Guatemalan Court Authorizes Extradition of Drug Kingpin

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Guatemala announced it will extradite Waldemar Lorenzana, head of the Lorenzana crime family, to the US to face drug trafficking charges, continuing a recent trend of high-level Guatemalan criminals being sent to the US to face justice.

On August 6 a Guatemalan court authorized the extradition of Waldemar Lorenzana Lima to the United States, where he is wanted on drug trafficking charges.

According to US authorities, Waldemar, alias “The Patriarch,” oversaw a drug trafficking network that functioned as an intermediary between Colombian criminal organizations and Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has alleged that Lorenzana facilitated the entrance of “thousands of tons of cocaine” into the United States. The investigation also indicates that between 1999 and 2003, the Lorenzana family was linked to Otto Herrera García, who the US designated as “one of the biggest drug traffickers in Central America” before his capture in Colombia and extradition to the United States in 2008.

Before a date can be set for Lorenzana’s transfer to US authorities, Guatemalan President Otto Perez must ratify the extradition order.

InSight Crime Analysis

US pressure and support have prompted Guatemala to arrest more high level drug traffickers in the past two years than in the previous decade. Despite the attempts of many suspects to delay or stop their extradition by claiming the process is “unconstitutional,” the Guatemalan courts have successfully resolved several high profile cases in the first half of this year. Guatemala ruled to extradite Waldemar Lorenzana’s son, Elio Lorenzana, to the United States in February following his arrest in November 2011. Just ten days later, the court also authorized the extradition of Juan Alberto Ortiz Lopez, alias “Juan Chamale,” who the DEA ranked as Guatemala’s top trafficker.

The removal of several key organized crime players is a clear victory for the government, but the fact that the suspects do not face any charges in Guatemala points to the continued weakness of the country’s law enforcement and judicial institutions. While the DEA took only an advisory role in the actual operation that lead to Lorenzana’s capture, his arrest occurred solely on the basis of the US extradition request, rather than due to political will on the part of Guatemalan authorities. Furthermore, although the Lorenzanas’ assets have been frozen in the United States, the family still gains revenue from the fifteen legitimate businesses it operates in Guatemala.

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