Drug money in the 2011 elections: The CICIG report

EntreMundos Analysis – September, 2015

In the city of Ipala, in Chiquimula, there was only one candidate for mayor running with a local civic group: Esduin Jerson Javier Javier, a.k.a. “Tres Quiebres.” The other candidates dropped out after receiving death threats. The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) cites Javier as an archetype of corruption involving construction contractors, ties to drug traffickers, and the interest of “illegal politico-economic networks” (RPEI) in controlling communications media.

Esduin Jerson Javier Javier, more commonly known as “Tres Quiebres.” Photo from Facebook.

Javier was a construction contractor and owns a local cable channel. CICIG, in its new report “Political Finance in Guatemala,” explains, “construction companies, through commissions, bribes, and other ways of transferring resources, directly and indirectly finance electoral campaigns and end up benefitting from the adjudication of public works contracts” (p. 85).

The practice is so common and lucrative that “it has been systematically observed that criminal organizations tend to create construction companies to land public works contracts. This allows them to increase their profits as much as launder dirty money” (p. 101).

CICIG estimates that around 25% of campaign finance comes from “criminal networks, especially those involved in drug trafficking” (p. 66).

The former Minister of the Interior, Mauricio López Bonilla (currently under investigation by the Public Ministry for corruption, has stated, “Javier participates in drug trafficking in the east of the country… Javier had maintained a low profile, but as structures have been dismantled, resulting from the control that certain families have, he surfaced as a person who has control over the area” (p. 99).

But this is not a unique case. CICIG estimates that around 25% of campaign finance comes from “criminal networks, especially those involved in drug trafficking” (p. 66). Former Vice President Roxanna Baldetti said in 2013, “It’s nothing new, I’ve personally lived it. There are mayors who we know work for the drug traffickers and if we look at the map, they’re mayors who are precisely in border regions, and who gives the money to their campaigns? Drug traffickers. This is no mystery… We politicians all know who the mafia mayors are… they’re not in my party. They offered, but I didn’t accept” (p. 97).

In 2014, Marllory Chacón, the “Queen of the South,” plead guilty to conspiracy to traffic cocaine to the US. According to the investigation cited by CICIG, she “owned a network of 28 businesses” and “became an ally of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán,” leader of the Sinaloa cartel. She has said to reporters that she has supported several parties in their campaigns.

But the influence of drug traffickers is not limited to the regional level. Former president of the bank National Mortgage Credit (CHN) José Armando Llort Quiteño “maintained close links” with criminal groups and drug traffickers, and helped President Alfonso Portillo (2000-2004) launder millions of dollars, according to his own testimony given in the US (p. 94).

And the case of Gloria Torres, Party Secretary of UNE during the government of President Alvaro Colom (2008-2012), also of UNE, respresents the links between “a network dedicated to drug trafficking and the highest levels of a political party” (p. 95). She is the sister of Sandra Torres, UNE’s current presidential candidate, though she worked as UCN’s Party Secretary and stood as a UNC Congressional candidate until she resigned following the publication in July of the CICIG report.

Obdulio Solórzano Montepeque, “a presumed member of a drug trafficking group” was UNE’s financier and elected in 2003 as a Congressman for Escuintla. In 2005 he was part of UNE’s Political Council and, when Alvaro Colom came to power, he was named director of FONAPAZ (National Foundation for Peace). The report states, “At FONAPAZ, Solórzano favored drug trafficker Ottoniel Turcios, extradited to the US in 2010, with public works contracts and administrative appointments. One of Turcios’ daughters, Lorena Turcios Ramirez, worked at FONAPAZ and the construction company Deconor, which received a contract worth over Q30 million (around $4 million). Solórzano was assassinated in 2010 (p. 95).