HomeNewsBriefLos Pochos, Guatemala’s New Generation of Drug Runners for Sinaloa Cartel
BRIEF

Los Pochos, Guatemala's New Generation of Drug Runners for Sinaloa Cartel

COCAINE / 10 JAN 2020 BY MARIA ALEJANDRA NAVARRETE EN

The arrest of a mayor in Guatemala's northern department of San Marcos has unveiled a criminal structure known as "Los Pochos" that investigators see as heirs to "Los Chamalé," formerly one of Guatemala's main drug gangs and transporters for the Sinaloa Cartel.

Erick Salvador Súñiga Rodríguez, better known as “El Pocho” and the mayor of the municipality of Ayutla in the department of San Marcos, surrendered to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in mid-December and agreed to reveal details of his role in trafficking cocaine from Guatemala to the United States, Prensa Libre reported.

Súñiga had been identified by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as the leader of Los Pochos, through which he "controls narcotics trafficking activities at the Guatemalan-Mexico border. He uses corrupt local law enforcement officials to assist him with illicit activities" and "supplies cocaine to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, according to the Treasury Department.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profile

According to Prensa Libre, Súñiga negotiated his surrender to the DEA over eight months starting in April 2019. Sources consulted by that newspaper reported that the mayor's lawyers attempted to delay his extradition to the United States and tried to extend his political immunity as mayor.

Four other Guatemalan nationals, including Súñiga's brother and half-brother, were arrested with him as part of "Los Pochos."

Graphic Courtesy of the US Treasury Department

InSight Crime Analysis

The investigation against Súñiga has revealed that his drug trafficking routes and contacts were likely the same once controlled by the renowned Los Chamalé clan.

According to Prensa Libre, Súñiga first came to the DEA's attention over two years ago through a recorded phone call between the former mayor and drug trafficker Juan Alberto Ortiz López, aka “Juan Chamalé,” who was extradited to the United States in 2014.

Documents from the District Court of East Texas published by the newspaper El Periódico state that El Pocho had a longstanding relationship with Ortiz López and was part of his inner circle.

SEE ALSO: Gap Left by Fallen Guatemala Drug Lords Filled by Competing Clans

Until Ortiz López was arrested in 2011, Los Chamalé had been a major drug trafficking gang in the department of San Marcos. It had operated since the 1990s and was considered as one of the Sinaloa Cartel's main drug transporters in Guatemala, according to a report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published in 2012.

They reportedly controlled not only the passage of drugs through San Marcos but also controlled routes between Guatemala and the Mexican state of Chiapas along the Pacific coast.

These areas in San Marcos and along the Pacific Coast are the same that Los Pochos now reportedly control, especially the route from Guatemala's Ayutla, where Súñiga was mayor, to Ciudad Tecún Uman on the border with Mexico.

The investigation and detention of Súñiga shows how the gap left behind by the dismantling of Los Chamalé allowed a small local group, Los Pochos, to rise and seize control of drug trafficking in a crucial area of Guatemala.

Súñiga also was reported to be linked to former presidential candidate Sandra Torres Casanova, imprisoned in Guatemala for alleged illicit campaign financing ahead of the 2015 presidential elections. According to an InSight Crime investigation, Torres' sister, Gloria, had earlier forged a relationship with Chamalé to receive illicit funds for Torres' campaign.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COCA / 16 JUN 2017

In our June 15 Facebook Live session, Co-director Steven Dudley and Senior Investigator Héctor Silva Ávalos talk about InSight Crime’s…

ELITES AND CRIME / 30 MAR 2017

United States authorities captured a Mexican state's attorney general accused of being part of a drug trafficking ring, a rare…

ELITES AND CRIME / 30 AUG 2018

President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala has many public enemies, but there is one who costs him more sleep at night…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.