The US Treasury Department has added an alleged Guatemalan drug trafficker and ally of Mexico’s Zetas to its kingpin list, in a case that highlights the strong connections between Guatemalan organized crime and Mexican cartels.
Jairo Estuardo Orellana Morales, alias “El Pelon,” was labelled a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker under the US Kingpin Act. In addition to cocaine trafficking, Orellana has been linked to a number of drug trafficking-related murders in Guatemala, and officials stated that he “employs extreme violence” in his operations.
Orellana also has links to the Lorenzana crime family, specifically Marta Julia Lorenzana Cordon, with whom he had a child, and who was sanctioned under the same act in November 2012.
According to the Treasury chart (see map below), Orellana uses three principal routes to traffic cocaine into Mexico, all originating in Guatemala’s Zacapa department near the eastern border with Honduras, and moving up through the northern and western Peten, Quiche and Huehuetenango departments, respectively.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Zetas have established a firm territorial presence throughout Guatemala, and as of 2011, Orellana was believed to be in charge of their operations in the Zacapa department.
SEE ALSO: Zetas in Guatemala
His role appears to go significantly beyond serving as a local drug transporter — as is commonly the case with local traffickers working for Mexican cartels in Central America’s Northern Triangle countries. Orellana reportedly participated in the Zetas takeover of the Peten department in 2011, and was one of two people identified by prosecutors as ordering the massacre of 27 farmworkers in the department.
Orellana has also directed “tumbes” — the theft of cocaine shipments from rival groups — in both Guatemala and neighboring Honduras. Earlier this year, he was targeted for assassination after allegedly stealing 1.5 tons of cocaine linked to Zetas’ rivals the Sinaloa Cartel.
Orellana’s links to the Lorenzanas, local drug transporters who have received a number of blows in recent years, are consistent with his Zetas connections. Although the Lorenzanas initially worked with the Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas are believed to have now built alliances with key members of the fractured clan.