Guatemala Extradites Top Sinaloa Cartel Connection ‘Juan Chamale’

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Guatemala has extradited a man once one of the country’s leading drug traffickers and principal connections for Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, Juan Alberto Ortiz Lopez, who becomes the latest Guatemalan drug lord to see his legal stalling tactics finally fail.

Guatemalan officials turned over Ortiz, alias “Juan Chamale,” to US Drug Enforcement Agency officials on May 22, more than three years after his arrest. He was then flown to Tampa, Florida where an indictment against him has been pending since February 2011, reported the AP. The 43-year-old is accused of shipping over 40 tons of cocaine to the United States.

Ortiz took legal measures to halt the extradition, but Guatemala’s Constitutional Court rejected his appeals.

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Although a Guatemalan court approved Ortiz’s extradition to the United States in February 2012, the drug lord managed to stall using legal tools such as the “writ of amparo” — similar to a US injunction — which can clog the legal system with frivolous demands.

Numerous drug traffickers have managed to delay extradition this way, but the growing number that have been shipped off to the United States in recent years — including Walther Overdick, alias “El Tigre,” in December 2012 and Waldemar Lorenzana, alias the “Patriarch,” in March 2014 — appears to be a sign that these tactics are running out of steam.

This latest extradition could also be considered the closing chapter to Guatemala’s Paz y Paz era. Ortiz was one of the first major criminals to be captured under the anti-impunity crusade led by former Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz. Following her controversial replacement on May 17, however, whether or not the country will maintain the pressure on high level drug lords such as Ortiz remains to be seen.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala: The War of Paz y Paz

Ortiz’s extradition could also have implications for the criminal dynamic in the Guatemalan underworld. Ortiz’s brother, Ronny Ortiz Lopez, is believed to have taken over his operations, but reports from last year suggested Ronny had lost control of the organization and gone on the run in Mexico. With Ortiz no longer in Guatemala, what remains of the organization will be more vulnerable than ever.

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