Guatemalan presidential candidate charged in drug-trafficking plot two months before election

U.S. officials arrested and charged a Guatemalan presidential candidate Wednesday in connection with a plot to allegedly traffic cocaine and have rival candidates assassinated, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Mario Estrada, along with accomplice Juan Pablo Gonzales, allegedly sought between $10 and $12 million from Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel in campaign funds in return for allowing the cartel to move cocaine though Guatemalan airports.

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Estrada also reportedly promised to appoint cartel members to high-ranking government positions as president, according to the Southern District of New York, and sought to hire hitmen to assassinate Estrada’s political rivals. Estrada allegedly named specific targets and agreed to provide the assassins with firearms, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

“Today’s action is the direct result of the strong partnership with our Guatemalan counterparts,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Adolphus P. Wright said in a statement. “Together with our international law enforcement partners, we will continue our efforts to keep illegal drug trafficking from corrupting the just political systems of our Central and South American neighbors, as we also endeavor to prevent such activity from harming the United States.”

Estrada is a member of the center-right National Charge Union party and polls far behind other candidates in the nation’s general election, which is set to be held June 16. The rival candidates Estrada and Gonzales allegedly planned to have killed were not specified.