Francisco, or Frank, Zeledon, allegedly runs a drug trafficking network from the city of Bluefields on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. He is best known in the region as a businessman, landowner and ship builder.
Anti-drug investigators told InSight Crime that Zeledon is believed to provide logistical support for a drug-running network run by Archibald Clayburn, a hotel owner on Corn Island about 50 miles off the coast from Bluefields. Clayburn reportedly receives cocaine shipments from Colombia’s San Andres Island, then hands them off to Zeledon.
Zeledon moves the drugs north along the Caribbean shoreline, using boats with secret compartments built into them. The boats are built in a shipyard run by Zeledon. He is reportedly paid for his services in cocaine, which he then sells to the local population.
Signs of Zeledon’s political influence became evident after he was arrested in May 2011 for causing a public disturbance, after he came to blows with a local pastor. Zeledon said that was provoked because the road was blocked by a religious procession, while the pastor later said that Zeledon beat him with his pistol butt and threatened to destroy his church. Zeledon was held for only 12 hours, and prisoners staged a riot in the jail where he was being held in what was interpreted as an expression of support for Zeledon.
Francisco Zeledon Factbox
DOB: December 11, 1950
Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking, eco-trafficking
Status: No criminal charges
Area of Operation: Bluefields (Nicaragua)
Two weeks after Zeledon’s arrest, the Bluefields police chief was transferred back to Managua. Zeledon criticized the police chief, who only served in Bluefields for a short period of time, stating, “Since he came here he’s said I am a cocaine trafficker, even though he has no way to prove it.”
Zeledon allegedly runs a drug trafficking network, although he has not been charged with drug trafficking. Zeledon has also been accused of involvement in eco-trafficking, shipping wood that was illegally cut down in Nicaragua’s forest reserves.
Zeledon lives in Bluefields, a port city on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast nearly inaccessible by road.
Allies and Enemies
Zeledon is believed to have sponsored local political candidates for office, buying him some measure of protection from prosecution.
Despite his long history of run-ins with police, Zeledon has proved resilient to prosecution. When another rich drug trafficker named Ted Hayman was taken down in a series of arrests 2012, Zeledon notably escaped any scrutiny.