Eight drug traffickers with links to the Texis Cartel have been convicted after months of their case being pushed around El Salvador's justice system, in the first sign that the impunity the group has so far enjoyed may finally be cracking.
The ringleader of the drug trafficking cell, Jesus Sanabria Zamora, a businessman and former councilor of the Metapan municipal government, was sentenced to 14 years in Santa Ana's Second Court of Judgment, reported El Mundo. One of Sanabria's seven associates also received 14 years, while the other six were handed down 12 year sentences.
The seven were captured in January 2012 in the municipality of Texistepeque in Santa Ana after negotiating the sale of five kilos of cocaine for $122,587 with undercover anti-narcotics agents.
Following the judicial investigation into the case, however, a series of definitional disputes pushed the case around the court system. Before arriving at the Second Court of Judgment, two judges declared themselves incompetent to hear the trial due to legal technicalities in the case.
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The Texis Cartel's reach extends deep into El Salvador's politics, judicial system, security forces and business elite, and to date their high-level connections have ensured the group has enjoyed widespread impunity. This was underscored late last year by the case of the cartel linked Salvadoran businessman Leonel Sandoval, whose case was dismissed on a spurious technicality.
SEE ALSO: Texis Cartel Profile
It appeared the case of Sanabria Zamora would follow a similar plot line, yet, after a two year process of judicial wrangling, procrastination, and buck passing, the axe finally fell swiftly, with the conviction coming just one day after the trial began. Sanabria's case could now instead prove a landmark moment in tackling the Texis Cartel -- as long as it is not overturned at a later date, which remains a possibility.
The conviction follows the capture of cartel leader Roberto Antonio Herrera, alias "El Burro," and several other alleged members last year -- arrests that marked the first signs of a serious investigation targeting the group.
*This article was updated on 23/01 to include the results of the trial