The heir to what was once one of Guatemala's premier drug trafficking organizations has been arrested in Belize, illustrating both the diehard nature of the region's "transportista" groups and the role of this often overlooked corner of Central America in the drug trade.
Adolfo Eribel Rodriguez Barrientos was arrested in Belize by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), reported Emisoras Unidas. Following the arrest, police and prosecutors launched a series of raids on properties in Guatemala linked to Rodriguez, who now faces a US extradition order.
According to Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, Rodriguez had taken over drug trafficking operations once run by Jorge Mario Paredes Cordoba, alias "El Gordo," who was arrested in Honduras in 2008 and then extradited to the United States.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Paredes organization was one of the most powerful of Guatemala's so-called transportista clans -- groups hired to move drug shipments. According to the US State department, the group used connections in Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico and El Salvador to move multi-ton cocaine shipments into Guatemala. Once in the country, it was either sold in bulk to a third party distributor or moved on to the United States and distributed by contacts there.
Paredes, his brothers Ever Omar and Arturo, and his right-hand man Otoniel Turcios Marroquin, alias "El Loco," are all believed to have worked closely with Mexico's Zetas. However, by some accounts, after the arrest of Paredes and the murder of his two brothers, the Zetas turned on Turcios, forcing him out of his territory.
SEE ALSO: The Zetas in Guatemala
However, time and again Guatemala's transportista networks have proven their ability to survive in the face of such setbacks; this latest arrest shows that despite major losses, at least part of the Paredes organization continues to operate today.
The arrest is also a reminder of the role Belize plays in the drug trade. While the country is rarely mentioned in discussions on Central American drug trafficking, there is plenty of evidence to suggest its ample coastlines and institutional weaknesses have not gone unnoticed by the region's traffickers.
This certainly appears to be the case for the Paredes -- in addition to the recent arrest of Rodriguez, "El Loco" Turcios was also arrested in the country in 2010.