Cabral Case in Guatemala Reveals International Drug-Trafficking Network

By Dialogo
July 11, 2012

A visible victim of organized crime in Central America, Argentine folk singer Facundo Cabral died a year ago in a hail of hitmen’s bullets on a busy Guatemalan street. His murder uncovered the operations of a drug-trafficking network the regional ramifications of which still cannot be calculated.

The homicide, for which the alleged planner and four hitmen are in custody, was memorialized in music on July 9 on several radio stations in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, the three countries in the region particularly impacted by the crime.

Cabral died when, following a concert, he was traveling to the airport on a road in southern Guatemala City, accompanied by Nicaraguan businessman Henry Fariñas, believed by investigators to have been the target of the attack ordered by Costa Rican Alejandro Jiménez, alias “El Palidejo,” in a settlement of accounts.

“The investigation made it possible to identify this criminal structure that planned the attack” and determined the links between the planner and the hitmen, AFP was told by a spokesperson for the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s Office, which has concluded the investigative phase and is waiting for a hearing to set a trial date.

Jiménez, suspected of acting as a liaison for a Mexican cartel, was arrested in Colombia in April and turned over to face charges in Guatemala, a country where more than 98 percent of crimes go unpunished according to the United Nations.

Legal proceedings in Guatemala are “suspended,” however, since two of the defendants have filed motions questioning the impartiality of the judge who is supposed to handle the case, the spokesperson for the Supreme Court of Justice, Carlos Castillo, said on July 9.

Fariñas, who was unhurt, became the key witness in the case once behind bars. He was arrested in March in Nicaragua and will face trial on August 22 together with several members of his family and others who have been arrested, accused of drug trafficking and money laundering.

“Unfortunately, an international figure like Cabral had to die in order for us to see the tip of the iceberg of a network that has branches in Central America, Colombia, and Mexico and that generated a process of corruption that penetrated institutions of the Nicaraguan state,” Roberto Orozco, a security expert at the Managua Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy, told AFP.

According to Nicaraguan investigations to which AFP had access, the Mexican Los Charros cartel, linked to the now fractured Familia Michoacana [Michoacán Family], established its Central American network with the support of “El Palidejo,” who is believed to have moved to Nicaragua in 2008 in order to direct its operations, according to the charging documents.

In Nicaragua, the investigations involve senior judge Julio Osuna, arrested and accused of obtaining false Nicaraguan identification cards for the network and helping to launder money, after maintaining contact since 2009 with the Mexican David Patrón, considered a leader of Los Charros.

Cabral’s agent, Percy Llanos, who was unhurt in the attack, told Costa Rican broadcaster ADN on Monday that the encounter between Fariñas – who contracted the concert in Guatemala – and the folk singer came about by chance.