The Aguacate airstrip allegedly used by President Zelaya’s brother to traffic drugs

Two brothers of two different, former Honduras presidents were implicated by the testimony of a leader of a prominent drug trafficking organization during the US drug trial of a former Honduran president's son, as allegations from this explosive case continue to dog the country's elites.

Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, the former head of the so-called Cachiros, implicated the brothers of former President Porfirio Lobo and that of former President Manuel Zelaya, while testifying in a New York court on March 6, according to a court transcript obtained by El Heraldo.

Rivera, himself a confessed drug trafficker, appeared last week as a key witness against former President Lobo's son, Fabio Lobo, who has pled guilty to drug trafficking charges in the United States.

In addition to providing a damning testimony against the defendant, Rivera also spoke of the role of the former president's brother, Ramón Lobo, a.k.a. "Moncho" Lobo, as a political and financial go-between for the criminal group. According to Rivera, Lobo was among the intermediaries of a Cachiros' bribe for his younger brother, then-President Porfirio Lobo, in exchange for political and judicial protection.

Ramón Lobo's home base is Tocoa, Colón, which was the epi-center of the Cachiros' criminal empire for a decade, and, as InSight Crime detailed in its investigation into the criminal group, attended the grand opening of one of the Rivera family's businesses before Devis and two of his brothers were accused of drug trafficking in the United States. During an interview with La Prensa published on March 10, Lobo categorically denied the allegations raised against him.

SEE ALSO: Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Rivera's testimony also implicates the brother of another former president and President Lobo's predecessor, Manuel Zelaya.

According to Rivera, Fabio Lobo suggested using the military base located next to the city of Aguacate, near the border with Nicaragua, to unload aerial drug shipments. But the scheme was abandoned because the military base's commander allegedly told Fabio Lobo that the airstrip had been used extensively by former President Zelaya's brother for drug trafficking, which had eventually brought too much attention to it.

Although the name of the brother is not specified, it is likely that Rivera's testimony refers to Carlos Zelaya Rosales. On March 11, Zelaya publicly denied any links to drug trafficking activities, reported Tiempo.

Neither Carlos Zelaya or Ramón Lobo have been charged with any criminal activities in Honduras or the United States.

InSight Crime Analysis

The explosive testimony has not been corroborated. Nonetheless, there appears to be a pattern in Honduras, which InSight Crime has noted in numerous previous investigations connecting the country's political elites to drug trafficking groups who, in return for political and judicial cover, as well as a hand in public works contracts, pay bribes in stacks of cash. In his testimony, for example, Rivera talked about how many inches tall the stack of cash was that was given to bribe then President Lobo at the president's residence.

SEE ALSOHonduras News and Profiles

Unsubstantiated rumors and innuendo have long swirled around Carlos Zelaya. He was was accused of authorizing the landing in Honduras of a private jet owned by Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, only to have the accuser later retract and apologize. And a US embassy cable published by Wikileaks in 2010 indicated that the US ambassador considered Manuel Zelaya to be involved with organized crime.

As for the Lobo family, beyond Fabio Lobo's admitted guilt, both the former president and his brothers have faced previous accusations of entertaining links with some of Honduras' most powerful underworld figures, including the Cachiros.

*Correction: This article was modified from its original form to reflect that the official who had accused Zelaya had retracted his statements. It was an error of omission. InSight Crime regrets the mistake. 

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