Police found five packages of cocaine and thousands of dollars in cash in the office of Guatemala's top anti-drug cop, shortly after he was arrested in Virginia on charges of conspiring to ship cocaine into the United States. The shocking arrests of Adan Castillo and two of his deputies by U.S. officials prompted Guatemalan President Oscar Berger on Wednesday to pledge to renew anti-trafficking programs in this Central American nation that is a key transit point for drugs heading north.
The arrest "is a strong blow to the infiltration of organized crime in the structures of the Guatemalan government," Interior Minister Carlos Vielman said.
Hours after U.S. agents seized Castillo and deputies Jorge Aguilar Garcia and Rubilio Palacios Tuesday on charges of conspiring to ship cocaine to the United States, police searched Castillo's offices in Guatemala City and found the drugs and US$22,000 (Ђ18,840) in cash. While the weight of the cocaine had still to be determined, the haul was likely to increase: 14 other packages of white powder found in the office were still being tested to see if they contained less-pure cocaine.
"If these drugs were the product of a (police) seizure, they should have been in the (evidence) warehouse," not in Castillo's private offices, Vielman said.
Two large bags of marijuana were also found in the locker of one Castillo's agents.
Berger said "there is evidence that these SAIA people were aiding drug trafficking," referring to the country's anti-drug agency. He pledged to renew anti-trafficking programs, saying he would ask the country's legislature to approve a three-year extension in a joint anti-drug program with the United States known as the Maya-Jaguar program.
The plan allows the United States to send soldiers and military advisers to this country a few days out of every year for training of Guatemalan police and soldiers.
Washington has long run such training programs in Mexico and Central American as part of the regional "Open Skies" anti-drug program. The trio of Guatemalan officials were charged in a three-count indictment issued by a federal grand jury in Washington for conspiring to smuggle drugs into the United States.
The three were lured to the United States for what they thought was training on fighting drug traffickers. In reality, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had been investigating the men for four months with the help of the Guatemalan government. "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 in Washington.
Authorities acted now because they grew concerned Castillo could compromise ongoing investigations, a U.S. official said. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the case not contained in the indictment and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Castillo, Garcia and Palacios pleaded innocent to the charges in federal court Wednesday and are being held without bail.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Castillo said he was ready to quit after just six months in his post because he was frustrated with a losing battle against drug smugglers. He said traffickers were aided by corrupt officials at all levels of the government, reports the AP. I.L.