The alleged head of the Mendoza family drug clan in Guatemala, and various other suspected members of the criminal group, have been arrested, striking a serious blow to an organization once considered untouchable.
A joint investigation by Guatemala's Attorney General's Office and the country's international anti-impunity body CICIG led to the capture of Haroldo Mendoza Matta and nine others on charges including illicit association, homicide,and aggravated robbery, reported Emisoras Unidas. The detainees include the alleged head of security, contract killers, and a bodyguard for the criminal group, reported Prensa Libre.
Authorities believe the ten suspects are linked to the massacre of seven individuals on November 15 in the country's coastal province Izabal, reported elPeriodico.
In addition to CICIG members and prosecutors, the operation -- conducted simultaneously in four Guatemalan provinces -- involved 110 anti-drug agents, 100 soldiers, and two helicopters, reported Siglo21.
InSight Crime Analysis
Mendoza Matta's arrest could be an indication of the Mendoza drug trafficking clan's declining influence.
The Mendozas, who have made a fortune over the years from contraband and drug smuggling, were once considered to be protected by well-placed contacts in Guatemalan political circles. Former President Alvaro Colom once remarked the Mendozas were the among the "narcos that nobody touches." A mayor in Peten province -- where the drug trafficking organization is based -- reportedly received campaign donations in 2011 from the Mendozas after he shelled out nearly $2 million on a stadium for a soccer team owned by the drug family.
However, the Mendozas lost key territories following the incursion of Mexican criminal group the Zetas into Guatemala, and many members of the drug clan are thought to have fled the country.
SEE ALSO: Mendozas Profile
Mendoza's arrest is also another victory for the outgoing CICIG to chalk up before its mandate ends in September 2015. Since the CICIG began its work in Guatemala in 2007, it has overseen the prosecution of former President Alfonso Portillo and outed other instances of corruption and criminal activity within the political system. However, the CICIG has clashed with the Guatemalan government over cases like the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, and in 2013, President Otto Perez Molina indicated he would not renew CICIG's mandate.