Things That Matter

The “Cocaine Queen” of Honduras and Drug Cartel Matriarch Has Been Captured

Honduran authorities have confirmed that Herlina “La Cinda” Bobadilla has been arrested just a few weeks after the United States put a $5 million dollar bounty on her head.

Bobadilla, the 62-year-old Montes drug cartel leader also known as the “Cocaine Queen” of Honduras, is being made into an example by Honduras’ new government, which aims to “clean house” and significantly hinder drug activity in the region.

Bobadilla’s son, Tito Montes Bobadilla, was killed by police after he opened fire during the raid that ended in his mother’s arrest.

Her other son, Juan Carlos, is still at large and on the run. A third son, Noe, is serving a 37-year-sentence for drug trafficking in the United States.

After her arrest, Bobadilla was seen wearing a floral t-shirt with her hair in a ponytail and handcuffs around her wrists, surrounded by Honduran police in tactical gear.

Bobadilla’s arrest isn’t a one-off, and may be part of a coordinated effort to begin clearing the region of any and all cartel-related activity, especially because Honduras remains a central location for funneling and trafficking drugs to Mexico and the U.S.

The recently elected president Xiomara Castro must reckon with the legacy of her predecessor, Juan Orlando Hernández, who was extradited to the United States just last month on drug trafficking charges. He’s currently standing trial in New York, and already has a brother spending life in prison on similar charges.

According to an article in VICE:

“Bobadilla allegedly oversaw a cocaine trafficking network that operated from her family’s base in Colón, on the northern coast of Honduras. The Montes drug-trafficking organization used its fleet of planes, trucks, and boats to move cocaine in via the coast from its partners in Colombia. The family group then transported the dope west toward the border with Guatemala via land in trucks and cars, where it continued its journey north to Mexico and the United States.”

U.S. prosecutors say that Bobadilla’s family has been in the drug business since “at least 2006,” and although this singular arrest probably won’t have major implications in Honduras’ drug trade, it is a warning to the Montes cartel that their time is coming to an end, even if that means other Honduran cartels will be able to take their place.

Often these arrests exist in a vacuum, and the disappearance of one cartel allows an existing cartel to expand or a new one to emerge. The hope here is that Honduran authorities will be able to quell the spread of drug cartel activity in the region and eventually clean house as intended.

Douglas Farah, head of a security research firm called IBI Consultants, thinks that’s unlikely.

“I think that they are cleaning house of anything related to Juan Orlando Hernández and his structures to get rid of his money flow and make sure he can’t continue to pay people,” he said. “The question to me is who will benefit from this?” 

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