Murdering a General
The Rivera brothers, who led a trafficking organization called Los Cachiros, built a fortune as middlemen, moving cocaine from hidden airstrips northward to the Mexican cartels.
The brothers used violence to muscle out rivals and others, from at least 2003 when Devis Rivera was involved in the murder of a hospital security guard and, the next year, the killing of the man he had been guarding, a Honduran cartel leader.
By late 2009, Mr. Rivera testified that he and other traffickers felt threatened by Gen. Julián Arístides González Irías, the Honduran counternarcotics czar. The American embassy in Tegucigalpa once described General Arístides González as the “last (somewhat) best hope” to revive Honduras’s counternarcotics efforts, according to a cable published by WikiLeaks.
“The decision was made to kill him,” Mr. Rivera testified. General Arístides González was assassinated on Dec. 8, 2009 by a gunman on a motorcycle.
Mr. Rivera testified that the traffickers paid $200,000 to $300,000 for the killing, which was handled by a group of police officers.
That was around the same time, Mr. Rivera testified, that he and his brother bought a president.
Concerned about the possibility of extradition to the United States, Mr. Rivera said they paid more than $400,000 in bribes to President Porfirio Lobo, before and after his November 2009 election. At President Lobo’s home in early 2010, Mr. Rivera received the assurance he wanted.
“The president said to me to tell my brother not to worry,” Mr. Rivera recalled, “because during his four-year term nobody would get extradited.”
President Lobo also designated his son Fabio, who was once a juvenile court judge, “as a middleman who would be able to protect us, help us — the Cachiros,” Mr. Rivera said.
Fabio Lobo became a valuable ally. “I gave him a bribe almost every time I met with him,” Mr. Rivera said. “I knew that having him with me, everything would go well.”
One time, the president’s son, riding with his armed security detail in a convoy of blue Prado SUVs, escorted 1,000 kilograms of cocaine for the brothers through a police checkpoint.
He “lowered the windows a little bit and then started talking with the police officers,” Mr. Rivera recalled.
By Mr. Rivera’s account, the president’s son threw himself into his new role, asking to visit a backcountry airstrip to “feel the adrenaline — what you experience when you receive a plane loaded with drugs.”
“I’d do anything for you,” Fabio Lobo said in one recorded conversation. “I’ll go to the moon and back for you.”
With President Lobo’s patronage, the brothers invested in construction companies that competed for government contracts. In the fashion of Pablo Escobar, they opened a zoo, complete with tigers, jaguars, and lions. The brothers also developed relationships with one of the country’s most prominent families, the Rosenthals, who acted as their bankers and money launderers. They invested drug proceeds in cattle, with their beef later exported to the United States, and agriculture.
Brian H. Bieber, a lawyer for former President Lobo, said his client remains under investigation by the American authorities. He said that the situation has been frustrating for Mr. Lobo, who has been “loud and clear in his emphatic denial” of Mr. Rivera’s allegations.
“There is absolutely no credible evidence to support the allegations made by an admitted mass murderer and a convicted drug trafficker,” Mr. Bieber said, adding that the former president had “absolutely no” relationship with the Cachiros.
As President Lobo’s term neared its end in 2013, Mr. Rivera had new concerns.
The United States Treasury Department had announced sanctions against the Rivera brothers, and Honduran authorities began seizing their assets, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, even their zoo.
“I was afraid for my life. I was afraid for my family,” Mr. Rivera testified. “I could get killed because I had worked with politicians, police officers.”
By December 2013, Mr. Rivera testified, he and his brother Javier had begun talking with the D.E.A. and prosecutors to try to strike a deal.
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