Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the fugitive Mexican drug kingpin, is working closely with Los Perrones, a Central American drug trafficking gang, to move large quantities of drugs through Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica into the United States, according to a recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
El Chapo is the kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel, which is also known as the Pacific Cartel. El Chapo has hired Los Perrones to traffic drugs through Central America and into the United States, and to transport drug money into Panama, according to the UNODC report “Transnational Organized Crime in Central America and the Caribbean.”
Los Perrones also works with the Gulf Cartel (CDG), the report said.
El Chapo’s alliances
Los Perrones is not the only drug trafficking group El Chapo has allied himself with in Central America.
For years, he worked with alleged Guatemalan drug trafficker Waldemar Lorenzana, who is known as “The Patriarch.” Guatemalan security agents captured The Patriarch in 2008. A Guatemalan court ordered him released because of insufficient evidence.
Guatemalan security agents captured The Patriarch in April 2011 after the U.S. government filed an extradition request, which alleged that he was collaborating with El Chapo in trafficking drugs.
In July 2013, a Guatemalan appeals court denied the last of Lorenzana’s motions to avoid extradition to the U.S. He remains in custody in Guatemala, and no extradition date has been scheduled.
El Chapo leads the largest, most powerful transnational criminal organization in the world. El Chapo’s alliance with Los Perrones demonstrates his willingness to form partnerships with criminal organizations in other countries to achieve his goals, said security analyst Guillermo Garduno.
“The excessive ambition to sell drugs has no limits for the Pacific Cartel and other transnational criminal organizations,” Garduno said. “The Mexican cartels have shifted their violence and criminal operations to Central America to organize their activities in collaboration with local gangs.”
Los Perrones began operating in the 1990s in El Salvador. The group engages in drug trafficking and money laundering, including the creation of “front” companies to conceal drug profits.
The gang contracts with Colombian and Mexican drug cartels to transport large amounts of drugs through Central American and ultimately into the United States, according to security analysts.
According to UNODC, about 90 percent of the cocaine which is smuggled into the United States from Mexico passes through Central American,. El Salvador’s National Civil Police and military forces alone seized more than five tons of illegal drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, and heroin, from 2008 through 2012,. Salvadoran security agents arrested 9,600 drug trafficking suspects during that time period, authorities said.
“Drug trafficking routes are changing,” said security analyst Adalberto Santana said. “El Salvador is another option for the Pacific Cartel. Alliances with local Central American transporters are not exclusive. Los Perrones provide their services to the highest bidder.”
Salvadoran security agents have registered several important successes against Los Perrones in recent years.
In May 2009, Salvadoran police arrested Reynerio de Jesus Torres Lazo, a high-ranking Los Perrones leader who is known as “Neyo” Seven months later, in December 2009, Salvadoran police captured Juan Maria Medrano Fuentes, a Los Perrones leader who was suspected of smuggling huge amounts of cocaine to New York and New Jersey. He is known as “Juan Colorado.”
With the captures of Neyo, Juan Colorado, and other key leaders, the founder and kingpin of Los Perrones, Jose Natividad Luna Pereira, who is known as “Chepe Luna,” went into hiding to avoid capture, security analysts said.
Los Perrones has regrouped during the last two years, security analyst said. Since 2011, Chepe Luna has traveled to Honduras and Nicaragua to meet with El Chapo or his top lieutenants, according to published reports.
While the captures of Neyo, Juan Colorado and other Los Perrones operatives temporarily weakened the gang, security forces throughout Central America must remain vigilant, Santana said.
The Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas have increased their operations in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in recent years. The increased activity by transnational criminal organizations has driven an increase in violence in many of those countries, Santana said.
El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. In 2010, the country had 66 homicides related to organized crime for every 100,000 residents, according to UNODC