Following the arrest last week of a former Mexican mayor in Guatemala, U.S. prosecutors unveiled an indictment against him and criminal rivals allegedly attacked the town he once ruled.
Adalberto Fructuoso Comparán Rodríguez, the former mayor of Aguililla, Michoacán, was arrested on March 30 in Guatemala City and is wanted for extradition by the United States for allegedly coordinating drug shipments to the country, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida.
The former mayor, also known as “Fruto,” is a suspected leader of the Cárteles Unidos and a former member of the Knights Templar, according to a criminal complaint submitted by U.S. authorities.
The complaint alleges that Comparán shipped over 500 kilograms of methamphetamine to South Florida as part of a $4.15-million deal negotiated with a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informant who recorded members of the trafficking ring openly discussing plans to import the drugs and launder the proceeds.
The methamphetamine was sent to Miami by truck in two separate loads, the first hidden in concrete tiles and the second in house paint, according to the criminal complaint.
The former mayor’s son, Adalberto Comprarán Bedolla, accompanied the drug shipments and was arrested in Miami on March 30, shortly after receiving a fake cash payment for the delivery.
That day, the elder Adalberto had been in Guatemala City attending a meeting with the DEA informant in which they discussed a transaction that involved importing firearms via a port in Guatemala that the cartel had “greased,” the criminal complaint alleges.
Just hours after the former mayor’s arrest, members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) launched armed attacks against the former mayor’s Aguililla municipality.
It’s not clear if the attack was linked to the sudden arrest of Comparán, and reports from the area spoke of at least eight killed, but possibly many more.
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The investigations carried out by U.S. authorities paint a clear picture of an ambitious former public official with a long criminal history, an ability to strike lucrative drug deals and a desire to wipe out his rivals in the CJNG.
In one meeting recorded by the DEA, Comparán claimed to have access to hundreds of kilograms of crystal methamphetamine in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as heroin.
The network appears to have also farmed poppy fields and operated methamphetamine production facilities in Michoacán, according to photos and videos allegedly sent to the DEA’s source by the former mayor and an associate.
In one of the recorded conversations, the confidential informant offers to pay the former mayor in weapons for a deal. Comparán replies that he preferred to be “paid in money, so that he could take control in Michoacán,” a state disputed by powerful cartels such as the CJNG.
Comparán is certainly no stranger to that game. He was mayor of Aguililla between 2008 and 2011, and in 2013 became part of a self-defense group in Michoacán known as the “Fuerza Rural,” which purportedly worked with municipal police to combat organized crime, according to news agency EFE.
However, many of the self-defense groups were involved in criminal activities themselves. Comparán, for example, was a close ally of the former Knights Templar leader, Servando Gómez Martínez, according to a report by Milenio.
The Cárteles Unidos emerged from that fray, and in 2015 the former mayor was injured during an armed ambush in Michoacán which killed one of his bodyguards, according to Crónica.
The group’s principal nemesis is the CJNG. According to the criminal complaint, the DEA recorded the former mayor saying “he wanted to use an organization of self-defense groups to eliminate ‘El Mencho’s’ cartel,” a reference to Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, the leader of the CJNG.
Now, as Guatemala readies Comparán extradition to the United States to face charges, his town may be under siege by that same rival.
Alex Papadovassilakis is a writer at InsightCrime, a think tank dedicated to researching and reporting on organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.