Guatemala apprehends major suspected narco-traffickers
By Dialogo January 27, 2012
GUATEMALA CITY – Álvaro Colom wanted to make one point perfectly clear in his final speech as president on Jan. 14.
“We have apprehended 14 [drug traffickers] of a list of 19 which I received upon taking office,” he said before being replaced by Otto Pérez. “This was achieved thanks to a very high level of coordination between the Public Ministry and the National Civil Police.”
The 14 alleged narco-traffickers who were arrested from January 2008 through November 2011 were also wanted by the United States.
The biggest apprehension occurred in April of last year, when Waldemar Lorenzana Lima and his son Elio, who are sought in the U.S. on international drug trafficking charges, were arrested.
The U.S. Treasury Department accuses Waldemar Lorenzana and his three sons, Haroldo, Elio and Waldemar, of conspiracy to ship drugs through international channels to the United States, using Guatemala as a hub to receive narcotics from Colombia before smuggling them to Mexico.
Lorenzana’s network is suspected of being aligned with the Sinaloa cartel, which is led by Mexico’s most wanted fugitive, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo,” according to the Guatemalan Public Ministry.
Waldemar Lorenzana, 72, will attend a hearing by the end of the month to determine whether he’ll be extradited to the United States because his attorneys claim his poor health should have him in a hospital, not a prison.
“The trials are not so long, but the defense attorneys for these characters believe they must make use of every legal resource for their client and that means the process takes longer than normal,” said Arturo Aguilar, special advisor for the Public Ministry.
Among those arrested with pending extradition orders are Juan Alberto Ortiz, Daniel Pérez Rojas, Sergio Armando Ruano Osorio, former President Alfonso Portillo, Luciano Soto Chávez, Mauro Salomón Ramírez, Édgar Estrada, Víctor Estrada, Víctor Arévalo, Byron Linares Cordón and Alma Lucrecia Hernández.
The DEA and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) link Ortiz with the “Los Sarceño” criminal organization, a Mexican narco-trafficking network associated with the Gulf cartel. Ortiz is due before a district court in Florida in the United States, where he’s accused of conspiring to traffic illegal drugs, specifically 7,000 pounds of cocaine carried on fishing boats from the Guatemalan Pacific coast in 2009.
The 14 alleged drug traffickers were arrested thanks to the collaboration of the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.
The DEA support came in the form of information and the loan of helicopters to transfer the prisoners, but the agency did not participate in any of the operations that led to the arrests, said Carlos Menocal, the former Minister of Interior.
“There is an agreement between the governments of both countries in which the DEA and the NAS are involved,” Aguilar said. “The U.S. government provided helicopters that are piloted by members of the Guatemalan Air Force.”
The collaboration between the countries has also allowed for the training of recently hired Guatemalan narcotics agents, who will strengthen the government’s fight against narco-trafficking networks, Menocal said last month.
“Young officers with bright futures regularly participate in these operations. Before carrying out such an operation, [the agents] go through training provided by the DEA authorities,” Menocal said.