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US seeks extradition of ex-Guatemalan vice president

Guatemalan former vice-president Roxana Baldetti (L) was indicted in US federal court in Washington on drug trafficking charges © AFP/File / JOHAN ORDONEZ

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Feb 25 – The United States embassy said it will seek the extradition of Guatemala’s former vice president Roxana Baldetti and ex-interior minister Mauricio Lopez on drug trafficking charges.

Baldetti and Lopez were indicted in US federal court in Washington on Wednesday on charges of conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine from January 2010 to May 2015, knowing it would ultimately be imported illegally into the United States.

“The US Department of Justice has not yet forwarded an extradition request to the US embassy,” a statement from the mission in Guatemala City read.

The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry responded on Twitter by saying it was not aware of the charges against the pair, who served in the government of former president Otto Perez (2012-2015) and had not yet received an extradition request.

Baldetti is already in prison in Guatemala, serving time on tax fraud and other corruption charges, along with Lopez, who is accused of embezzlement.

The ex-vice president was arrested in August 2015, three months after resigning her post.

The Guatemalan prosecutor’s office has identified her as the alleged leader of a customs fraud network, for which Perez is also being tried and detained.

Lopez has also been accused of giving lavish gifts, including a helicopter bought with illicit funds, to Perez.

Guatemalan politics have been upended by a string of scandals that culminated in Perez’s resignation and arrest in September 2015.

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Among other charges, he is accused of money laundering, illegal campaign financing and masterminding a massive customs fraud scheme.

The charges have stoked outrage in a country where more than half the 15.8 million people live on less than $1.50 a day.

In October 2015, angry Guatemalans elected a political outsider, TV comedian Jimmy Morales, to replace Perez.

But Morales’s administration has also become ensnared in scandal. His son and brother were arrested earlier this month on corruption charges over suspected fraud in a state food contract.


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