Guatemala Arrests ‘El Chapo Operative’

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Guatemala’s authorities arrested an alleged member of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel on May 20, the latest supposed accomplice from the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman-led crime syndicate to fall.

Proceso reports that Jose Samuel Escobar, 20, was carrying a gun, assault rifle cartridges, jewelry, and more than $128,000 when he was apprehended. According to Guatemala’s Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez, Escobar’s group was threatening to kill police officers if they did not call off the operation, a telling sign, he said, that the members are aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel.

Lopez said Monday’s arrest was part of a larger operation led by the country’s security forces. The mission was to find an armed group who were hiding in a neighborhood located in the municipality of Malacatan, near the Mexican border.

InSight Crime Analysis

Notably, Escobar’s arrest took place in the San Marcos department of Guatemala, near the country’s Pacific coast, one of the smuggling routes being fought over by the warring drug gangs, and currently controlled by the Sinaloans.

However, authorities in Guatemala have been known to push questionable information about drug organizations in the past, most notably the false report that Guzman died in the jungles of Peten during a shootout earlier this year. There has also been at least one other case in which Guatemalan authorities arrested an alleged Sinaloa Cartel contact, only to see the detainee go free after the courts ruled there was insufficient evidence to hold him.

Guatemala is reportedly witness to persistent fighting between the Sinaloa Cartel and rival organization the Zetas. The two groups have been battling over three lucrative smuggling routes that cross through Guatemala, two of which, according to President Otto Perez, are controlled by the Zetas. 

The Zetas have operated in Guatemala since 2007. The Sinaloa Cartel has been in the country much longer, and has recently shifted some of its production of methamphetamine to the country. 

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