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Family says Guatemala candidate arrested in US is innocent

April 25, 2019
A banner of presidential candidate Mario Estrada Orellana, with the National Change Unit (UCN) party, hugging children hangs outside his party's headquarters in Guatemala City, Thursday, April 18, 2019. Estrada Orella, 58, was arrested Wednesday in Miami on drug and weapons charges, accused of plotting to assassinate political rivals and let drug dealers use Guatemala's ports and airports. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The son of a Guatemalan presidential candidate facing drugs and weapons charges in the U.S. said Thursday his father is innocent and is asking lawmakers in the Central American country for an investigation.

Mario Alejandro Estrada Ruano is head of government for the Jalapa department of Guatemala and the son of Mario Estrada Orellana, who was arrested April 17 in Miami.

He said in a statement that the family has doubts about the accusations against the elder Estrada, who allegedly has ties to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. Estrada is also accused of illicit electoral financing, plotting to kill political rivals and offering to help drug traffickers.

Guatemala’s former top prosecutor and presidential candidate Thelma Aldana said in an interview published Thursday by the newspaper Prensa Libre that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had warned her that Estrada was planning to have her killed.

A request for confirmation was made to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, but there was not an immediate response.

Aldana, candidate for the Seed Movement party, is in El Salvador because of charges against her in Guatemala that she says are politically motivated. Aldana worked closely with the United Nation’s anti-corruption commission in Guatemala to prosecute some of the country’s most powerful figures, including then-President Otto Perez Molina and most of his Cabinet on corruption charges

On Wednesday, Guatemala’s electoral court annulled Estrada’s candidacy citing the “notorious” revelations.

Estrada Ruano said Thursday the ruling wouldn’t be challenged “although we do not agree.”

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