Guatemala Zetas Boss on the Run for Stealing Cocaine Shipment

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A Guatemala drug trafficker, affiliated to Mexico’s Zetas, is being hunted by the rival Sinaloa Cartel after he stole a 1.5 ton shipment of cocaine, prompting a feud that is leaving a trail of dead bodies in its wake.

Guatemalan newspaper ElPeriodico dubbed Zetas lieutenant Jairo Orellana Morales the “king of the tumbes,” for his role in stealing cocaine shipments in Guatemala and Honduras (“tumbes” refers to the theft of cocaine shipments between competing criminal groups).

Orellana was targeted in an assassination attempt last year in a medical clinic in Guatemala City, from which he narrowly managed to escape although seven of his bodyguards were gunned down. ElPeriodico reported that Orellana was targeted because of his role in stealing a 1,500 kilo shipment of pure cocaine from a criminal syndicate linked to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Orellana also allegedly played a role in other “tumbes” in Honduras. His typical strategy involves making a deal with suppliers of cocaine, then stealing the shipments while they are transported through territory which he controls, mostly along the Honduran-Guatemalan border, the Coban municipality in Alta Verapaz province, and the eastern province of Zacapa.

InSight Crime Analysis

ElPeriodico’s report suggested that even Orellana’s connections with the Zetas and the local drug trafficking clan the Lorenzanas may not be enough to protect him, if he is so deeply involved in the “tumbe” business. Orellana has a child with the daughter of drug trafficking patriarch Waldemar Lorenzana, whose family has traditionally controlled the drug trade in Zacapa and Izabal. Orellana also played a key role in allowing the Zetas to enter Guatemala in 2008.

[Read InSight Crime’s report on the Zetas in Guatemala].

Orellana is an experienced criminal operative who participated in many of the Zetas’ bloodiest operations in Guatemala, which may increase his chances of survival if he is now on the run. According to ElPeriodico, he assisted in the Zetas’ takeover of the northern Peten department in 2011, and some of his men participated in the grisly massacre of 27 farm workers during that time. He was also behind the killing of a local prosecutor in Coban in 2011, whose body was mutilated and dumped in bags around the town square. 

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