Up to a few months ago, nobody talked about brothers Javier Eriberto Rivera Maradiaga and Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga who ran the Joya Grande Zoo in Honduras. But many Hondurans knew about their dealings. “The owners of the zoo are narcos,” was the word whispered throughout the country. It was a not-so-secret secret. In September the U.S. Treasury Department placed sanctions against the Rivera brothers, signaling them under the Kingpin Act as international drug traffickers and ring leaders of a band called “Los Cachiros” and eventually seized the zoo. Other family members were designated as well for their participation in international trafficking activities. “Los Cachiros is a violent drug trafficking organization in Honduras whose members plow illicit drug proceeds into businesses and properties in order to gain public legitimacy and launder their wealth,” according to a statement by Treasury’s Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Adam J. Szubin. The other designated individuals apart from Javier Eriberto Rivera Maradiaga, 41, and Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, 36, are their parents Santos Isidro Rivera Cardona, 65, and Esperanza Caridad Maradiaga Lopez, 64; siblings Maira Lizeth, 38, and Santos Isidro Rivera Maradiaga, 28; and Bismarck Antonio Lira Jiron, 36, a cell leader in Nicaragua who was arrested last year. The U.S. Treasury also identified businesses either owned, directed or controlled by the Rivera Maradiagas, among them a cattle and agriculture enterprise called Ganaderos Agricultores del Norte; an African palm oil producer known as Palma del Bajo Aguan; mining manufacturing company Minera Mi Esperanza; Inmobiliaria Rivera Maradiaga, focused on road construction; and zoo and eco-tourist park Joya Grande. As the announcement was made, local authorities launched operations in Tocoa and Bonito Oriental, Colón, as well as in Santa Cruz de Yojoa in Cortés, to seize the properties. The northeastern region where the Riveras operate is fertile. They began as cattle raiders, stealing and reselling animals in the departments of Colón and Olancho, police said. As their land holdings grew, so did their connections with suspected drug traffickers. By the early 2000s, police said they were moving drugs from South America to Mexican handlers in Guatemala. Drugs came in through La Mosquitia, transported to Colón and they cut the drugs down to smaller portions, authorities said. They hired local gang members to carry packets in backpacks on motorcycles to raise less suspicion. Authorities estimated the Cachiros earned between $2,000 and $2,500 per kilo transported. The Cachiros established themselves as the main coordinators for moving drugs to and from Honduras for Colombian and Mexican drug trafficking organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel, employing land, air, and sea mediums, authorities said. Their activities have been linked to seizures of cocaine in Central America. Los Cachiros reportedly controls up to 90 percent of the clandestine airstrips in Honduras with assets worth at least $800 million. The Rivera Maradiaga’s wealth became apparent in the new branches they ventured in, opening the businesses as money laundering venues, authorities said. They stocked the northern markets with beef, they produced oil, they opened hotels, bought a soccer club and in 2010 opened Joya Grande Zoo, located 124 miles north of the capital Tegucigalpa. It shelters 58 species of animals, including a giraffe, zebras, llamas, kangaroos, camels, Siberian tigers, African lions, hippopotamuses and more, to complete a collection of 300 in total. The zoo, still open to the public under the government’s office of confiscated assets, covers about 200 hectares. It is a reminder of other famous narcos’ proclivity for exotic animals both in Mexico and Colombia. Joya Grande is one of 61 properties seized by local authorities in an operation that involved at least 200 police officers and military elements. By the end of September, the family’s lawyer, Kenneth Araujo, told reporters that the confiscated properties were obtained legally and that some of the properties didn’t even belong to the Rivera Maradiagas, like the zoo. “It never belonged to them,” he said. Zoo employees claimed they did not know the park belonged to traffickers. The government, in turn, decided to hire everyone already working in the zoo and keep it open to visitors who pay the equivalent of $20 –just like in the past, to enjoy all the entertainment options offered in the grounds, from canopy rides to aquatic slides, in addition to the $150 cabin accommodations for those who wish to stay overnight. “The loyalty of employees and members of the community is not surprising,” explains security analyst María Luisa Borjas. “These people employ hundreds of people. They established their businesses in remote areas with very little or inexistent governmental presence and they help locals in many ways. Neighbors are indebted to them and even resent it when authorities step in accusing their benefactors and altering the order of things.” The seizure represents the first phase of the operation against Los Cachiros, said Honduran Police Chief, Juan Carlos Bonilla. “There will be a second phase,” he said. He didn’t provide details of what may come next. Authorities have since confiscated 44 properties. All of them were vacated, police said. At least 70 bank accounts –in Lempiras and Dollars, around a dozen commercial enterprises and 24 vehicles also were seized. The director of the government’s office of seized assets (Oficina Administradora de Bienes Incautados, OABI), Humberto Palacios Moya, confirmed no money was found in the accounts. “They were emptied with anticipation.” In PARAGUAY, narcs and mobsters are presenting themselves as candidates for the traditional political parties…meaning, they don’t have zoos…but they do buy political parties. By Dialogo December 05, 2013
