Guatemalan drug boss Walther Overdick has been extradited to the United States to face drug trafficking charges, a major step for a country that has one of the worst records in Latin America for extraditing suspected drug lords.
According to a statement by the US Embassy in Guatemala, Walther Overdick, alias “El Tigre,” was extradited to New York on December 10, where he will be charged with trafficking over a ton of cocaine to the US in 2002. Guatemalan and US law enforcement say that Overdick, who was arrested in April, was one of the top criminal leaders in the Central American country.
Overdick is believed to have been one of the first Guatemalan drug traffickers to ally himself with the Zetas. The Mexican criminal group was to able to drastically expand their activity in Guatemala in recent years, thanks in part to their alliance with Overdick. Overdick, meanwhile, benefited from the Zetas’ brutal modus operandi, as the Mexican group killed off several of Overdick’s main rivals, including local crime lord Juacho Leon.
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Overdick is the first suspected drug trafficker to be extradited from Guatemala to the US since 2007. Before then, there was only one other extradition case involving a citizen wanted on drug charges, dating back to 1993. Overdick’s extradition is therefore an important step forward in Guatemala’s fight against organized crime, especially if it heralds more efficient processing in extradition orders in the future. Another major drug trafficker, Elio Lorenzana of the Lorenzana crime family, is also expected to soon be extradited to the US. His father, Waldemar, is facing his own extradition case.
While Overdick’s extradition represents significant progress for Guatemala, the case also calls attention to the shoddy state of the country’s judicial system. If Overdick had not been extradited to the US, it is doubtful that he would have faced justice in Guatemala, where organized crime has demonstrated an alarming ability to influence local courts. This influence extends to law enforcement officials. While the country has arrested a number of major drug traffickers in recent years, it appears that the success of most of these operations depended on the logistical support and oversight provided by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.
Even after their arrest, kingpins in Guatemala have been able to delay or halt their extradition by using a controversial legal loophole to argue that their transfer to the US is “unconstitutional.” Perhaps the most high profile of these cases is that of former President Alfonso Portillo, who successfully battled extradition for months before a court ruled in August that he could legally be sent to the US to face charges.
There are currently 11 Guatemalans wanted in the US, Mexico, and Costa Rica on extradition charges, according to Guatemalan news website Siglo 21.
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