February 24, 2017 / 7:58 PM / 6 months ago

U.S. seeks extradition of ex-Guatemala officials on drug charges

File Photo: Guatemala's former Vice-President Roxana Baldetti arrives to a hearing at the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City, Guatemala, March 28, 2016, on charges of conspiracy, customs fraud and bribery charges.Josue Decavele

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - The United States will request the extradition of former Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti and a former cabinet minister on drug trafficking charges, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala said on Friday.

Baldetti has been imprisoned in Guatemala since 2015 on charges of leading a network that defrauded the government of the Central American country along with former president Otto Pérez Molina, who has also been arrested and is awaiting trial.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy said the former vice president and another former official were charged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for conspiring to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine.

The U.S. court also indicted former Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez, a close associate of Baldetti on trafficking charges.

The embassy said it was awaiting formal extradition requests from the U.S. Department of Justice for both individuals.

A lawyer for Lopez could not be reached for comment. But a lawyer for Baldetti said she never committed the actions she stands accused of.

Corruption has been a key objection among some politicians in Washington to approve new aid for Central America, one of the world's poorest and most violent regions and a key source of illegal migrants to the United States.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; editing by G Crosse

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