GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A Guatemalan court on Tuesday ruled to extradite the country’s alleged top drug trafficker to the United States, as the Central American nation stepped up an offensive against organized crime.
Juan ‘Chamale’ Ortiz-Lopez, who was arrested in March 2011 and is currently being detained in Guatemala, is charged in a Florida federal court with trafficking tons of cocaine into the United States. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.
The Florida indictment argues that Ortiz-Lopez, 42, is Guatemala’s most important drug smuggler.
U.S. authorities are also pushing for the confiscation of Ortiz-Lopez’s property, including a cable station and a $5 million mansion in Guatemala which is featured in a music video.
Ortiz-Lopez is the second alleged drug kinpin in a week that Guatemalan courts have approved for extradition to the United States.
The rulings come after Guatemalan President Otto Perez took office in January and promised to reign in drug cartels.
Perez, a retired general, is training army special forces to go into Guatemala’s most violent areas but has also called for a regional discussion on drug policy, including the possible decriminaliztion of narcotics.
On Monday, Perez met with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to discuss regional efforts to fight drug traffickers.
Reporting by Mike McDonald; Editing by Paul Simao