Washington (AFP) - A Guatemalan with ties to Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to ship more than 450 kilograms (992 pounds) of cocaine to the United States.
Waldemar Lorenzana had his plea entered by US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in federal court in Washington, the US Justice Department said in a statement. No date was set for sentencing.
The 75-year-old is the patriarch of a Guatemalan family authorities have linked to Mexican drug baron Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman of the Sinaloa cartel. Lorenzana was arrested by Guatemalan authorities in 2011 and extradited to the United States in March.
"For years, members of the Lorenzana family smuggled cocaine to the United States with impunity," Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Patterson said in a statement.
Prosecutors said that between March 1996 and April 2009, Lorenzana and three of his children worked with illegal drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico to move cocaine into the lucrative US market.
The shipments, in boats and on planes, were sent from El Salvador and Guatemala to several US cities, officials said.
Lorenzana, alias "El Patriarca," was arrested in 2011 and extradited to the United States this year. Two of his children are in Guatemala awaiting extradition and a third is still at large.
Guatemala has seen a worrisome presence of cartels from neighboring Mexico, particularly Guzman's Sinaloa cartel and the Zetas.
Authorities say almost half the almost 6,000 murders a year seen in Guatemala are linked to drug trafficking and gang violence.