HomeNewsBriefEx-Guatemala Regime Likened to Organized Crime Syndicate

Ex-Guatemala Regime Likened to Organized Crime Syndicate


United Nations backed prosecutors in Guatemala have filed a new round of charges against top officials of the country’s former government, likening the administration to an organized crime syndicate with jailed President Otto Pérez Molina in the role of mafia don.

Attorney General Thelma Aldana outlined the case dubbed "Cooperacha" (Kick-in) during a June 11 press conference in which at least five ministers and the head of the Social Security Institute in Pérez Molina’s government chipped in a total of more than $4.7 million over a three-year period to buy him luxurious birthday gifts.

Aldana said the money was used to buy the former president a powerboat in 2012, a luxury beach house in 2013, and a $3.5 million16-06-13CooperachaYate helicopter in 2014. ElPeriodico reported that the items were given to the president during lavish parties marking his Dec. 1 birthday, and also included an armored Jaguar, a Harley Davidson motorcycle and three four-wheel, all-terrain vehicles.

Citing the Pérez Molina administration’s “perverse logic,” Aldana said the gifts were purchased “with the intention of ‘pleasing the boss,’ much like the practice of [members of] organized crime structures that guarantees their position within the hierarchy and their license to operate.” Aldana’s Public Ministry said in its press release that the gifts were paid mostly in cash “to hide the transactions and not leave a money trail” and that much of the money came from public coffers.

The attorney general was flanked at the press conference by current Interior Minister Francisco Rivas and Iván Velásquez, head of the UN's International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG).

Velásquez said that five ministers kicked in $100,000 each to purchase former Vice President Roxana Baldetti a vacation villa on the Honduran island of Roatan. Rivas detailed the list of former officials facing charges of illicit association and money laundering in the case: Pérez Molina; Baldetti; Manuel Lopéz and Ulises Noé Anzueto, Defense; Mauricio López Bonilla, Interior; Alejandro Sinibaldi, Communications; Erick Archila, Energy and Mines; and Juan de Dios Rodríguez, president of the Social Security Institute.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

Pérez Molina and Baldetti are accused of organizing the collections for each other's gifts. Baldetti’s then-personal secretary, Juan Carlos Mozón, allegedly went around to the respective ministries to collect the cash -- sometimes in bags and at least once in a parking lot -- and arranged for the subsequent purchases.

The Public Ministry reported that three of the former ministers were arrested over the weekend and Guatemala has asked Interpol to issue international warrants against two others believed to be in the United States and Italy. Pérez Molina and Baldetti were already jailed in connection with other cases.

InSight Crime Analysis

“Cooperacha” follows the “Cooptacion del Estado” (Cooptation of the State) illegal campaign finance case and “La Linea,” in which the former executives and numerous officials and collaborators have been charged with collecting kickbacks through a customs fraud.

In a fourth case, prosecutors have alleged Pérez Molina and Baldetti collected multimillion-dollar bribes for awarding a Spanish firm a contract to manage a container port facility. Taken as a whole, the cases illustrate what one international law expert consulted by InSight Crime characterized as “a classic kleptocracy.” The cases allege the group violated the people's democratic rights by cheating its way into power then used its offices to systematically cash in, either through theft of public resources or kickbacks and bribes. 

There can be no doubt that the international effort to help Guatemala address corruption and impunity is paying huge dividends. Without such international backing, it is improbable that domestic prosecutors would have dared to take on these key members of the country’s political elite and shed so much light on the “structural corruption” plaguing the poor Central American nation. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets for anti-corruption protests, providing additional support.

Observers are now anxious to see how far CICIG and the Public Ministry will be able to trace the money trails, and whether they will be able to implicate members of Guatemala’s economic elite -- what was formerly known as its oligarchy -- who undoubtedly helped finance some of these schemes in furtherance of their own interests.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


The Jalisco Cartel New Generation, which has rapidly expanded to become Mexico's greatest criminal threat, may now be spreading its…

COCAINE / 7 JUL 2022

When brothers Seth and Roberto Paisano Wood were released from prison and returned to their hometown of Brus Laguna, in…

COLOMBIA / 15 JUL 2021

A convicted cocaine trafficker is among the suspects that authorities in Haiti are pursuing in connection to the middle-of-the-night murder…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Coverage Continues to be Highlighted

3 MAR 2023

This week, InSight Crime co-director Jeremy McDermott was the featured guest on the Americas Quarterly podcast, where he provided an expert overview of the changing dynamics…


Venezuela's Organized Crime Top 10 Attracts Attention

24 FEB 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published its ranking of Venezuela’s ten organized crime groups to accompany the launch of the Venezuela Organized Crime Observatory. Read…


InSight Crime on El País Podcast

10 FEB 2023

This week, InSight Crime co-founder, Jeremy McDermott, was among experts featured in an El País podcast on the progress of Colombia’s nascent peace process.


InSight Crime Interviewed by Associated Press

3 FEB 2023

This week, InSight Crime’s Co-director Jeremy McDermott was interviewed by the Associated Press on developments in Haiti as the country continues its prolonged collapse. McDermott’s words were republished around the world,…


Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…