Interinstitutional Center Against Drug Trafficking in Guatemala, Effective National Response In the Fight Against Drug Trafficking

by Pamela Contreras
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Through the strategic work coordinated by the Interinstitutional Center against Drug Trafficking in Guatemala -CICNAG-, the Public Ministry, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of National Defense have carried out three successful operations that resulted in captures and the dismantling of criminal structures.

-The first of these, on October 6, included 16 searches, inspections, registrations, and seizures of evidence in properties located in Petén, Escuintla, and Quetzaltenango. The objective was to dismantle a criminal organization dedicated to drug trafficking and contract killings.

As a result, William Asael Gómez Escobar was arrested for the crimes of conspiracy to trade, trafficking, and illegal storage and criminal association; Rony Aroldo Sosa Salguero was also arrested for the crime of criminal association. 

In addition, Esvin Hernández Salguero, also known as “flaco”, for the crimes of murder and criminal association; Edgar Evelio Milán García, for conspiracy to murder and criminal association; and Amilcar Galdámez Sosa for illegal trade, trafficking and storage, and criminal association. 

In addition, 12 different caliber firearms, 15 firearm magazines, 414 different caliber ammunition,  and the equivalent of $33,237.63 in cash were seized.

The logistical development of the actions was supported by 195 people, including the Public Ministry staff, the National Civil Police, and the Ministry of National Defense.

According to the investigation, the Public Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior established the existence of a criminal organization dedicated to drug trafficking and contract killing in the Petén and Suchitepéquez areas. It was determined that they have links with Mexican people, with whom they mobilize drug packages, mainly cocaine.  

The investigation revealed that the criminal structure was divided into three operating cells: one that uses hired killers to attack people’s physical integrity and two to move the cocaine.

It was identified that the structure is linked to four events:  

An attack in which the National Civil Police officer, Leonel Herrera Sosa, and his brother Rodolfo Herrera Sosa, died on January 2, 2019, on the road leading to the village of Suculté, Dolores, Petén.

-The second event occurred on April 15, 2019, when a joint operation was carried out and seized 12 packages of drugs that were moved from the village of El Naranjo to El Ceibo, La Libertad, Petén. Rony Aroldo Sosa Salguero and Donai Fransuá Moscoso Izales were arrested. 

Likewise, on October 8, 2019, staff from the Sub Directorate General of Analysis of Anti-Narcotics Information of the National Civil Police and prosecutors from the Public Ministry inspected two vehicles, and a package of cocaine was located in one of them. The arrest of Nery Danilo Campos Curiel and José Álvaro Lenin Castilla Florián was coordinated. 

The structure is also attributed to a conspiracy to commit murder in January 2019.

The second action was carried out on August 25, as a follow-up to Phase II of the operation “Criminal Triangle: illegal traces”; in a coordinated manner the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Defense through its operational and investigative units carried out search inspection, and evidence seizure procedures.

The operations took place in the departments of Alta Verapaz and Petén, intending to dismantle a criminal organization dedicated to illegal routes. During the raids, six people were arrested, and evidence was seized, which will contribute to strengthening the investigation.

The Prosecutor’s Office for Drug Crimes requested arrest warrants for international traffic crimes, criminal associations, and personal cover-up, achieving the capture of Vicente Sacul Sacul, alias “el profe”; Lorenzo Sacul Sacul, alias “Lencho”; Amílcar Rockael Leal De León, alias “Rocky”; Cervin Manolo Acté Córdova, alias “Manolo; Elder Acté Córdova, alias “Elder” and Renato William Toc Ico, alias “William”.

The strategic investigation resulted from the investigations conducted in phase one of the Criminal Triangle case, carried out on December 14, 2021, allowing to establish the existence of one person associated with this organization.

As a result of the strategy implemented, in August 2021, a person was identified who provided information on an illegal route that would be received by a criminal organization unrelated to the members of the organization dismantled in the first phase of this case.

In the investigation, the prosecutor’s office established that the criminal organization is made up of Guatemalan nationals, who are coordinators of the reception of drug shipments for transport to “safe” places with the help of people carrying the so-called “tulas”.

It was established that they operate in the departments of Alta Verapaz and Petén, led by Wilber Arnoldo Cabrera Franco, alias “Comandante Lacandón”, who has already been indicted and remanded in custody.

The Drug Trafficking Prosecutor’s Office, in coordination with the National Civil Police and the Guatemalan Army, documented two events related to this criminal organization.

Event 1 

09/25/2021: Aircraft landed in Rosa village, San Luis, Petén. 

10 tulas were seized with 260 packages of cocaine; the total gross weight of the packages was established to be two hundred and ninety-three with twenty-two kilograms.

