US Extradition Request Depicts Deep Ties between Guatemala Ex-VP and Zetas

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The US extradition request for Guatemala’s former vice president Roxana Baldetti offers new details on her drug trafficking connections, linking her to the Mexican cartel the Zetas. The new revelations highlight the nature of the mafia state she helped oversee.

Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office (Ministerio Público — MP) announced the reception of the request via a press release on June 7. The former vice president is wanted by the United States for “criminal association and conspiracy to traffic drugs,” following the release of a US indictment in February 2017.

Citing a police investigation, the extradition document asserts that Roxana Baldetti “accepted money and gifts from drug traffickers during her electoral campaign for vice president in 2011, in exchange for the promise of using her influence as vice president to allow drug traffickers to operate with impunity in Guatemala,” according to Canal Antigua Digital.

Her vow included “limiting law enforcement activities to allow drug traffickers who contributed to her campaign to use land, air and maritime routes to transport drugs in and across Guatemala,” the document explains.

Links to such a powerful Guatemalan elite at this time would have been fundamental to the Zetas, who held sway over large swathes of Guatemala’s drug trade from 2008 to 2012. They allegedly provided Baldetti with armed security guards from 2010 to 2012 and during her electoral campaign, reported Prensa Libre.

SEE ALSO: The Zetas in Guatemala

The US extradition request claims that several individuals testified to meetings between Baldetti and members of the Zetas, during which she explicitly agreed to receive money from the powerful drug trafficking organization.

An individual referred to as Witness 1 admitted to personally handing over money and gifts to Baldetti’s guards in the hope that she would allow the cartel to move cocaine across Guatemala. “Between November of 2011 and January of 2012, Witness 1 paid more than 250,000 in US dollars to Baldetti Elías as part of the agreement,” the document reads.

Witness 1 also recalled directly asking Baldetti, on behalf of the Zetas, for the removal of an individual pertaining to a rival Mexican cartel, according to La Tribuna. Baldetti reportedly answered that the individual had an outstanding arrest warrant against him, which could “solve the problem.” He was subsequently arrested by Guatemala’s police.

Baldetti is currently incarcerated in Guatemala for different corruption cases, but she has yet to face a single drug-related charge from Guatemalan authorities.

InSight Crime Analysis

It may be a while before Baldetti sees the inside of a US courtroom. If the request is approved, her extradition will only be carried out after the ongoing cases in Guatemala have been closed. This process could — and most likely will — take years.

Still, the extradition request remains important due to its new allegations connecting Baldetti to the Zetas. 

SEE ALSO: Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime

Informal allegations of ties with drug traffickers had surfaced well before the February 2017 release of the US indictment. In particular, suspicions had revolved around ties between Baldetti and Marllory Chacón Rossell, who surrendered to US authorities in 2014. Chacón was described as one of the most prolific narcotics traffickers in Central America and Guatemala’s “most active money launderer” by the United States in 2012.

Chacón supplied cocaine to and laundered drug money for the Zetas. She and her incarcerated associates have been accused by various news outlets of financing Otto Pérez Molina and Baldetti’s successful campaign with up to $2 million, for instance.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala’s Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

But the gravity of the extradition request’s allegations surpasses previous unofficial accusations.

And they further support the notion that during Baldetti’s time in power alongside former president Otto Perez Molina, Guatemala was a mafia state, serving the interests of organized crime at a systematic level and over a prolonged period of time.

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