Guatemala captures suspected drug trafficker with Zeta ties

Reuters News
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Posted: May 16, 2014 1:05 AM

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A suspected drug trafficker with ties to the infamous Mexican cartel Los Zetas was arrested by Guatemalan police on Thursday evening after a shootout that left three dead, authorities said.

Jairo Orellana, known as "El Pelon" or the "bald one", was arrested in his hometown of Dona Maria Gualan roughly 90 miles east of Guatemala City, Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz told reporters.

Two of his security guards and one police officer were killed in the clash, while eight other alleged members of Orellana's gang were also arrested.

Orellana, who was taken to the capital on Thursday for his first hearing, faces extradition to the United States.

The United States had placed Orellana, who authorities said shipped large amounts of cocaine to the U.S., on a list of Central American drug kingpins, prohibiting U.S. citizens from doing business with him.

Orellana, 40, narrowly escaped a brazen attempt on his life in 2012 when gunmen disguised as police officers attacked a health clinic in the capital city, killing seven men but missing the alleged trafficker.

The small Central American nation of roughly 15 million people is one of the world's most violent and the government has struggled to contain powerful drug gangs.

(Reporting By Mike McDonald; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)