Narco Queen Ready to Blow the Lid Off Central American Underworld

By: Pedro García Otero - Apr 7, 2015, 9:22 am

EspañolA high-profile Guatemalan drug trafficker arrested in the United States in 2014 threatens to open a Pandora’s Box. Marllory Chacón, known as “La Reina del Sur” (the Queen of the South), is set to offer damning testimony implicating regional drug kingpins and Guatemala’s political elite, including her reported US$2 million donation to the Patriot Party of President Otto Pérez Molina.

Marllory Chacón, "the Queen of the South" cooperated with the DEA since 2012 (The Whitle Blowers)
Marllory Chacón, the “Queen of the South,” has cooperated with the DEA since 2012. (The Whistle Blowers)

According to Guatemalan media and InSight Crime, Chacón laundered “tens of millions of dollars a month” for Mexican cartels, “with operations in Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama.”

In 2012, she was placed on the “Clinton List” of the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which described her as “one of the most prolific narcotics traffickers in Central America.”

On December 12, 2014, she pleaded guilty to drug trafficking in a federal court in Miami, having been captured in the Bahamas six months earlier. She also accepted charges of conspiring to import five kilograms of cocaine to the United States, although the prosecution had accused her of attempting to smuggle a hundred times that amount.

Chacón is facing life imprisonment in a US jail and a fine of up to $10 million, with her final sentence scheduled for May 5.

Nevertheless, it emerged during her prosecution that the Queen of the South had been collaborating with US authorities since 2012.

Insider Information

It appears that Chacón is frantically working on last-minute testimony that could implicate many of her former associates in order to secure a reduced sentence. The revelations made by such a high-profile figure — both in the criminal underworld and Guatemalan high society — could prove explosive, and topple major narco-trafficking figures throughout the region.

Chacón reportedly has insider information on the activity of Los Zetas, one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels, and other drug-running groups in Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Her testimony may also prove embarrassing for her native country’s political class. In a rags-to-riches story — rising from a humble background with seven children to owning a business empire of hotels, construction firms, and clothing lines — Chacón was widely praised and came to rub shoulders with Guatemala’s great and good. She reportedly attended the 5oth birthday party of Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who denies ever having met her.

Her blacklisting by US treasury officials in 2012 was a bombshell that began a legal battle in eight countries to prove her innocence. However, in September 2014, the Justice Department announced that Chacón was in the United States, at the Federal Detention Center in Miami.

Offering further evidence that Chacón’s testimony could prove vital in bringing down powerful criminal figures, judge William Turnoff ordered the Bureau of Prisons not to enter Chacón’s name or prison number in her publicly available online file — thus preventing her exposed former associates from coming after her.

When asked about Chacón’s arrest, President Pérez Molina claimed that the Guatemalan government had nothing to do with her detention, and disclaimed any knowledge of a deal between the narco-trafficker and US authorities.

The US Federal Bureau of Prisons does not show Marllory Chacón's public records.
The US Federal Bureau of Prisons does not show Marllory Chacón’s public records. (BOP)

Regional Fallout

Hayron Borrallo, Chacón’s business associate, is also waiting for his trial for illegal accumulation of funds. He appears multiple times in a ledger confiscated from Los Zetas under the nickname “Oso” (Bear).

Borrallo, his wife Mirza Hernández, and Chacón were partners in the “Bingotón Millonario” (Millionaire Bingo) lottery scheme, which they used to launder hundreds of millions of quetzals between 2006 and 2011.

Chacón also had ties with Daniel “El Loco” Barrera, Colombia’s most notorious drug trafficker since the death of Pablo Escobar. Barrera was caught in Venezuela in 2012 and extradited to the United States, where he is still under prosecution.

Orlando Fernández Barrero, a Colombian drug trafficker who surrendered to US authorities in 2012 and was sentenced to 12 years in prison, was also among Chacón’s connections.

According to InSight Crime, Chacón’s network of ties have “bankers, businessmen, deputies, and the highest authorities of the Guatemalan government” running scared.

The tremor may spread to neighboring Honduras, as Chacón’s husband, Jorge Andrés Hernández Carbajal (named as Fernández Carbajal by some sources) has Honduran nationality, and laundered money through a Panama-based company. Carbajal and Chacón’s operations and connections reportedly extend as far as Lebanon and West Africa, according to an Africa-based trafficker who testified for the prosecution in New York against Carbajal.

