Guatemalan Raúl Arturo Contreras, known as “dead” or “skeleton” in his country’s slang, will soon be a free man after serving 18 months and paying a $100 fine for being part of cocaine trafficking network linked to Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah.
Moreover, the Guatemalan news outlet notes that the drug trafficker is still facing criminal charges in his home country.
Known as the “comisario” (“dead”) or “calaca” (“skeleton”), U.S. authorities affiliated Contreras with a Hezbollah-linked network that trafficked South American cocaine to the United States via Guatemala and the Caribbean, reports the Argentine news outlet Infobae, adding that the group also smuggled the illicit drugs to Africa, Asia, and Europe.
In June 2016, Michael Braun, a former DEA operations chief, told the House Financial Services Committee that Hezbollah is generating hundreds of millions from a “cocaine money laundering scheme” in Latin America that “provides a never-ending source of funding” for its terrorist operations in the Middle East.
According to U.S. authorities, Contreras was part of a Hezbollah trafficking network along with 15 other criminals, including another Guatemalan, José Rodrigo Dougherty Monroy, five Lebanese nationals, and nine Colombians.
Among the Lebanese nationals linked to the network is Chekri Mahmoud Harb, identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as “a significant money launderer” who is connected to an “organized crime group that engages in large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering activities in Colombia.”
Guatemalan authorities have also accused Contreras of being involved in trafficking stolen ancient colonial art, but law enforcement never established a link between him and the stolen artifacts.
In August 2016, the U.S. District Court in Miami did find Contreras guilty of “conspiracy to import into the United States five kilograms or more of cocaine.”
However, despite his well-known criminal past, including ties to the U.S. designated terrorist group Hezbollah, “Judge Federico A. Moreno sentenced him to serve 18 months in prison (a year and a half), giving him credit for the time he was detained in Guatemala while awaiting extradition. He also set a fine of $100,” reports the Argentine news outlet Infobae.
In less than two weeks, on March 17, Contreras is expected to be set free and subsequently deported.
Infobae notes that at one point, the Guatemalan criminal was facing life behind bars. Nevertheless, it is unclear why he received such a light sentence, suggests the Argentine news outlet.
[His] file includes several documents sealed to the public, and those available do not reveal exactly what the judge upheld to sentence him to a year and a half, considering his background in drug trafficking and former partners linked to Hezbollah, and in 2008 he was a candidate to receive a life sentence.
There are also other records that Contreras’ defense asked for some considerations for his client due to illness. For example, in July he asked that he be given medication to treat his high blood pressure and diabetes, claiming he received inadequate treatment at the Miami Federal Detention Center. His lawyer, Luis Guerra, said Contreras had also developed a severe skin allergy that did not allow him to sleep properly and forced him to miss some court hearings.The judge denied the request, claiming that the prison had sufficient treatment alternatives.
Although Infobae reports that Contreras is likely to “return to Guatemala as a free man,” Francisco Rivas, Guatemala’s minister of the interior, has different plans for the convicted drug trafficker.
“We have a solid investigation. He, Contreras Chávez, has a responsibility to the Guatemalan justice system, and here he will be tried. The moment he returns to Guatemala, he will have to answer to the Guatemalan authorities and brought before the courts. He has various cases in the country that are being investigated and we will proceed against that,” declared Rivas, according to Prensa Libre.
Hezbollah is considered one of the top drug trafficking organizations in South America. The jihadist group generates millions from the illicit business. It also smuggles humans and counterfeit products.
The House Financial Services Committee’s Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing noted in December 2016 that Hezbollah is operating a “virtually unopposed drug trafficking operation” in South America with links to the terrorist group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
In the United States, Hezbollah and the FARC are officially designated foreign terrorist organizations.
Joseph Humire, an expert on Iranian activity in Latin America and executive director at the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), told Breitbart News in September 2016 that Mexican drug cartels and other criminal groups are paying Hezbollah a “tax” to move people, narcotics, weapons and other contraband in and out of the Western Hemisphere.