GUATEMALA CITY – A reputed Guatemalan drug kingpin accused of ties to Mexico’s fearsome Los Zetas cartel was arrested Tuesday, the Central American nation’s deputy interior minister said.
Horst Walter Overdick Mejia was nabbed in the western province of Sacatepequez, Julio Claveria told reporters in Guatemala City.
Overdick Mejia was arrested pursuant to Washington’s request for his extradition, according to Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration aided the investigation leading to his capture.
“It’s a very important arrest,” Perez Molina said during a press conference at the presidential palace, accusing Overdick Mejia of having “facilitated Los Zetas’ entry into Guatemala in 2008.”
“We are taking steps and we will continue combating drug trafficking,” the president said, though adding that “we are presenting the possibility of new alternatives,” alluding to his recent proposal to decriminalize the use of some illegal drugs.
Overdick Mejia, a wealthy landowner from the northern province of Alta Verapaz, was arrested in 2004 on charges of cocaine trafficking, but he avoided jail, apparently by bribing judges.
His wife, Mercedes Barrios, and son were arrested in November 2008 in Alta Verapaz on suspicion of ties to drug smuggling. A court freed them a month later due to lack of evidence.
Then-President Alvaro Colom imposed a 60-day state of siege in Alta Verapaz in December 2010 in a bid to crush the Zetas cells operating in the region.
Officials do not have detailed figures on the number of killings carried out by Los Zetas in Guatemala, but they say the cartel has been behind at least a dozen massacres that have claimed the lives of about 100 people since 2008.
The most dramatic incident was the slaughter of 27 peasants in Peten, a province next to Alta Verapaz. EFE