Guatemalan drug boss Walther Overdick will be extradited to the United States, highlighting the role of extradition in the Central American country’s weak justice system.
On June 13, a Guatemalan court approved the extradition of Horst Walther Overdick, alias “the Tiger,” to the United States. Overdick (pictured), a high-profile drug lord with close ties to the Zetas and the Lorenzanas, was arrested in April.
Guatemalan judges have determined that Overdick was responsible for overseeing large shipments of cocaine to the US. The courts also believe that Overdick helped facilitate cocaine trafficking in Guatemala by building clandestine runways and by storing the drugs in warehouses.
Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez has said that Overdick was a fundamental facilitator of the Zetas’ expansion into Guatemala. Overdick is believed to have provided the cartel with the logistics necessary to operate in the Central American country.
The extradition was requested by the New York Southern District Court, which charges that Overdick helped ship 2,650 lbs. of cocaine to the US in 2002.
InSight Crime Analysis
Extradition plays an important role in the Guatemalan justice system, largely due to the weakness of the courts, which struggle with widespread corruption and impunity. Less than four percent of all cases in the country are prosecuted. Over the past five years, the United Nations’ International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has been working with the government to implement serious reforms — an uphill battle, according to CICIG director Francisco Dall’Anese.
Guatemala’s top criminals rarely face charges in their own country, and those who are prosecuted are seemingly immune from justice. In 2011, ex-president Alfonso Portillo was tried by national courts for money laundering and embezzlement. In a representative case of the weakness of the Guatemalan justice system, Portillo was acquitted of all charges, despite strong evidence against him, and instead faced extradition to the US.
This is a frequent occurrence in Guatemala, in which the failing court system must rely on extradition to ensure the successful prosecution of criminals. Although some advocate for reform of the extradition process, which is full of loopholes that delay extradition cases, others argue that extradition avoids addressing the fundamental weakness of the Guatemalan justice system.