombia, accused of ties to the Rastrojos and the Sinaloa Cartel.

Fariñas was arrested in Nicaragua and is currently facing drug trafficking charges. He is alleged to have helped the Charros move cocaine through Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Given the links of those involved in the case to various transnational criminal organizations, it now seems likely that Fariñas was targeted in a drug-related hit.

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