A UNODC report states that the Pacific Cartel, a federation formed by Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel and Gulf Cartel, has formed alliances with El Salvador's Perrones transport group, confirming information that has been circulating unaddressed in Salvadoran intelligence reports for years.
In the section titled "Relations with other groups," the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) writes of the Perrones: "Alliances with Mexican criminal organizations, in particular the Pacific Cartel. El Chapo Guzman hired Reynerio Flores to smuggle cocaine to Guatemala and transport money to Panama. The group has alliances with local politicians and links with businessmen."
This sentence was written six years after Deputy Inspector Luis Ernesto Anaya Martinez, interim head of the Finance Division of the Anti-Narcotics Division (DAN), put his signature on official document 346/DIDF/DAN/06 in a national police office in San Salvador before turning it in to the Attorney General's Office. The five paragraph report stated: "Informants speak of an organization linked to drug trafficking, run by a Mexican woman known as La Patrona ... In 2003 [she] came to El Salvador to meet with various businessmen from the east at an estate in Sonsonate; she presented herself as the head of the organization and said she was looking for representatives of the organization here in the country."
SEE ALSO: Profile of the Perrones
An investigation was launched based on the report, which in turn led to the revival of another investigation that had been stalled in the DAN since 2004 regarding a group of transporters that were moving cocaine from the Peñas Blancas border crossing, between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, to Guatemala. Eventually it emerged that the group of businessmen was known as the Perrones and, according to the UN, one of their members, Reynerio Flores Lazo, had established contact with El Chapo Guzman [head of the Sinaloa Cartel].
After two failed capture attempts -- ruined by information leaked by the police, according to prosecutors that investigated the Perrones --, Flores was detained in May 2009 in Honduras. He is currently in prison in Zacatecoluca, where he is serving an 80 year sentence.
Salvadoran authorities claimed that, with the sentencing of Reynerio, the Perrones structure received a death blow. Nonetheless, a police intelligence report, which according to one Salvadoran official was shared with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), indicated that by November 2011 the group was functioning normally and furthermore, that it had consolidated ties with groups beyond Salvadoran borders. This final point was validated by the UN: "[The Perrones are] also present in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica through transport companies."
SEE ALSO: Profile of Reynerio Flores
"They move from Pasaquina to Nicaragua in order to maintain communication with the fugitive Joaquin Archivaldo [sic] Guzman Loera, "El Chapo" Guzman, who according to informants moves between Nicaragua and Honduras," says the Salvadoran report, which later adds information about alleged meetings between El Chapo Guzman and another drug trafficker associated with the Perrones, Chepe Luna, in a house on Morazan Boulevard in Tegucigalpa. The report also notes another meeting in a town known as La Brea on the Honduran Atlantic Coast on November 24, 2011.
Five months after this report was written, on April 14, 2012, former Salvadoran Police Chief Francisco Salinas publically accepted that there were signs that the eastern organization was regrouping.
The UNODC report highlights another characteristic of the Perrones -- how the case of one of their members, Juan Maria Medrano, "demonstrates that contraband smuggling via commercial air routes also takes place." Medrano ran a network of wholesalers who, thanks to their alliance with DAN agents in the Comalapa International Airport, moved as much as 30 kilos per month to New Jersey and Maryland. Although the network was disbanded in 2010, when, according to Salvadoran authorities, the Perrones were also taken down, the police who allowed cocaine to pass through the airport terminal continued operating and at the beginning of 2013, another group of DAN agents faced charges for similar acts.
The UN report ends up confirming all of these connections, of which the national police had been informed by the DEA since at least 2002, according to a memo signed in September of that year by Jose Jaime Cabrera Soriano, then head of the intelligence center connected to the DAN: "A note from Danny Dalton, a member of the DEA, speaks of a criminal organization dedicated to international drug trafficking and based in northern New York and New Jersey, with contacts in Guatemala and El Salvador."
*This article originally appeared in La Prensa Grafica. It was translated and reprinted with permission. See the original here. Hector Silva Avalos is a Salvadoran journalist and current resident fellow at American University's Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS), which sponsors InSight Crime's work. Read more of Silva's writing here.