Juan Ortiz-Lopez, Guatemala’s top drug trafficker, to be extradited to the US

A Guatemala court approved the extradition of Juan Ortiz-Lopez on Tuesday, paving the way for 42-year-old man also known as "Chamale" to be tried in a Florida court on charges he imported tons of cocaine into the United States, Reuters reported

Ortiz-Lopez was arrested in March 2011 by a joint US-Guatemala police squad, which the Christian Science Monitor said indicated "increased cooperation" between the US and Central American nations on drug crime. Ortiz-Lopez could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. 

More from GlobalPost: Peru, Latin America's hidden growth story

The Guatemalan president, Otto Perez Molina, has vowed to fight against crime with "an iron fist," according to the BBC. Mexico's vicious drug war, which the government declared in 2006, has resulted in the deaths of more than 50,000 people, according to The Atlantic. The war has pushed drug cartel activity south; El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala now have three of the highest homicide rates in the world, according to AFP.

More from GlobalPost: Guatemala prepares to fight Mexico's Zetas cartel

Perez Molina has called for a fresh look at regional drug policy "including the possible decriminalization of narcotics," according to Reuters. Other governments in Central America have expressed interest in undercutting cartel power and violence by legalizing drugs. Ninety percent of South American cocaine destined for the United States passes through Central America, according to AFP.

The World Listener Survey 2024

We’d love to hear your thoughts on The World. Please take our 5-min. survey.