Guatemala Elite’s Criminal Links Highlight Country’s Political Vulnerability

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A representative of Central America’s parliamentary institution from Guatemala has been linked to a criminal organization with longstanding ties to politicians and other elite figures, underscoring the vulnerability of the regional body and the country’s political system.

Over the course of a five-year investigation, Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office has determined that Freddy Arnoldo Salazar Flores, a representative of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), has family ties that link him to the Huistas criminal organization, which operates in a key region in northwest Guatemala near the border with Mexico, ElPeriódico reported

Salazar Flores is reportedly married to a woman by the name of Danury Lisseth Samayoa Montejo. She is the daughter of an alleged Huistas member, Aler Baldomero Samayoa Recinos, alias “Chicharra.”

But this is not the only connection that Salazar Flores reportedly has to the criminal organization. Salazar Flores’ sister, Eliza Judith Salazar Mejía, is married to another alleged Huistas member by the name of Juan Bautista Rozotto López, alias “Juancho,” according to ElPeriódico.

(Graphic courtesy of ElPeriódico)

In September 2013, Guatemala’s National Police arrested Rozotto López while he was transporting 600,000 quetzales in cash (around $78,000), hidden in a compartment in his car. A local court, however, later released Rozotto López from jail.

A series of wiretaps has since revealed that other Huistas members allegedly conspired to provide falsified evidence that made it look like the cash that Rozotto López was transporting had come from the legal sale of machinery and vehicles to a company identified as Jarepsa, SA. This allegedly fabricated evidence led a judge to close the case, Prensa Libre reported.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The Huistas

In a joint operation, Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office and the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG) recaptured Rozotto López in October 2018, along with several other alleged Huistas members. Prosecutors say they have more than 100 telephone intercepts that will help prove how Rozotto López’s fellow Huistas members fabricated evidence to get him released from jail.

InSight Crime Analysis

Salazar Flores’ alleged links to the Huistas criminal organization is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of Guatemala’s political system, despite positive strides made in recent years to combat corruption. It also adds yet another scandal to the long list of shady incidents involving the Parlacen.

The Central American Parliament — an institution formed in the late 1980s to discuss regional issues — has been a sort of “white elephant” in Latin American politics. Despite the vast amounts of money that have been invested into the institution, it has been surrounded by corruption and criminal scandals.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

Most notably, in February 2007, the bodies of three politicians from El Salvador and their driver were found badly burned in Guatemala, where they had arrived to participate in a plenary session. Among the dead was the son of Roberto D’Abuisson, the co-founder of El Salvador’s Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista – ARENA) political party.

Just days later, four jailed police officers in Guatemala were murdered in an attempt to stop investigators from finding out who ordered the killings.

What has since been dubbed the “Parlacen case” was one of the main reasons for Guatemala to establish the CICIG. But Salazar Flores’ alleged ties to the Huistas is a worrying reminder that, even with an independent anti-graft body that has made significant strides in rooting out corruption, organized crime groups are still finding ways to infiltrate the country’s political system.

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