In November 2014, InSight Crime reported that a hearing dismissed the charges against Hernández Carbajal and one of Chacón’s daughters. The information, however, has not been officially confirmed.

A Novel behind Her Name

Chacón’s nickname is similar to that granted to Sandra Ávila, a famous Mexican drug trafficker labelled the “Queen of the Pacific,” whose life was immortalized in a soap opera with the same name.

Ávila was released in February, after eight years in prison. Chacón’s ordeal, however, is likely only just beginning.

Translated by Rebeca Morla. Edited by Laurie Blair.

Pedro García Otero Pedro García Otero

Pedro García is the Spanish managing editor of the PanAm Post. He is a Venezuelan journalist with over 25 years of experience in local newspapers, radio, television, and online media. Follow him @PedroGarciaO.

Mexican Mayor Gives Away Cars to “Promote Tourism”

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Apr 7, 2015, 8:06 am
Mayor Hilario Ramírez Villanueva of San Blas, in the northwestern Mexican State of Nayarit, courts fresh controversy with his latest eccentricity. (Nayarit Enlinea)

EspañolHilario Ramírez Villanueva, the controversial mayor of San Blas city, in the northwestern Mexican State of Nayarit, went beyond the giving of chocolate eggs over the Easter weekend — instead giving away four cars during a festival that began on Thursday, April 2, and finished on Saturday. Ramírez is yet to comment on how the cars were paid for. The festival, organized by local authorities, consisted of dancing and singing competitions, with the winners of the vehicles decided by those who got the loudest round of applause. "This is one of the four cars that we will give away, as a municipality, for tourism, for singing and dancing. We do it gladly to promote our beautiful town," the mayor said while unveiling the first car before the festival began. The unorthodox prize-giving isn't the first eccentricity of Mayor Ramírez. Last February, he celebrated his 44th birthday by throwing a US$1 million public party, where he danced provocatively onstage with an underage girl. During his campaign for reelection in 2014, he also confessed to stealing "only a little" from the municipality. Reputation Management As festival proceedings kicked off, Ramírez thanked State Governor Roberto Sandoval Castañeda for his support and for donating one of the four cars. “I called the governor to support us with a car and he did it right away,” said Ramírez, also known by his nickname “Layin.” Regarding the purchase of the rest of the cars, the mayor claimed that it was "a minimal investment compared to the economic benefits and the world’s perception [of San Blas] generated by this competition”. Ramírez claimed that local hotel occupancy was at 100 percent, and that the festival would reactivate the whole economy of the city of San Blas. During a promotional video posted on Facebook, Ramírez boasted that no other city in the country gave away cars in the same way as San Blas, and said that the city's generosity was boosting its reputation around the world. In a second video, the mayor is shown driving one of the cars and greeting “the people of San Blas and the people that visit us from the entire world." Prior to the event, Ramírez meanwhile did his best to drum up local attendees, visiting nearby cities and on one occasion dancing on a plastic tabletop to the amusement of locals. The winners of the contest were dancers Pedro Gonzalez Gomez and Claudia Carrillo Gonzalez, and the singer Gerardo Aguilar Macias. The winner of the remaining car is yet to be revealed. Robin Hood Defense Ramírez's previous exploits include giving away tablets for children, providing the money for a child that needed an organ transplant, and throwing bundles of money to the audience while riding a US$250,000 thoroughbred horse into an official engagement in 2008. His birthday party in February for 25,000 people similarly attracted criticism, for spending the same amount as the entire annual municipal budget for security (MEX $15.9 million). He claimed that "almost everything" had been paid for by his friends, as the municipality was "broke." Nevertheless, Ramírez is mostly known for having admitted publicly that he has stolen from the municipality only “a little," defending himself on the grounds that he redistributed funds to "his poor compañeros." “I like money, just as you do, and like everyone does, but I love working. Did I steal from the presidency [municipality]? Yes I stole, yes I stole a little, because it is really poor,” said the mayor in 2014, who first took office in 2008 with 40.32 percent of the city's vote. Edited by Laurie Blair.

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