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Lobo: The surname that encapsulates all of Honduras’ ills

The execution-style killing of a son of ex-president Porfirio Lobo is the latest tragedy to hit a family where two members are dead and two more behind bars

Security cameras captured the moment when Said Lobo was killed.Video: EPV
Jacobo García

There are surnames that seem to encapsulate the recent history of a country, concentrating one misfortune after another in just a few letters. This is the case of Lobo, the last name of the former president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, who governed the country between 2010 and 2014.

His son Said was murdered on Wednesday night in Tegucigalpa as he was leaving a nightclub. He and three other men who were with him were attacked by an armed commando in the center of the capital, just steps away from Morazán Boulevard, where many entertainment venues are located. The attack took place at around 2am, local time, at the entrance of the parking lot of the Torre Morazán building.

Porfirio Lobo, 75, now has two dead children and a third son who was convicted in the United States on drug trafficking charges. Meanwhile, his wife is also behind bars for fraud and misappropriation following a trial that had to be repeated in March 2022 after the Supreme Court overturned the first conviction in 2020.

Camera footage

Said Lobo Bonilla, the driver of their vehicle and two friends were stopped by five men disguised as police officers. A younger brother, Luis Fernando Lobo, was saved because he was traveling in a different car. “I don’t know where this is coming from. We had not received any threats, but you could see that they were experts,” said Jorge Lobo, another sibling, after the attack.

Another one of the victims of the Wednesday ambush was Luis Zelaya, 23, nephew of the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, Romeo Vásquez. The latter showed up at the scene of the crime and confirmed that the young people were pulled out of the vehicle and shot in the head. The other victims are the driver of the vehicle, Salomón Velásquez, and Enrique Rodríguez.

The images captured by security cameras leave no room for doubt: the attack was planned. At least five men dressed in special police gear and carrying long weapons were involved, and they managed to carry out the executions in just 106 seconds. The victims were pulling out of the club’s parking lot when several men emerged from a van that blocked their way, got them out of the vehicle, lined them against a wall and opened fire at short range. Denis Castro, former director of the Forensic Medicine department, confirmed upon seeing the images that it was a “well-planned” crime.

The police chief attributed the murder to criminal gangs, while President Xiomara Castro’s entourage insinuated that the attack was meant to destabilize the country. Currently, criminal violence in Honduras causes an average of between 10 and 13 deaths per day, according to police sources and human rights organizations, but the case of the Lobo family is paradigmatic.

On May 20, 2015, Fabio Lobo, another son of the former president, was arrested in Haiti, captured by the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and sentenced to 24 years in prison, plus five on parole for conspiring to import and distribute cocaine in the US. According to information from the New York Prosecutor’s Office, Lobo was linked to Los Cachiros, one of the main drug trafficking organizations in Honduras that collaborates with the DEA.

The Los Cachiros cartel was led by Eriberto and Devis Rivera Madariaga, two brothers who surrendered to the US authorities in January of this year. As heard in a New York courtroom, Lobo also had a close friendship with Ramón Matta, son of legendary drug lord Ramón Matta Ballasteros.

The tragedy for the former president’s family continued with the death of his son Cristian Javier Lobo, who died in Olancho, where he lived and worked in the fields with his grandparents. According to the doctors who treated him, the 37-year-old died of alcohol poisoning. He left behind five children and the latter’s mother, who currently resides in the United States. In 2014, Javier Lobo had been arrested in compliance with a warrant issued by the courts after he violated restraining measures imposed after his ex-girlfriend filed a complaint for domestic abuse.

On top of this, the former president’s wife, Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo, was sentenced to 58 years in prison for fraud and misappropriation in a case known as ‘The Lady’s Petty Cash.’ The case was overturned by the Supreme Court and a new trial held this year. The former First Lady was again found guilty of diverting around $500,000 in public funds to a private account and using the money to buy jewelry and pay credit card bills. On Thursday she was granted a special prison leave to attend her son Said’s funeral.

According to the preliminary investigation, the notorious MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) gang is behind a murder that has shocked Honduras due to the speed of execution and the identities of the dead. “The murder of four young people, including the son of former president Porfirio Lobo Sosa, is attributed to members of the Mara Salvatrucha. The intent is to cause chaos, instability and terror,” said the director of the National Police, Gustavo Sánchez. President Xiomara Castro condemned the attack, which she attributed to “death squads.”

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