HomeNewsAnalysisGuatemala Poppy Production Up: By How Much?
ANALYSIS

Guatemala Poppy Production Up: By How Much?

GUATEMALA / 21 MAR 2011 BY STEVEN DUDLEY EN

There is a troubling trend in Guatemala that is very hard to measure: opium poppy production, which provides the raw material for heroin.

Over the last few years, Guatemalan authorities have eradicated about 1000 hectares of poppy. And over the last few years, the United States has announced it is troubled by this trend. But we get little more hard information and are left to ponder just how bad the situation is.

True to form, Guatemalan authorities last week eradicated 130 hectares in the Mexican-border province of San Marcos, the Associated Press reported. This comes after the United States Department of State published the latest International Narcotics Control Strategy Report earlier this month, which noted “increasing prevalence and organization of poppy cultivation” in Guatemala.

Just what exactly this means, we do not know. Most of the poppy is processed in Mexico, and shipped to the United States. Heroin seizures in Guatemala were a paltry 21 kilograms in 2010 and 950 grams in 2009, hardly sparkling signs of success or an indication as to the scale of the problem.

Guatemala may be the second largest producer in the region now, above Colombia but well behind Mexico, which has its own problems measuring production. The vast majority of Guatemala’s production is concentrated in the mountainous border province of San Marcos. It is allegedly controlled by Juan Alberto Ortiz Lopez, alias ‘Juan Chamale,’ who works closely with the region’s largest producer of heroin, the Sinaloa Cartel.

Yet it’s hard to know exactly how much is being produced. Looking at the amount eradicated gives us an indication but not our answer.

Guatemala eradicated 918 hectares last year, compared to 536 hectares in 2008, and 1,344 hectares in 2009. Meanwhile, Colombian authorities eradicated approximately 545 hectares of poppy in 2010, compared to 148 hectares in 2008. Using just these numbers, our conclusion would be that Guatemala has more poppy.

But there’s more to the calculus. The amount of heroin eradicated does not take into account government willingness or accuracy in its reports. On this scale, Colombia scores much better than Guatemala. What’s more, there are more outside sources measuring production in Colombia than in Guatemala.

So when the Colombians say they eradicated more poppy, the reading is that they are putting more effort into the job (and we have more information to double check them). When the Guatemalans say it, the belief is that there is simply more poppy to be eradicated.

There are also trends. The trend in Colombia is down. The State Department said that poppy cultivation in Colombia hit a low in 2009, with a recorded 1,100 hectares. That number is down from the reported 2,300 hectares in 2006. Also, between 2000 and 2006, the United States government estimates that Colombian poppy production fell about 50 percent.

The trend in Guatemala is clearly up. We just can’t measure how much without more data.

The reasons why are more clear. Guatemala has a 900 kilometer border with Mexico and just eight official checkpoints. And San Marcos’ key sea ports and sparsely patrolled sea lanes make it an attractive depot and staging area for the traffickers.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

CIACS / 21 AUG 2015

Guatemala's top prosecutors say that President Otto Perez Molina was involved in a massive customs fraud scandal, the same day…

BRAZIL / 30 JUL 2015

Anti-corruption movements across Latin America has been a key development in 2015, and has shaken political elites from Guatemala to…

ELITES AND CRIME / 28 FEB 2018

The justice and prison systems have managed to preserve the lives of the powerful once they are sentenced, but they…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

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…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…