November 16, 2005

Guatemalan Anti-drug Chief Caught Smuggling

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Guatemala's anti-drug chief and two of his senior officials have been arrested on charges of conspiring to import and distribute cocaine in the United States, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

They said the three high-level members of the Guatemalan anti-narcotics agency were arrested in the United States on Tuesday after arriving in the country from Guatemala.

The defendants have been charged in an indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Washington. If convicted, they face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, the officials said.

They said 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 same special agency who was responsible for security sweeps at the port city of Santo Tomas.

In Guatemala City, Interior Minister Carlos Vielmann told reporters, "It is a powerful blow against the infiltration of organized crime." He said Washington had first alerted Guatemala's government that Castillo was involved in drugs smuggling six months ago.

U.S. officials say drug cartels are increasingly using Guatemala as a route to smuggle cocaine into Mexico and on to the United States.

In Washington, U.S. officials said the Guatemalan government assisted in the investigation.

"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," Karen Tandy, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Herbert Hernandez in Guatemala City)