Guatemala Fugitive ‘La Patrona’ Recaptured in El Salvador

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Authorities in El Salvador arrested a fugitive crime boss who had escaped from a Guatemala prison two weeks earlier, with officials from both countries crediting bilateral security cooperation for the recapture of the infamous “La Patrona.”

El Salvador’s National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil – PNC) captured Guatemalan national Marixa Ethelinda Lemus Pérez, alias “La Patrona” (roughly translated, “the Boss”), on the morning of May 25 in the northwestern department of Ahuachapán, which sits along the border with Guatemala, reported La Prensa Gráfica. La Patrona had escaped from a military detention center in Guatemala on May 11.

A former mayoral candidate in the Guatemalan department of Jutiapa where she had repeated armed battles with rivals, Lemus Pérez was sentenced in March of 2015 to 94 years in prison on charges of murder, kidnapping and running a criminal organization. 

SEE ALSO: The Prison Dilemma in the Americas

After her recapture, Lemus Pérez said she had escaped because she was in physical danger at the detention facility, reported Prensa Libre

“I cannot be in a prison where my life is at risk,” she said. 

She was handed over to Guatemalan police on the same day as her arrest, reported La Prensa Gráfica. Once in Guatemala, Lemus Pérez said “I expect to receive a fair trial or else I will escape again.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Lemus Pérez’ escape two weeks ago was an embarrassing episode for Guatemalan authorities, as it drew attention to how much control inmates have gained within the prison system. Her recapture has enabled the authorities to alter that narrative by focusing on how law enforcement agencies from both countries had collaborated in tracking her down.

“The operation in which ‘La Patrona’ was captured demonstrates the good coordination that exists between the police of El Salvador and Guatemala,” said Howard Cotto, director of the PNC in El Salvador. 

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales also tweeted his thanks to Guatemalan and Salvadoran authorities. 

But her arrest does nothing to address the endemic problems in Guatemala’s prison system that allowed her to escape in the first place. Corruption in particular continues to plague the system, which has permitted some inmates to wield enormous influence while still behind bars. Until that changes, La Patrona could very well make good on the promise she made upon her return to Guatemala.

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