The recent assassination of a former drug lord's grandson may stem from disputes between members of a family clan already rocked by arrests and extraditions.
Hans Broiner Lemus Lorenzana, a 26-year-old scion of the Lorenzana drug clan, was gunned down by unidentified assailants early on March 2 at a restaurant in the eastern Zacapa province, according to reports in local press and which InSight Crime confirmed with the Attorney General's Office.
Authorities discovered over 80 bullets casings at the scene, according to a police report cited by Prensa Libre. Two others were killed in the attack – both believed to be Lemus Lorenzana’s bodyguards.
Lemus Lorenzana is the grandson of Waldemar Lorenzana Lima, one of Guatemala’s most powerful drug lords up until his arrest and subsequent extradition to the United States on drug trafficking charges in the early 2010s. He died in a US prison last year while serving a life sentence for drug trafficking.
SEE ALSO: Betrayal in the Family Drug Business: The Lorenzanas in Guatemala
Guatemala authorities are still investigating the motive behind Lemus Lorenzana’s shooting, but initial theories point to possible disputes within the family clan.
“Our assumption is that it could be some kind of problem within the organization,” Alan Ajiatas, sub-director of the Attorney General's Office anti-narcotics unit, told InSight Crime. “It has all the characteristics of a settling of scores within [drug trafficking groups].”
He added, however, that it is too early to draw concrete conclusions.
Lemus Lorenzana's criminal past is murky. He had not faced any drug trafficking charges prior to his assassination. And according to Ajiatas, the Attorney General’s Office has no record of his prior detention for drug trafficking. However, local press reports indicate he was arrested in June 2013 while allegedly transporting cocaine in western Guatemala.
In recent posts on social media, Lemus Lorenzana alluded to his family’s ties to the drug trade. “When it’s in your blood what choice do you have,” he wrote in an Instagram post last December.
Lemus Lorenzana’s assassination comes less than a year after his mother, Marta Julia Lorenzana Cordón, and his uncle, Haroldo Jeremías Lorenzana Cordón, were extradited to the US to face drug trafficking charges.
The Lorenzana clan was formerly one of Guatemala’s most prominent drug rings. Based in Zacapa, the group trafficked vast quantities of cocaine to Mexico and the United States in partnership with powerful Mexican groups like the Sinaloa cartel, up until its leadership was hammered by a series of arrests in the early 2010s.
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If initial theories prove correct, Lemus Lorenzana’s murder could signal competition within the Lorenzana clan after leaders were detained.
“It’s about positioning and who will occupy certain posts left vacant within the group,” said Ajiatas in reference to one of the “stronger” hypotheses for the assassination.
“The dynamic is that someone within the same family is taking the lead,” he said.
SEE ALSO: Geographic Profile: Zacapa, Guatemala
Such transitions are nothing new for the Lorenzana clan. The group has undergone a series of internal reshuffles, most notably with the arrest and extradition of family patriarch Waldemar Lorenzana and two of his sons in the early 2010s, leaving the patriarch’s other children and relatives in charge of the family business.
This included Lemus Lorenzana’s mother and uncle – accused by US prosecutors of leading the family clan in the years after their father and siblings fell into the hands of US justice. Another of Waldemar Lorenzana’s grandsons, Haroldo Waldemar Lorenzana Terraza, is wanted by Guatemala and US authorities, elPeriódico reported.
Aside from provoking internal struggles, the numerous operations targeting the group’s leadership have also weakened its operations and scope, perhaps encouraging smaller drug rings to compete for the smuggling routes once dominated by the Lorenzanas.