The U.S. Treasury Department announced March 18 sanctions against leaders and individuals linked to the Los Huistas cartel because their actions “threaten the people and security of the United States and Guatemala,” the Treasury said in a statement, which also noted a reward for information leading to the capture of the clan’s leader.
These sanctions are “the result of collaboration with the government of Guatemala and the U.S. departments of Justice, State, Defense, and Homeland Security, including Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Southern Command, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center,” the Treasury said.
Joint investigations have established that the criminal group controls an extensive narcotrafficking and money laundering network in western Guatemala, bordering Mexico, through links to Guatemalan politicians and ties to the Mexican Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.
The criminal group also controls poppy fields in the mountains of the Guatemalan departments of Huehuetenango and San Marcos. Investigations revealed that drug traffickers import chemical precursors from China to manufacture methamphetamine.
“The Los Huistas DTO [drug trafficking organization] smuggles deadly narcotics, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, from Guatemala through Mexico for distribution in multiple U.S. cities,” said U.S. Treasury Department Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.
The financial sanctions include the blocking of all property and interests in property that the designated individuals or entities have in the United States, as well as prohibition on doing any business with the sanctioned individuals.
The U.S. State Department offered a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Eugenio Darío Molina-López, identified as the top leader of Los Huistas. “Molina’s leadership within Los Huistas is well known to the U.S. and Guatemalan governments, and we are working together to bring him to justice,” the State Department said in a statement.
Since at least 2012, Molina-López and Alec Baldomero Samayoa Recinos, alias Chicharra, have led the narcotrafficking organization, the Treasury said.
Molina-López is primarily involved in trafficking large quantities of cocaine from South and Central America to Mexico. In 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California indicted him on multiple narcotrafficking charges.
The Treasury also said that Samayoa Recinos coordinates the transportation of shipments to the Mexican state of Chiapas and money laundering for the Guatemalan cartel. In 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia indicted Chicharra for narcotrafficking.
The U.S. government included among those sanctioned several key members of the cartel, including Molina’s son-in-law Axel Bladimir Montejo, who serves as a lieutenant within the clan and coordinates narcotics transportation; Samayoa Recinos’ son-in-law Freddy Arnoldo Salazar, who is responsible for storing and transporting cocaine shipments; Werner Darío Molina Montejo, son of Molina-López, who supports his father’s business affairs; and Roger Antulio Samayoa, son of Samayoa Recinos, who is a lieutenant and coordinates Los Huistas’ operations.
On March 8, Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei assured that his country is “a strategic ally” of the United States in the fight against narcotrafficking and that their cooperation has allowed progress in reducing drugs and combating corruption and money laundering, reported EFE news agency.
That same day, President Giammattei told Reuters that “95 percent of the shipments that come to Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, depart from Venezuela.”
Guatemalan authorities have arrested 255 people linked to narcotrafficking between January 1 and March 1, reported Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias. Seven of them have U.S. extradition order requests.