Guatemala's authorities have extradited a founding member of the Mexican criminal organization the Zetas back to his homeland, the man who led the criminal group's incursion into this Central American nation in 2008.
Guatemala handed over Daniel Perez Rojas, alias “el Cachetes,” to Mexican authorities on March 31, Guatemala's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a press release. In 2010, Perez Rojas was sentenced to 47 years in prison for taking part in a 2008 massacre that left 11 dead, including prominent Guatemalan trafficker Juan Leon Ardon, alias "Juancho" Leon, reported elPeriodico.
However, in July 2013 Guatemalan authorities agreed to extradite Perez Rojas to Mexico, saying there were no further cases against him. Perez Rojas is wanted in Mexico on drug trafficking charges.
Perez Rojas previously worked as a bodyguard for the former leader of Mexico's Gulf Cartel, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, and was a founding member of the Zetas, Cardenas Guillen's special forces. The Zetas split from the Gulf Cartel following the arrest and extradition of Cardenas to the United States.
InSight Crime Analysis
Perez Rojas represents the end of a long and bloody chapter of Guatemalan underworld history. He was a prominent figure in the Zetas' push into Guatemala; the killing of Juancho Leon and 10 of his bodyguards in 2008 established the criminal organization's presence in that country.
The Zetas used their trademark violence to take control of drug routes in Guatemala. They worked closely with one of the country's top traffickers at the time, Walther Overdick. At one point the Zetas had around 100 soldiers in the country, and developed contacts that enabled them to obtain weapons and training from elements in the Guatemalan military.
SEE ALSO: Zetas News and Profile
However, in 2011 authorities in Guatemala began arresting key components of the Zetas criminal structure, such as Hugo Alvaro Gomez Vasquez in 2011, and and Overdick in April 2012. By 2013, the Zetas were largely run out of Guatemala, leaving a power vacuum that was mostly filled by local transport groups.
The handing over of Perez Rojas to Mexican authorities also suggests relations between the two countries are still improving. His extradition follows the 2013 capture in Mexico of Eduardo Francisco Villatoro Cano, alias "Guayo Cano," the head of a Guatemalan drug trafficking ring that is accused of killing nine police officers.
Mexico's arrest of influential Zetas operatives in Guatemala, including William de Jesus Torres Solorzano, alias "W," and Mauricio Guizar Cardenas, alias “Z200” in 2012, is further indication the two countries are collaborating on bringing high-profile criminals to justice.