Guatemala: 10 Alleged Members of Mendoza Family Arrested

By Dialogo
November 26, 2014



Thanks to the efforts of Guatemalan law enforcement agents, the ruthless reign of the Mendoza organized crime group may be nearing an end.

A team of Army soldiers, police officers, and prosecutors captured Haroldo Mendoza Matta, the gang’s alleged leader, as well as nine other suspects during simultaneous raids in four Guatemalan departments on November 20. The sweep was conducted by 110 counter-narcotics agents, 100 soldiers, 20 members of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and more than 20 prosecutors.

Law enforcement agents arrested the suspects on charges that included homicide, illicit association, the forced disappearance of persons and aggravated robbery. Most of the suspects are alleged enforcers for the criminal organization; all are accused of massacring seven individuals in the coastal department of Izabal on November 15.

In addition to Haroldo Mendoza Matta, law enforcement agents captured José Alfredo Portillo Mendoza, Félix Samuel Cruz Sánchez, Wilfrido Canahui Chavarria, Mario Enrique Muñoz, Gersy Nathanael Velasquez Alvarado, Juan Ángel Colindres, Angel Felipe Lopez, Juan José Pineda Alvarenga and Estuardo Omar González Ortiz, according to CICIG.

“This is not just any band,” CICIG chief Iván Velásquez told reporters “It's a private army in Izabal that had plagued the people in Izabal.”

The Mendoza family amassed its wealth through narco-trafficking, controlling the majority of the Central American country’s smuggling routes. Former President Álvaro Colom once described the Mendozas as “narcos that nobody touches.” However, the Mendoza family’s grip on the narcotics trade has loosened in recent years, thanks to law enforcement efforts and the incursion into Guatemalan by Los Zetas, one of Mexico's most powerful narco-trafficking groups.

Guatemala is a key transshipment point for South American drug trafficking organizations. Nearly 90 percent of the cocaine that reaches the United States comes through Mexico and Central America, according to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board.

The arrests mark a major victory for the CICIG, which was formed in 2007 and is scheduled to disband in September 2015. They’re also a victory for President Otto Pérez Molina, who has placed fighting narcotics among his top priorities since taking office in January 2012, and whose administration has bolstered its cooperative relationship with the U.S. In turn, the U.S. has donated six helicopters worth an estimated $11 million (USD), night vision devices and other military equipment to assist in Guatemala’s counter-narcotics fight; it has also donated cranes to improve the country's infrastructure, bringing the total value of the donation to about $40 million (USD).

The donations represent “a vote of confidence for Guatemala from the United States,” Pérez Molina, a Guatemala Army veteran, told reporters. Guatemala and the U.S. cooperate in the battle against transnational criminal organizations, primarily by sharing information and resources.

Operation MARTILLO: British warship HMS Argyll makes another huge cocaine seizure


The British warship HMS Argyll recently made its third cocaine seizure in three months in the Caribbean supporting Operation MARTILLO, a multinational mission to crack down on illicit drug trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.

The Argyll seized 850 kilograms of cocaine that drug trafficking suspects were caught throwing off a boat in mid-November. The suspects tossed the loads of cocaine overboard after the Argyll's patrol boats surrounded their own.

Collectively, British security forces seized 1,600 kilograms of cocaine worth $106.87 million (USD), according to the Royal Navy. They made the most recent seizure after the Argyll received a tip from a U.S. customs aircraft about a suspicious vessel 70 miles away. The exact location of the bust and the number of alleged narco-traffickers detained in the interdiction weren’t made public by the military.

Cmdr. Paul Hammond, the Argyll’s commanding officer, said the interdiction was the crew’s toughest since it occurred at night and without helicopter support.

Operation MARTILLO combines the forces of 10 countries in the Americas – Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Canada, and the United States – along with France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, who work cooperatively to combat international drug trafficking, enhance regional security, and promote peace, stability and prosperity throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America.


Thanks to the efforts of Guatemalan law enforcement agents, the ruthless reign of the Mendoza organized crime group may be nearing an end.

A team of Army soldiers, police officers, and prosecutors captured Haroldo Mendoza Matta, the gang’s alleged leader, as well as nine other suspects during simultaneous raids in four Guatemalan departments on November 20. The sweep was conducted by 110 counter-narcotics agents, 100 soldiers, 20 members of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and more than 20 prosecutors.

Law enforcement agents arrested the suspects on charges that included homicide, illicit association, the forced disappearance of persons and aggravated robbery. Most of the suspects are alleged enforcers for the criminal organization; all are accused of massacring seven individuals in the coastal department of Izabal on November 15.

In addition to Haroldo Mendoza Matta, law enforcement agents captured José Alfredo Portillo Mendoza, Félix Samuel Cruz Sánchez, Wilfrido Canahui Chavarria, Mario Enrique Muñoz, Gersy Nathanael Velasquez Alvarado, Juan Ángel Colindres, Angel Felipe Lopez, Juan José Pineda Alvarenga and Estuardo Omar González Ortiz, according to CICIG.

“This is not just any band,” CICIG chief Iván Velásquez told reporters “It's a private army in Izabal that had plagued the people in Izabal.”

The Mendoza family amassed its wealth through narco-trafficking, controlling the majority of the Central American country’s smuggling routes. Former President Álvaro Colom once described the Mendozas as “narcos that nobody touches.” However, the Mendoza family’s grip on the narcotics trade has loosened in recent years, thanks to law enforcement efforts and the incursion into Guatemalan by Los Zetas, one of Mexico's most powerful narco-trafficking groups.

Guatemala is a key transshipment point for South American drug trafficking organizations. Nearly 90 percent of the cocaine that reaches the United States comes through Mexico and Central America, according to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board.

The arrests mark a major victory for the CICIG, which was formed in 2007 and is scheduled to disband in September 2015. They’re also a victory for President Otto Pérez Molina, who has placed fighting narcotics among his top priorities since taking office in January 2012, and whose administration has bolstered its cooperative relationship with the U.S. In turn, the U.S. has donated six helicopters worth an estimated $11 million (USD), night vision devices and other military equipment to assist in Guatemala’s counter-narcotics fight; it has also donated cranes to improve the country's infrastructure, bringing the total value of the donation to about $40 million (USD).

The donations represent “a vote of confidence for Guatemala from the United States,” Pérez Molina, a Guatemala Army veteran, told reporters. Guatemala and the U.S. cooperate in the battle against transnational criminal organizations, primarily by sharing information and resources.

Operation MARTILLO: British warship HMS Argyll makes another huge cocaine seizure


The British warship HMS Argyll recently made its third cocaine seizure in three months in the Caribbean supporting Operation MARTILLO, a multinational mission to crack down on illicit drug trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.

The Argyll seized 850 kilograms of cocaine that drug trafficking suspects were caught throwing off a boat in mid-November. The suspects tossed the loads of cocaine overboard after the Argyll's patrol boats surrounded their own.

Collectively, British security forces seized 1,600 kilograms of cocaine worth $106.87 million (USD), according to the Royal Navy. They made the most recent seizure after the Argyll received a tip from a U.S. customs aircraft about a suspicious vessel 70 miles away. The exact location of the bust and the number of alleged narco-traffickers detained in the interdiction weren’t made public by the military.

Cmdr. Paul Hammond, the Argyll’s commanding officer, said the interdiction was the crew’s toughest since it occurred at night and without helicopter support.

Operation MARTILLO combines the forces of 10 countries in the Americas – Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Canada, and the United States – along with France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, who work cooperatively to combat international drug trafficking, enhance regional security, and promote peace, stability and prosperity throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America.
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