Friday, October 23, 2015

Yoro Mayors Lead Drug Gangs

Since 2014 three different Mayors in the Honduran department of Yoro have been identified as criminals participating in murder for hire and the drug trade in Honduras.

The Department of Yoro, readers will remember, is important to the Zetas.  It's where their drug planes historically have landed, both in clandestine airstrips and along established paved roads.

In July 2014, the Mayor of the town of Yoro, Arnulfo Urbina Soto, was arrested for drug trafficking, murder, rape, money laundering, and the possession of illegal weapons.  After a two year long investigation, the National Police alleged that Urbina Soto led a drug trafficking gang of 37 people that had been operating at least since 2009.  The National Police allege that Urbina Soto expropriated land in the small towns of Rio Nance and Rio Abajo, Locomapa, Yoro and converted them to landing strips for drug planes.

At the time of his arrest Urbina Soto, in addition to being Mayor, was a National Party operative, having coordinated the Presidential campaign of Juan Orlando Hernandez in 2013 in Yoro.  His daughter, Diana, is a member of the Honduran Congress.

Urbina Soto is not alone.

In August 2015 the Fuerza de Seguridad Interinstitutional (FUSINA) went to Jocon, Yoro, to arrest members of Los Solis, wanted for being hit men, murderers, and cattle thieves, among other crimes.  They captured five alleged members of Los Solis, but failed to capture the alleged leader, Mayor Santos Gabriel Elvir Arteaga.  Los Solis was established around 2000 by the Solis family, but when Elvir Arteaga became Mayor in 2009 he also gained control of Los Solis, according to Police, and only two Solis family members are thought to be still part of the group.  Mayor Santos Elvir is a member of the Liberal Party and still at large.

Thursday the Mayor of Sulaco, Yoro, was arrested on charges of homicide, murder, illicit association, and carrying illegal weapons.  Mayor José Adalid Gonzalez Morales is alleged to be the leader of Los Banegas, a group operating in and around Sulaco, Yoro, consisting of 30-40 members.  They are wanted for cattle theft, extortion, robbing buses and trucks, murder, and distribution of narcotics in Sulaco.  The investigation into Gonzales Morales began three months ago when police arrested seven members of the group.

Los Banegas are alleged to have killed eight people in and around Sulaco.  Gonzalez Morales is accused of killing peasant activist Secundino Orellana, who previously had been arrested and shot during peasant land protests.

In the 2013 elections, Gonzales Morales, a member of the National Party, received a verbal endorsement at a National Party rally by then Presidential Candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez, who called him "one of the best Mayors Honduras has ever had."

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