Guatemala Court Rules to Extradite ‘Juan Chamale’ to US

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A Guatemalan court ruled that one of the country’s most notorious alleged criminals, Juan Alberto Ortiz Lopez, alias ‘Juan Chamale,’ can be extradited to the United States, suggesting the practice may become more common.

Ortiz, alias “Juan Chamale,” was arrested in March 2011 and is considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to be one of Guatemala’s top drug traffickers. A Florida district court requested his extradition in February last year.

According to the indictment, Ortiz served as the key contact in Guatemala for a trafficking operation that moved tons of cocaine from Colombia through Central America to the United States every year. He allegedly operated in the San Marcos province of Guatemala, and was thought to be one of the Sinaloa Cartel‘s top transporters in the country.

Though US authorities had also been trying to seize Ortiz’s assets in Guatemala, including a $5 million mansion, the court did not rule on the matter, reported Prensa Libre.

Ortiz told reporters that he is innocent of all charges brought against him and will fight the ruling, according to EFE news agency.

Before the extradition ruling can become final, Ortiz is entitled to appeal before three more courts under Guatemalan law.

InSight Crime Analysis

The decision to extradite Ortiz to the US is the second such ruling within the last 10 days, after Elio Lorenza was told he would face extradition. As InSight Crime has noted, high-level criminals in Guatemala have often been able to utilize a legal tool known as “amparo” to delay proceedings on the grounds that extradition order violates their rights under the Guatemalan constitution.·

Amparo often allows suspects to delay cases for years, making the sudden ruling in the case against Ortiz all the more surprising. Like Lorenza, he was not facing charges in Guatemala.

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