The criminal history of the drug trafficker who reportedly inherited the network once run by crime lord "Juan Chamale" sheds light on the ties between Central America's top criminal groups, and how these links facilitate drug trafficking throughout the region.
International authorities accuse 59-year-old Sebastiana Hortencia Cotton Vasquez, alias "Tana" or "Doña," of trafficking 40 tons of US-bound cocaine through Central America. She was arrested in southern Mexico on October 8 and reportedly worked with the Sinaloa Cartel.
Investigators in Nicaragua have said she is the heir to the criminal group once led by extradited Guatemalan drug lord Juan Alberto Ortiz Lopez, alias "Juan Chamale," according to La Prensa Grafica. After Chamale's capture, Vasquez was allegedly deeply involved in the operations of the Nicaraguan criminal group "Los Charros." In 2012, the group was linked to the murder of a famous Argentine folk singer, and in 2013, 13 members were sentenced for drug trafficking.
Vasquez also has alleged ties to the Valles drug trafficking organization in Honduras -- whose top leadership was recently captured -- and to the network of Salvadoran kingpin Jorge Ulloa Sibrian, alias "Repollo," who was detained in Guatemala in 2013 and is currently on trial in his home country.
After Vasquez's capture, she was deported to Guatemala, and currently faces possible extradition to the US.
InSight Crime Analysis
Vasquez's alleged links to multiple Central American crime groups is partly indicative of how flexible criminal operatives need to be in this region, especially when it comes to drug trafficking. By and large, Central America's drug transport networks move cocaine on an as-needed basis for Mexican cartels, rather than remaining loyal to any one particular group.
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These types of flexible relationships have also come to light during Repollo's ongoing trial -- according to testimony from one key member of his network, he partnered with 11 smaller drug trafficking cells in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Meanwhile, the Valles, in addition to their alleged ties to Vasquez, are believed to have worked with Jairo Orellana Morales, a Guatemalan drug trafficker whose penchant for stealing drug shipments earned him the name "The King of Tumbes."