Authorities in El Salvador have intercepted a cocaine shipment with alleged ties to political elites in Guatemala, further indicating how corruption and political protection are helping to fuel drug trafficking operations in Central America.
Last week, Salvadoran authorities intercepted a fishing boat transporting 840 kilograms of cocaine worth more than $21 million, the largest seizure ever recorded by El Salvador's navy, Prensa Libre reported.
Among the ship's crew of four Guatemalans and one Ecuadorean was Jorge Marroquín Fuentes, the brother of the mayor of Moyuta, a town in Guatemala's Jutiapa department along the southern border with El Salvador.
Moyuta's mayor, Carlos Roberto Marroquín Flores, reportedly has had disputes with another Guatemalan elite turned criminal, Marixa Ethelinda Lemus Pérez, alias "La Patrona," who was recaptured by Salvadoran authorities on May 25 after escaping from a Guatemalan prison earlier that month.
Lemus Pérez is accused of heading a criminal network responsible for multiple kidnappings and murders during and after the time that her and her family exercised control over Moyuta while her brother, Magno Lemus, was mayor between 2008 and 2011.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime
Shortly after her escape, Carlos Marroquín stated that Lemus Pérez wanted to reestablish her criminal ties in Moyuta and that he feared for his life, Prensa Libre reported separately on May 16. Lemus Pérez reportedly blames Carlos Marroquín for her sister's death after she challenged him in Moyuta's 2011 general elections, Guatevisión reported in May.
InSight Crime Analysis
This recent drug bust further emphasizes the role that corruption and political protection play in allowing criminal structures in Central America to move drug shipments throughout the region. The nearly one ton of cocaine that was seized is a significant amount for Central American players and demonstrates their capacity to traffic drugs in large quantities.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Cocaine Production
Colombia is currently experiencing a surge in coca production, and this in turn is affecting the role of Central American countries in the international drug trade. As a result, the geography of Guatemala's municipality of Moyuta has turned local politics into a cutthroat business. After her sister was killed in 2011, Lemus Pérez told elPeriódico in 2015 that the bad blood between herself and Carlos Marroquín in part stems from his desire to "remove all the competition [in Motuya] in order to control the territory."
SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles
The dispute illustrates the importance drug traffickers place on controlling political levers of power in order to further their illicit activities. This dynamic is further highlighted by reports that Carlos Marroquín spent more than $100,000 of the municipality's money to armour his vehicle in addition to hiring more than 15 security guards to protect himself and his family from the danger he felt they were in, according to Prensa Libre.