Guatemalan drug czar busted

Guatemala's anti-drug chief and two of his senior officials were arrested Nov. 16 on charges of conspiring to import and distribute cocaine in the United States. The Guatemalan government assisted in the investigation but the arrests were an embarrassment for President Oscar Berger, who has tried to clean up the country's image as corrupt.

The three were arrested upon arriving in the US from Guatemala, and have been charged by a federal grand jury in Washington. If convicted, they face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The three defendants are Adan Castillo, the head of Guatemala's anti-narcotics agency; Jorge Aguilar, the second in command; and Rubilio Orlando, a member of the agency responsible for security sweeps at the Atlantic port city of Santo Tomas.

In Guatemala City, Interior Minister Carlos Vielmann told reporters, that Guatemala had seized almost a ton of cocaine in Santo Tomas, although it was unclear if that was directly related to the arrests.

"More than corrupting the public trust, these Guatemalan police officials have been Trojan horses for the very addiction and devastation that they were entrusted to prevent," said Karen Tandy, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The agency headed by Castillo—the Anti-Narcotics Information and Analysis Service (SAIA)—was set up in 2003 to replace a similar body, the Department of Antinarcotics Operations, that was disbanded when agents were caught stealing seized cocaine from its warehouses.

Mexico suffered a similar embarrassment when the anti-drugs chief Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo was jailed in 1997 for taking bribes from the powerful Juarez Cartel. (Reuters,Washington Times, Nov. 16)

The arrests come weeks after revelations of former Guatemalan military commandos working with the Mexican drug cartels.