feds guatemalan presidential candidate conspired to import cocaine to the us

FEDS: Guatemalan Presidential Candidate Conspired to Import Cocaine to the US

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                         Mario Amílcar Estrada Orellana. Photo from his political campaign
  Presidential candidate offered the Sinaloa Cartel “full access” to Guatemala for money, accuses EU

A Guatemalan presidential candidate was busted Wednesday by the DEA for conspiring to import “tons of cocaine” into the US for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s infamous Sinaloa drug cartel — and allegedly attempting to arrange the assassinations of his political rivals, according to prosecutors.
According to the communiqué of the US justice system, of the seven documented occasions in which the candidate of the UCN and his aide negotiated the financing with the Sinaloa Cartel, in three of them they requested the physical elimination of two presidential candidates.

Mario Estrada, 58, was charged in Manhattan federal court following a months-long investigation.
Juan Pablo Gonzalez Mayorga
He and another individual, Juan Pablo Gonzalez Mayorga, were arrested Wednesday in Miami and are scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate on Thursday.

They are accused of conspiring to solicit cartel money “to finance a corrupt scheme to elect Estrada president of Guatemala,” according to prosecutors.

“In return, the two allegedly promised to assist the cartel in using Guatemalan ports and airports to export tons of cocaine into the US,” said Geoffrey Berman, attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement. “As further alleged, Estrada and Gonzalez attempted to arrange the assassinations of political rivals.” The pair allegedly conspired to use and possess machine guns throughout their murderous election campaign.

“[Estrada and Gonzalez] directed [confidential sources] to hire hitmen to assassinate political rivals to ensure that Estrada was elected president of Guatemala,” the federal complaint says. “In particular, Estrada and Gonzalez identified specific targets by name and agreed to provide the hitmen with firearms, including AK-47s, to carry out the murders.”

Both men will face a maximum of life in prison, if convicted.

“Thanks to the DEA, Estrada stands no chance of election in Guatemala,” Berman said. “But he and Gonzalez face justice in the United States.”

US authorities say Mario Amílcar Estrada Orellana asked the Sinaloa cartel for millions in exchange for offering “state-sponsored support” for the group’s drug trafficking activities, according to a federal indictment released on April 17.

Estrada, a candidate for the center-right party Union of National Change (UCN), and another man, Juan Pablo Gonzalez Mayorga, were arrested at the Miami airport on charges of arms and narcotics trafficking, according to authorities.

The US authorities have signaled a Guatemalan presidential candidate to request campaign funds from the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, and even ask the group to assassinate their rivals. The case highlights that politics in Guatemala , despite efforts to clean up, is still a very dirty business.

Prosecutors say Mario Amílcar Estrada Orellana was asking between US $ 10 and US $ 12 million from the Sinaloa cartel in exchange for offering “state-sponsored support” for the group’s drug trafficking activities, according to a federal statement of charges made public on May 17. April.

Estrada, a candidate for the center-right party Union of National Change (UCN), and another man, Juan Pablo Gonzalez Mayorga, were arrested at the Miami airport on charges of arms and narcotics trafficking, according to authorities.

During the last four months, they conspired to win the election with money from the drug traffickers who were handed over to them by two alleged members of the Sinaloa Cartel, who were in fact criminal informants for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA for its acronym in English).

Estrada promised “unrestricted access” to Guatemala’s ports and airports to transport drugs, and also offered to appoint members of the powerful drug trafficking organization in “key government posts” if he won the election, according to the statement of objections.

It is also said that Gonzalez asked if the informants could “assassinate [at least two] political rivals” using “many [rifles] AK-47” that would be provided to perpetrate the deaths.

In exchange for facilitating the movement of six planes loaded with cocaine through the country en route to the United States, the cartel was to send millions of dollars in drug monies through a yacht supplied by Estrada. In that way, Estrada told the informants, he could deliver a “considerable amount of money” to each of the 22 districts of Guatemala, which would allow him to secure enough votes to win the next June elections, according to the indictment.

Estrada is not alien to politics, nor to controversy. He was a congressman for many years before creating his UCN party in 2006.  He ran for president unsuccessfully in 2007, 2011, 2015 and again in 2019. The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) had already  investigated Estrada and his party in 2015 for allegedly financing electoral illegal and links to drug trafficking.

For its part, the US Embassy in Guatemala called the UCN a “narcopartido” on a cable leaked by WikiLeaks in 2011.

The daughter of Gloria Torres, who accompanied Estrada in the UCN campaign in 2015, has also been linked with Waldemar Lorenzana, ex-leader of one of Guatemala’s most notorious drug trafficking clans. Other members of the UCN party have been linked to convicted drug traffickers, such as Marllory Chacón Rossell.

If sentenced, Estrada and González would face the penalty of perpetual imprisonment in the United States.

Estrada’s bold attempt to ask for drug money to win the presidential elections in Guatemala reveals the extent to which illicit money has infiltrated the country’s political system.

                                                          Los Zetas in Guatemala

Although he was not among the favorites in the electoral contest, Estrada emphasized that “he needed funding from a drug cartel to be competitive.” This says a lot, given that not long ago, Mexican criminal groups, such as the feared cartel of Los Zetas, they resorted to extreme violence to exercise control in the Central American countries, including Guatemala.

Another day of gang violence for victims of extreme poverty, drug use, and their corrupt government                                      somewhere in the Northern Triangle of Central America
“I think Estrada’s case confirms the way many political parties [in Guatemala] finance their campaigns and demonstrate the continued cooptation of the state,” Guatemalan journalist Sofía Menchú said in an interview with InSight Crime.

Allegations of illicit financing of campaigns and links with organized crime groups have clouded Guatemalan politics for years.

CICIG and the Public Prosecutor’s Office are carrying out an investigation into President Jimmy Morales for presumed illicit electoral funding during the campaign that led him to the presidency in 2015.

His predecessor, Otto Pérez Molina, resigned before the authorities arrested him and the then Vice President Roxana Baldetti. Both were appointed to run a scheme of customs fraud that brought them millions of dollars in bribes. He was also accused of receiving illicit funds for his campaign.

Before Molina, Álvaro Colom was elected President of Guatemala in 2007 with the help of questionable political operators. These allegedly received critical financial support from organized crime groups in Guatemala and Mexico, including Los Zetas.

11 weeks of the trial of “El Chapo” sufficed to show the world the underground corruption of Mexico

With the current President Morales at the helm, Guatemalan elites recently struck back against the anticorruption campaign led by CICIG and the Public Prosecutor’s Office. This led to a constitutional crisis at the beginning of this year, after Morales expelled Iván Velásquez, commissioner of the CICIG, and gave the commission’s agents the order to leave the country.

“The government’s greatest interest in power is to remove or weaken the actors and institutions that have been so important in the fight against corruption [in Guatemala],” said Jo-Marie Burt, associate professor at the School of Public Policy and Government Schar at George Mason University and principal advisor to the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA).
The new revelations also occur while the United States sends contradictory signals about its commitment to fight corruption in Central America, specifically in the countries of the Northern Triangle, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Although the anti-narcotics authorities continue to make arrests of prominent figures linked to Central American governments, a recently released “blacklist” of corrupt government officials in Central America omitted the name of anyone who had not been previously convicted of their crimes.

The current US administration “does not really care about corruption in Central America,” Burt added. “It is frustrating to see that even with the incredible progress made by CICIG and the Public Ministry,  yet those problems have not been solved.”