Guatemala authorities have captured the alleged heir to one of the nation’s preeminent drug trafficking clans, possibly marking the end of the network and putting its lucrative drug territory up for grabs.
On August 24, Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office announced the capture of Rony Alexander Ortiz Lopez, alias “El R,” and three of his bodyguards in the department of San Marcos. He stands accused of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder. (See video below)
Rony Ortiz is assumed to have taken over the drug operations of his brother, Juan Alberto Ortiz Lopez, alias “Chamale” — also known as Guatemala’s “Heroin King”– who was extradited to the United States in 2014. Prior to his arrest in 2011, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considered Chamale to be Guatemala’s top drug trafficker, serving as a key contact for Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and moving drugs through Central America using small fishing boats and possibly semi-submersibles.
Sitting along the Mexican border, San Marcos — the Ortiz Lopez clan’s base of operations — serves as an important landing point for South American cocaine and is also a major poppy production area, the raw material for heroin.
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Rony Ortiz’s arrest may mark the final chapter for the Ortiz Lopez drug trafficking clan. Under Chamale, the clan accumulated wealth and power, as well as the attention of both local and international authorities. However, after Chamale’s arrest, the organization is reported to have lost territory and influence under the leadership of Rony Ortiz. With his arrest, rivals may now look to take control of the group’s valuable San Marcos territory.
On a larger scale, Rony Ortiz’s capture can be seen as the death rattle of Guatemala’s previous generation of drug traffickers. In the wake of the Zetas’ violent rise and fall in Guatemala, as well as major blows to organized crime by former Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, many of the Guatemala underworld’s old guard are now dead or in prison.
SEE ALSO: The Zetas in Guatemala
Most recently, in July, Guatemala extradited brutal drug trafficker Jairo Orellana, alias “El Pelon,” to the United States. The move added the onetime Zetas’ ally to a long list of declining Guatemalan criminal groups, including the Mendoza clan, the Lorenzanas, and the Leones. Nonetheless, with major drug buyers like Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel still eager for more product, it’s only a matter of time before new drug trafficking organizations fill the vacuum in Guatemala.
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