Guatemalan authorities recently extradited drug trafficker Jairo Orellana, alias “El Pelon,” to the United States, ending a criminal career that left a bloody legacy in Guatemala.
Security forces handed over Orellana to the DEA under heavy guard, including a helicopter escort. Prior to his capture in May 2014, Orellana earned himself the title of “The King of the ‘Tumbes'” — a reference to his tendency to steal drug shipments from criminal groups.
Unlike most drug trafficking suspects, Orellana sought extradition to the United States to resolve his legal situation “under better security conditions,” his lawyer Mauricio Berreondo told press. Orellana has been targeted by assassins in the past and appears willing to accept US sentencing in exchange for better protection against his many enemies.
Orellana has been linked to multiple Guatemalan, Honduran, and Mexican drug trafficking organizations and was seen as instrumental in facilitating the entrance of hyper-violent criminal group the Zetas into Guatemala around 2011.
SEE ALSO: The Zetas in Guatemala
He is believed to have operated trafficking routes along the Guatemalan-Honduran border, likely with the complicity of Honduran officials.
A breakdown of Orellana’s criminal links by local newspaper Elperiodico
InSight Crime Analysis
Orellana’s criminal career was characterized by his tendency to opportunistically form and break alliances with other criminals. He entered the drug trade at a young age, working as a gunman for Guatemalan trafficking clan the Lorenzanas.
SEE ALSO: Lorenzanas Profile
He later helped the Zetas gain a foothold in Guatemala, but then worked as a free agent, selling drugs to rival group the Sinaloa Cartel, once the Zetas’ power began to wane.
With his extradition, other traffickers will likely take over the routes and criminals structures Orellana built during his career. His more lasting impression on Central America’s underworld will likely be introducing the Zetas’ particular brand of extreme violence.
Rather than establishing partnerships with other criminal groups or corrupt authorities, Orellana and the Zetas frequently opted to kill off or intimidate rivals through gruesome displays of violence. Orellana’s men were linked to a 2011 massacre of 27 people in Northern Guatemala. He is also believed to have ordered the murder of a Guatemalan prosecutor — who was chopped into pieces and dumped in a town plaza — that same year.
SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profile
Orellana maintained this level of violence even after parting ways with the Zetas. He is suspected of numerous revenge killings in Honduras, according to Honduran intelligence reports, and is believed to have frequently set up and murdered his own drug suppliers.
While Orellana’s criminal career has likely come to an end, he may continue to impact the underworld depending if he’s willing to give information on fellow criminals to US authorities. Given his penchant for opportunistic murder and betrayal, this seems likely.