He has scored five times in his first six outings in Group F, turning in a handful of eye-catching displays. Lafferty, 27, is now hoping to persuade Norwich boss Alex Neil he can do the same for him. “Obviously I’m still a Norwich player so I’m going to go back, work hard to get into the manager’s plans and see how it is,” he said after Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Romania. “I’ll go back, get a pre-season under my belt and see how he (Neil) wants to fit me in. “He’s asked my agent about me and it’s good that he’s keeping me in mind. “I’ll sit down with him and my agent and have a proper man-to-man talk. If he turns round and says he doesn’t see me in his plans, I’ll move on. Obviously I’ll be disappointed because Norwich is a fantastic club and the fans have been brilliant with me, but it’s one of those decisions you have to make and we’ll see what happens.” Lafferty, meanwhile, is revelling in his leading man status for Northern Ireland. His goals have been key to the side’s haul of 13 points from six matches in Group F, leaving them in second place and in sight of a first major tournament in 30 years. “We know how close we are. All the lads are itching for it,” he said. “With the trust (manager) Michael (O’Neill) has shown in me, I’m so excited to play for him every time. I just can’t wait to pull on the shirt for him. “We’re so close and everyone is starting to believe we can make it. I’m sure we will.” Lafferty moved to Carrow Road last summer but struggled for game time in his preferred position of centre forward and ended up joining Turkish side Rizespor on loan in January. The Canaries went on to book their top-flight return by defeating Middlesbrough in the play-off final, while a revitalised Lafferty has led his country’s unexpected Euro 2016 push. Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty still hopes to be part of Norwich’s Premier League plans, despite missing the second half of their promotion campaign. Press Association
MATTHEW KUTZ/Herald photoThanks to two-goal efforts from junior captain Aaron Hohlbein and sophomore midfielder/forward Sho Fujita, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team notched a pair of one-goal victories to take the Big Toe Invitational title last weekend.Hohlbein tallied both of his goals Friday in a 2-1 comeback to beat UNLV. Fujita notched two goals on Sunday to take down Drake by the same score, with both games coming down to the final minutes.“[Drake is] a very good team, and I would guess they’re going to be right there come tournament time,” Wisconsin head coach Jeff Rohrman said. “There’s a lot of team spirit, a lot of fight in that group and a lot of talent, and that’s a good combination to have.”It was a story of missed opportunities early on in Friday’s game. The Badgers outshot UNLV 17-7 in the contest and had some great chances in the first half, but could not convert.Instead, UNLV took the lead in the 14th minute and held the lead until the 69th minute. With a handball called on the Runnin’ Rebels, the Badgers had a set-piece opportunity from the left side of the field.Freshman Zack Lambo offered up a great effort to the far post and Hohlbein leapt up through traffic to head the ball home and tie the game 1-1. He avenged an effort just minutes earlier which saw one of his shots get blocked and a rebound effort bank off the right post.“I thought as a group we responded really well to a challenging, yet somewhat frustrating first half,” Rohrman said. “Because we’re down 1-0, and when you look at the stats, it’s one-way traffic and we should have certainly come away with a little different result at half-time than what it was.”The game remained tied late into the second half despite a few more chances for Badger forwards in which they could not capitalize.In the 85th minute, redshirt freshman Victor Diaz, who had been corralled all game in a physical effort, drew a foul in the box, setting up a Badger penalty kick. Hohlbein took advantage of the opportunity, netting his second goal of the game.“I give our guys credit,” Rohrman said. “They battled, they showed great character and they found a way to get it done and in the past, we haven’t always done that.”Junior goalie Jake Settle made three saves in the UW season opener, including an excellent effort late in the game to preserve the lead.Sunday’s game against Drake provided a different style of game, but produced the same score.The contest saw fewer scoring chances for the Badgers and the teams remained scoreless until late in the first half. In the 41st minute, Fujita got his first goal as a Badger. Hohlbein took a free kick and Christopher Ede headed it on to Fujita, who gave the Badgers their first lead of the game.Drake had many early chances in the second half, but could not tie the game until the 67th minute when they tied the game 1-1 on a goal by Luke Frieberg. The two teams battled back and forth through the end of regulation, with the Badger defense and Settle coming through to preserve the tie through 90 minutes, sending the game to sudden-death overtime.However, once into overtime the Badgers took just 46 seconds to take the game. Again, it was Lambo on the service as he sent the ball in to Reid Johnson, whose flick-on went straight to Fujita and the 5-foot-8 sophomore headed home the game-winning goal.“It’s great for Sho,” Rohrman said. “It’s nice. Now he can tell people that he actually got a head goal. The shortest guy on the field headed the ball home for the winner.”The Badgers took the Big Toe title for the first time in three years, and multiple Badgers earned tournament honors. Sho Fujita was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Offensive Player and Hohlbein was named Most Valuable Defensive Player. Both of them, along with Settle and Johnson were named to the all-Tournament team.The Badgers continue play this weekend at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Classic.