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Honduran accused drug trafficker extradited to U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Honduras has extradited to the United States a reputed drug trafficker who is accused of working for a powerful Mexican cartel, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, a Honduran citizen accused of working for Mexico's Sinaloa drug gang, was transferred to U.S. custody on Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Lobo, 39, along with another defendant, Juving Alexander Suazo Peraltais, is charged with shipping cocaine by sea, according to court documents in Miami federal court.

Lobo's defense attorney, Louis Casuso, said his client plans to enter a not guilty plea.

U.S. officials say Lobo, operating from Panama and Honduras, trafficked multi-ton loads of cocaine from Colombia for Central American and Mexican gangs.

His extradition was the first since Honduras changed its law two years ago to allow such transfers.

The Sinaloa cartel has come under increasing pressure after Mexican security forces captured its top boss earlier this year, and Honduras has become a key transfer site for cartels pushing their drugs north into the United States.

"Lobo's extradition is an important affirmation of the rule of law in Honduras and a strong signal that President Juan Orlando Hernandez is fully committed to stopping the use of Honduran territory for illicit activity," Psaki said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, David Adams and Ken Wills)

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