HomeNewsAnalysisGuatemala Braces for Major Confrontation With Zetas
ANALYSIS

Guatemala Braces for Major Confrontation With Zetas

GUATEMALA / 12 FEB 2011 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

As Mexican drug traffickers continue to operate with impunity in Guatemala’s dense borderland jungles, the Guatemalan military is readying itself for a major counter-narcotics operation, though officials are concerned that it lacks the technical capacity to effectively dismantle the Mexican cartels operating on its territory.

Nearly two months after President Alvaro Colom first declared a “state of siege” meant to crack down on drug trafficking operations in the province of Alta Verapaz, authorities have made little progress. Although officials have arrested 22 suspects since the campaign began in December, none of them have been conclusively linked to the Zetas, the Mexican cartel that operates in the region.

The Zetas – who broke off from Mexico’s Gulf Cartel last year – first moved from Mexico to Guatemala in 2008, setting up operations in the city of Coban, Alta Verapaz, in a remote but strategic region in Guatemala’s interior. With the help of smaller local gangs, they began taking territory from the area’s rural oligarchs and traditional criminals. According to the Miami Herald, upon arrival the Zetas allegedly gave two choices to the wealthy family then in charge of criminal enterprises in Alta Verapaz: merge drug trafficking operations with the Mexican cartel or pay a $1.5 million down payment and a monthly “rent” of $700,000.

Since then, the group have largely been able to maintain a low profile, evading Guatemalan security officials while continuing their drug smuggling operations.

Despite this slow progress, Guatemalan authorities say they are pushing ahead with a plan to deploy the military to other remote zones in the country.  The troops are likely to be stationed along the country’s 550-mile long border with Mexico, 70 percent of which, according to an anonymous official cited in a recent Washington Post report, is controlled by the Zetas.

This announcement comes as Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom and other Central American leaders have proposed a strategy for Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to create a combined counter-narcotics force, funded by the United States. Although the region already receives $165 million in aid under the terms of the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), they say the amount is not nearly enough to strengthen the region’s relatively weak judicial institutions and modernize its police and military forces.

If such a large-scale security plan is employed, and Guatemala is able to effectively police its notoriously porous border, the Zetas may be forced to re-channel their smuggling routes through neighboring Honduras. As a December 2010 report commissioned by the Woodrow Wilson Center indicates, a rise in organized crime is may already be under way in that country, which experienced a freeze on foreign aid and intelligence-sharing, prompted by the 2009 coup.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 22 JAN 2014

Human Rights Watch's annual global report underscores how impunity for both criminal groups and corrupt and abusive state institutions is…

EL SALVADOR / 29 MAY 2018

Few have followed the anti-graft fight in Central America’s Northern Triangle region as closely as Guatemala-born US Congresswoman Norma Torres,…

ELITES AND CRIME / 22 FEB 2019

A judge lowered the sentence of a convicted Guatemalan drug trafficker in a US court on February 22, just weeks…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…