Guatemalan Anti-Drug Official Indicted
By MARK SHERMAN
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Guatemala's top anti-drug investigators have been arrested on charges they conspired to import and distribute cocaine in the United States after being lured to America for what they thought was training on fighting drug traffickers.
A three-count indictment issued Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Washington names Adan Castillo, chief of Guatemala's special anti-drug police force, who has lamented the slow pace of progress in combating cocaine smugglers in Guatemala. Also indicted were Jorge Aguilar Garcia, Castillo's deputy, and Rubilio Orlando Palacios, another police official.
They were arrested Tuesday after arriving in the United States for Drug Enforcement Administration training on stopping drug trafficking in ports, Guatemala's interior minister and two U.S. law enforcement officials said. In reality, the DEA had been investigating the men for four months with the help of the Guatemalan government.
Authorities acted now because they had grown concerned that Castillo could compromise ongoing investigations, one U.S. official said. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details not contained in the indictment.
Castillo, Garcia and Palacios pleaded innocent to the charges in federal court Wednesday and were being held without bail.
"More than corrupting the public trust, these Guatemalan police officials have been Trojan horses for the very addiction and devastation that they were entrusted to prevent," DEA Administrator Karen Tandy said. She announced the indictment along with Alice Fisher, an assistant attorney general.
Guatemalan Interior Minister Carlo Vielman called the arrests "a strong blow to the infiltration of organized crime in the structures of the Guatemalan government."
U.S. officials say an estimated 75 percent of the cocaine that reaches American soil passes through Guatemala, in part because its government long did little to stop it.
President Oscar Berger took office in January 2004 promising to undo the damage of his predecessor, Alfonso Portillo, who caused Washington to drop Guatemala from its list of anti-narcotics allies. But Berger has made little progress.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Castillo said as many as 4,000 smugglers operate in Guatemala. They get cocaine shipments and move them to the Mexican border, where more powerful gangs take over, he said.
Castillo said he was frustrated with the inability to stop the smuggling and was planning to leave his post in December, after just six months.
"There are moments when you start to think you're swimming against the current," he said.
Associated Press Writer Juan Carlos Llorca in Guatemala City contributed to this report.