TEGUCIGALPA Honduran authorities on Monday said they seized more than 50 properties that they allege belong to a drug trafficking gang as the country's new government steps up its battle against organized crime linked to Mexican cartels.
The properties were linked to the Los Valle gang and most of the raids took place near the Guatemalan border where drug traffickers are suspected of moving tons of cocaine on its way to the United States.
Authorities suspect that the gang works with Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel.
"The goods were seized because they are presumed to be the fruit of drug trafficking," said Carlos Vallecillo, spokesman for the country's special prosecutor for organized crime.
The properties included 39 buildings, eight businesses and five farms. The government alleges they belong to the Valle family, which includes Digna Valle who was arrested in Miami on July 20 on drug trafficking charges.
Since taking office in January, President Juan Orlando Hernandez has stepped up the use of the military to fight drug traffickers, who are blamed for spreading brutal violence in the country which has the world's highest murder rate.
The government did not provide an estimate of the value of the properties or say if any arrests were made.
In September 2013, authorities seized $800 million of properties from another gang, Los Cachiros, including hotels, luxury houses, gas stations and the biggest zoo in Honduras that housed lions, tigers, giraffes and hippos.
Honduras is part of the main route for drug gangs to move tons of cocaine from South America to the United States.
In June, Honduras extradited Carlos Arnoldo to the United States, making him the first Honduran to be turned over to U.S. authorities on drug charges.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)