International — 14 January 2014

Guatemalan officials are reporting that Eribel Adolfo Rodriguez Barrientos, wanted for extradition by the US on allegations that he is the heir to a drug lord serving a 31-year sentence in the USA, was detained by US Drug Enforcement Agency officials here in Belize – although no such official information has been released by Belizean authorities on the case.

Insight Crime (online) said that Rodriguez’s recent arrest demonstrates both the diehard nature of the region’s “transportista” groups and the role of this often overlooked corner of Central America in the drug trade.

Guatemalan authorities reported last week that they were proceeding with raids of at least 12 properties linked to Rodriguez Barrientos, to look for evidence of narco-trafficking.

Rodriguez is described as “the heir to what was once one of Guatemala’s premier drug trafficking organizations.”

Rodriguez’s capture was confirmed by Mauricio López Bonilla – Guatemala’s Minister of Interior, who announced that officials were searching Rodriguez’s properties in the departments of Izabal and Zacapa, northeast of the capital.

Rodriguez, who was reportedly captured here in December 2013, is accused of having succeeded a powerful Guatemalan drug lord, Jorge Mario Paredes Cordova, aka Gordo Paredes, who was taken into custody in 2008 under a false identity in neighboring Honduras and is now serving time in the US. US DEA authorities report that Paredes-Cordova was captured on May 1, 2008, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras by the Honduran National Police.

The DEA says that the Paredes organization employed criminal associates in Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico and El Salvador, to facilitate the transportation of multi-ton cocaine shipments into Guatemala via air, land and sea routes, and their USA associates in Texas, Colorado, Illinois, New York and Georgia sold the cocaine and smuggled bulk cash payments back to Guatemala.

Upon arrival in Guatemala, the cocaine was either sold to a third party bulk distributor or shipped directly to the United States by the Paredes organization, the DEA said.

Guatemalan authorities have been trying to unearth evidence to connect Rodriguez and Gordo Paredes, who was sentenced to 31 years by the US Southern District Court of New York back in April 2010, “for leading an armed cocaine trafficking organization that imported ton-quantities of cocaine into the United States.”

“In addition to engaging in cocaine trafficking crimes, Paredes’ organization was heavily armed. Boat crews dispatched by Paredes from Guatemala to receive cocaine shipments at sea carried AK-47 assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols. As a kingpin, Paredes himself traveled with an armed contingent of bodyguards,” the judgment said.

It furthermore stated that “Paredes evaded capture for several years and protected his cocaine shipments from seizure by bribing law enforcement authorities in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.”

“He was eventually captured in Honduras in 2008 while living there under a false identity, and transferred to the United States for prosecution,” the Court decision said.

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