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Guatemala’s criminal organizations are among the most sophisticated and dangerous in Central America. Some of them have been in operation for decades. They include former members of the military, intelligence agencies and active members of the police.

Latest News

Minor Players Take Center Stage in Guatemala Drug Trade

NEWS / 22 FEB 2021

An anti-narcotics operation targeting an alleged trafficking ring in Guatemala has shed light on the increasing importance of small, often discrete transport networks in the country's cocaine trade.

Guatemala’s Los Huistas Continue to Build Influence Network

NEWS / 17 FEB 2021

Los Huistas, a Guatemalan drug trafficking group connected to a number of government officials, has continued to build its network of political influence, as recent events have shown.

Biden and Central America’s Anti-Corruption Crusade

NEWS / 15 FEB 2021

Hopes are high in the Northern Triangle, that the arrival of Joseph Biden and his administration to the White House will lead to the creation of a regional commission that…

Guatemala Profile

Criminal Actors

Armed Groups

Guatemala’s multitude of criminal groups range from violent street gangs to trafficking groups that serve as intermediaries for Colombian and Mexican cartels. The violent MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs both have a foothold in the country, controlling extortion activities in Guatemala City’s urban neighborhoods. Long-time smuggling groups also have operations in the country’s porous border regions. These groups often have links to corrupt officials, ranging from local politicians to high-level security and government officials.




COCAINE / 4 FEB 2021

Drug trafficking has been reconfigured in Guatemala. The large clans that traditionally dominated the business have broken up.


While unrest gripped much of Latin America in 2019, it was the coronavirus that took center stage and ripped through the region in 2020, upending everything from commercial trade to…


Guatemala's congress has named to the country's Constitutional Court a judge who is under investigation for obstruction of justice, in a brazen attempt by political mafias to infiltrate the country's…

BARRIO 18 / 29 JAN 2021

It was one of Alejandro Giammattei’s most emphatic promises. One year later, the Interior Ministry supported his strategy to reduce extortions by cutting off access to communication devices among the…

COCAINE / 29 JAN 2021

The mayor of Moyuta, Guatemala, knows how to do politics and business along the rough and tumble Guatemalan-Salvadoran border.


Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…