A small farming community north of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa is experiencing a construction boom thanks to big cash inflows from San Francisco, where many of the local youth have established a thriving drug market.
The town of El Pedernal is now packed with flashy mansions emblazoned with the San Francisco 49ers logo and homages to the California city’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
A photo seen by DailyMail.com shows a man posing outside an impressive house with an imposing metal security fence, complete with a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge built into its metal frame.
There is no indication the man or the property itself is linked to the criminal behavior, but locals say many of the luxurious new homes springing up in El Pedernal are being bought with illicit proceeds sent home from City by the Bay. .
A young man poses in front of a newly built house in El Pedernal, whose security fence includes a recreation of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. There is no indication that the property or the man pictured in front of it is involved in any crime, but many in the city confirmed that those heading to San Francisco were frequently involved in drug trafficking.
Some of the traffickers who work in the Californian city told The San Francisco Chroniclethat he spent 18 months researching the city, that it made $350,000 a year, and that San Francisco’s policies as a sanctuary city made it an attractive destination.
That’s because there’s little risk of deportation if caught and convicted of drug trafficking, and San Francisco is also known among dealers for handing out light sentences if caught dealing.
El Pedernal used to be a sleepy farming town of 1,600: now construction is a major industry, with workers earning $35 a day, four times what a farmer earns.
A teacher at El Pedernal told the newspaper that he stopped teaching and became a full-time metal artist, creating custom replicas of Bay Area sports teams for new homes.
During the 12 months ending in September 2022, US immigration officials found 213,023 Hondurans at the border attempting to cross illegally, about 2 percent of the country’s population of 10 million.
A homeless drug user is seen in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The city has become synonymous with drug use, homelessness, and associated crime.
Oscar Estrada, a Honduran author who has written a book on the impact of drug trafficking in the country, said the swanky design was new to the area and an echo of classic Colombian “narcocasas.”
“I’ve seen since probably the 1990s this architecture of remittances, which was very obvious and they have this very clear design and it’s generally related to the aspirations of immigrants to the United States,” Estrada said.
But this is not that. It looks more like a typical Narco house. The one that you see in places like Colombia, you see the type of architecture totally above the community. That is very clear.
A veteran San Francisco dealer, returning to El Pedernal from vacation, told the Chronicle that the three-bedroom house occupied by his wife and children cost him $150,000, which he had earned in five good months of drug dealing in the San Francisco district. tenderloin.
He said the scale of construction around his own house in El Pedernal was impressive.
‘A little boy, 17 years old, built this house,’ said the merchant, pointing to a mansion under construction.
‘You open the door, beautiful.’
The vast majority of Hondurans who cross into the United States illegally find work in areas other than drug trafficking.
During the 12 months ending in September 2022, US immigration officials encountered more than half a million people from this region at the southwest land border, including 213,023 Hondurans, according to data released by the Customs Office. and US Border Protection.
The figure amounts to about 2 percent of the country’s population of 10 million.
But in San Francisco, more than 200 Honduran migrants have been charged with drug trafficking since 2022, the newspaper reported, a figure that vastly understates the true scale of the network.
A man is seen smoking drugs in the San Francisco Tenderloin
Drug users shoot themselves in broad daylight in San Francisco
The number does not include Honduran traffickers who were convicted in previous cases or others who have never been arrested.
Most come from the Siria Valley, according to multiple merchants and court records obtained by the newspaper.
Many of those involved come from the same extended families and grew up together.
A newspaper analysis found that of the 130 defendants who could be confirmed as Hondurans, 60 showed a specific city, town or region: of these, 51 were from the Francisco Morazán region, which includes the valley, with high concentrations in the towns of El Pedernal and Orica.
Wade Shannon, who headed the federal Drug Enforcement Administration office in San Francisco before his recent retirement, told the newspaper that Hondurans are street dealers who sell narcotics from Mexico, particularly fentanyl.
The drugs are produced by the Sinaloa Cartel, formerly headed by Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, and the upstart Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel: their operatives then transport them to the West Coast.
A retired police officer told The Chronicle that Hondurans have been involved in the drug trade in the Tenderloin district for 35 years, but have recently risen up to control open-air drug markets in the famously progressive city.
Only six percent of people charged with drug sales offenses in San Francisco between 2018 and 2022 have so far been convicted of a drug charge.
Sentences ranged from one day to three years, with an average of 168 days, records show.
A man poses in front of a smart SUV parked outside a house in El Pedregal, where a typical resident earns $8 a day doing farm work.
The newspaper found that the most common charges used in drug sales plea deals are for accessory and accessory after the fact, which carries an average sentence of 38 days in jail.
And San Francisco’s policies meant traffickers had little reason to fear deportation.
The city jail does not allow ICE to pick up undocumented people upon release so they can be deported.
The only way most traffickers face deportation is if they are arrested on federal charges or in another city.
A dealer told the newspaper that the policies made San Francisco the preferred city to deal with.
“The reason is because, in San Francisco, it’s like you’re here in Honduras,” he said.
‘The law, because they don’t deport, that’s the problem. Many look to San Francisco because it is a sanctuary city. You go to jail and you get out.