A former Guatemalan colonel has confessed to assisting the Jalisco Cartel New Generation in trafficking cocaine, which confirms allegations of Guatemalan military members providing logistical support to yet another Mexican drug trafficking group.
On May 19, a US judge accepted the guilty plea of Colonel Otto Fernando Godoy Cordón, who admitted his involvement in a drug trafficking operation from at least late 2017 until February 2018, according to court documents obtained by InSight Crime.
Godoy played a crucial role in delivering cocaine into the United States, helping coordinate the transportation of cocaine from South America to Guatemala via aircraft. An investigation by Guatemalan news outlet Plaza Pública revealed that traffickers moved the cocaine from Guatemala to Mexico for the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) before it entered the US.
Court documents indicate that Godoy’s primary role was conveying the “transportation coordinator,” who arranged the movement of cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela to Guatemala. He relied on his military credentials to avoid interference from law enforcement while traveling to hidden airstrips and helped find and secure safe landing spots for cocaine-carrying planes.
Authorities arrested Godoy during an anti-drug operation in Petén, Guatemala in February 2018. Two others were also arrested in the operations, including a Colombian national who was the presumed transportation coordinator and liaison between the Colombian suppliers and CJNG, according to Plaza Pública.
After he was released from pretrial detention six months after his arrest, a Guatemalan judge gave Godoy a four-year commutable prison sentence for conspiracy to launder money, instead of drug trafficking charges, and a fine of only 10,000 Quetzal, or just over $1,250. Guatemalan authorities apprehended him again in February 2022, and he was extradited to the United States to face charges related to drug trafficking.
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Godoy’s role in the drug trafficking operation confirms that the CJNG is no longer reliant only on Guatemalan drug trafficking groups to move cocaine through the country. The Guatemalan military, which has a history of drug-related corruption, has proved a willing partner.
Determining the CJNG’s overall intentions in Guatemala is challenging, Alan Ajiatas, sub-director of the Guatemala Attorney General’s Office’s anti-narcotics unit, told InSight Crime.
“What they have established [in Guatemala] are connections to effectively traffic and transfer illicit goods,” Ajiatas said.
Since Godoy’s arrest, the CJNG has been repeatedly linked to other members of Guatemala’s security forces. In December 2021, the Guatemala Attorney General’s Office arrested over a dozen alleged traffickers, including three Guatemalan soldiers accused of using army intelligence to facilitate drug trafficking and slow the state’s response in intercepting drug planes.
The CJNG has also found transportation partners in the well-established drug ring, the Huistas, the Guatemala Attorney General’s Office and US authorities have found. The Huistas is a long-standing Guatemalan trafficking clan linked with well-developed connections to the country’s political elites.
But Godoy’s case is not the only time the Guatemalan military has been infiltrated by a Mexican criminal organization.
In 2021, traffickers associated with Guatemalan kingpin Juan Ortiz, also known as “Juan Chamalé,” and his family drug clan, longstanding cocaine suppliers of the Sinaloa Cartel, said the group used Guatemalan soldiers to safeguard drug shipments arriving by sea, loaded cocaine into vehicles and transported it to other locations.
Before this, in the late 2000s, the once-feared Zetas recruited ex-military personnel and established an extensive bribery system to gain police informants as part of their strategy to take control of territory from Guatemalan drug networks during the late 2000s.
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