November 16, 2005

Guatemala anti-drug chief arrested for 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.

The Guatemalan government assisted in the investigation but
the arrests was an embarrassment for President Oscar Berger,
who has tried to clean up the poor Central American country's
image as corrupt and crime ridden.

The three were arrested in the United States on Tuesday
after arriving in the country from Guatemala and have been
charged in an indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in

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, "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 drug
smuggling six months ago.

Vielmann said Guatemala had seized almost a ton of cocaine
in Santo Tomas but it was unclear if that was directly related
to the arrests.

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

"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, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The anti-narcotics agency headed by Castillo was set up in
2003 to replace a similar body 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.

(Additional reporting by Herbert Hernandez in Guatemala