Event 2

10/1/2021: The aircraft landed in the municipality of Sayaxché, Petén.

The aircraft was located submerged.

How to operate:

The structure is led by Wilber Arnoldo Cabrera Franco, aka “Comandante Lacandón”, who oversees organizing the coordinators.

Within its structure, 8 coordinators oversee giving instructions to the people who will transfer the drug and store it for safekeeping.

The collaborators receive, protect and transfer drug shipments with destination to the borders of Mexico.

They have the collaboration of community leaders to support nearby communities and to pass undetected by the security forces.

They operate in the departments of Alta Verapaz, Petén

For the logistical development of the operational actions, we had the support of 403 people, including staff from the Public Ministry, the National Civil Police, and the Ministry of National Defense. Likewise, three aerial vehicles, 23 ground vehicles, and 12 radio patrols were used.

-The third action was on September 13 when the operational and investigative units of the Ministry of the Interior and the National Civil Police carried out six raids, searches, inspections, and seizure of evidence. These were in buildings located in the departments of Escuintla and Sololá, to dismantle a criminal organization linked to drug trafficking.

During the proceedings, six alleged members of the structure were apprehended. The arrest warrants were requested by the Prosecutor for Drug Crimes from the High-Risk Court “E”, achieving the arrest of Edgar Delgado Samayoa; Jose Luis Lopez Linares; Juan Carlos Melgar Pineda; Mario Antonio Solís Samayoa and Guillermo Valdemar Marín Raymundo, all charged with the crime of international traffic. Likewise, Marvin Alfredo Hernández González, for the crime of breach of duties.

In addition, the kidnapping of various clues was achieved that will contribute to the strengthening of the investigation.

The investigation of this case began after obtaining information about a criminal organization with an operations center in the department of Escuintla, led by Adelso Uvaldo Sánchez Ruano aka “32” (deceased), who with the help of other members of the organization they coordinate the reception of drug shipments, transported by sea, from South American countries to the maritime coasts of Guatemala.

As a result of the strategic investigation, it was established that this organization is made up of individuals who work within the port facilities, as well as public employees who provide their services within the port.

Modus Operandi

Through the strategic investigation carried out by the prosecution, was identified how the criminal organization operated, establishing that the members of the said organization had prior knowledge of drug shipments that would be transported by sea in ships that transported containers from the countries of South America.

Having this information, they contacted staff who work in the shipping companies located in Puerto Quetzal, Escuintla, who oversaw intercepting the shipment, to extract the illicit hidden in the containers and transfer it to properties located in the surroundings of the port locality and distribute it among the collaborators who coordinated the reception.

The Prosecutor for Drug Crimes, in coordination with the National Civil Police, documented two events related to this criminal organization, one on May 13, 2021, inside the APM TERMINALS company; 619 packets of cocaine were found in a container. The other, on June 17, 2021, transfer of a container with possible illicit use.

For the logistical development of the operational actions, there were 95 people, including staff from the Public Ministry and the National Civil Police. Likewise, 9 patrol cars were used.

Interinstitutional Agreement 

On November 26, 2021, authorities from the Public Ministry, the Ministry of National Defense, and the Ministry of the Interior signed the Interinstitutional Cooperation Agreement for the Implementation of the Interinstitutional Center against Drug Trafficking in Guatemala.

CIGNAG coordinates, plans, complies, collects, exchanges, integrates, classifies, and analyzes information in order to generate intelligence that will help provide lines of action to carry out effective operations and prosecute criminal actions, in order to prevent, combat, dismantle and eradicate criminal activities related to drug trafficking and other illicit activities throughout the national territory.

It operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and among its functions, to mention a few, it gathers information, classifies, and analyzes it in order to plan prevention and reactive actions. It also carries out strategic, operational, and tactical coordination and activities developed jointly by the three institutions. 

CICNAG Seeks Strengthening

CICNAG has also sought to strengthen the project by holding high-level meetings where, in addition to presenting progress, various institutions were invited to join forces in their respective areas of competence in the fight against drug trafficking crimes. 

The President of the Republic of Guatemala, Dr. Alejandro Giammattei Falla, and the highest authorities of the Judicial Branch, the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Institute of Forensic Sciences, the Special Verification Intendancy, the Superintendency of Tax Administration, the Guatemalan Commercial Registry and the General Property Registry participated in the meetings. Currently, the legal mechanisms for the adhesion of these institutions to the work of CICNAG are being developed. 

CICNAG is the fourth model promoted by the Public Ministry to fight the crimes that most affect the Guatemalan population; in this case, drug trafficking, which was classified according to the National Strategic Agenda for National Security 2020–2024 of the National Intelligence System as the main criminal threat to the internal and external security and intelligence of the State.

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