A U.S. diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks revealed that Guatemalan presidential hopeful Otto Perez admitted to past links with the Mendoza family, said to be one of the country's biggest drug trafficking clans.
According to the leaked cable, obtained by Guatemalan website Plaza Publica, the retired army officer, current frontrunner in the Guatemalan presidential race, admitted that his party had a relationship with a member of the Mendoza family. He had denied this in an interview with the same website less than a month ago.
In July, Plaza Publica asked Perez whether a member of his party had proposed one of the Mendozas as a Congress candidate. He denied it, and said "Furthermore, we asked the people from the party not to build relationships with them. That relation never existed."
According to the document, entitled “07GUATEMALA1941” and sent by the US Guatemalan Embassy to the State Department and Pentagon on September 25, 2007, Perez admitted in a meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala, James Derham, that the his party had a "minimal relationship" in 2003 with one Mendoza brother, but "not with the narco-trafficker who lives in Peten."
The Mendozas offered support to Perez's party, according to the candidate, but when he met with the family he asked them to withdraw from the campaign.
According to the leaked cable, Perez also revealed details of those who were financing his 2007 presidential campaign, admitting that the bulk of funding for his campaign came from four of Guatemala’s wealthiest families.
Perez lost the 2007 presidential election to Alvaro Colom. However, according to recent polls, Perez is leading the current presidential race with more than 40 percent of support and a 30-point lead over his two closest competitors. The first round of voting will be held on September 11.
Perez also apparently told the diplomat that he had "proof" that Colom's campaign was funded by drug money.
See InSight Crime’s translation of extracts from Perez’s July interview with Plaza Publica here.