Guatemala seized over 100 kilograms of liquid heroin reportedly shipped from Europe, suggesting the drug may have have been produced in Afghanistan and marking an anomaly in the region's opium trade that is typically dominated by Colombian and Mexican produced heroin.
On August 23, Guatemalan police seized 100.375 kilograms of liquid heroin at Aurora International Airport in the capital Guatemala City. According to authorities, the shipment of heroin had arrived from France and was bound for a company in San Jose Pinula to the southeast of the capital, reported EFE. No arrests were made.
The intended recipient of the heroin is currently under investigation for drug-trafficking ties.
As well as being a major transit point for narcotics, officials from Guatemala's interior ministry stated that the country has also become a crucial storage area for international drug trafficking organizations. No indication was given, however, as to where the heroin was ultimately destined for or if any major criminal group was behind the shipment, which authorities said was hidden in plastic barrils normally used for chemicals.
Earlier this week, US Customs and Border Protection officers detained a Guatemalan citizen on the US/Mexico border attempting to smuggle around $1.3 million worth of heroin into the US.
InSight Crime Analysis
The fact that the heroin had come from Western Europe suggests that it probably originated in Afghanistan, producer of some 90 percent of the global supply. If this is the case, it represents somewhat of a rarity in heroin trafficking in the Americas.
According to a 2011 report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), entitled "The Global Afghan Opium Trade," heroin seizures in the US indicate that the majority of the drug comes from Colombia which accounted for 58 percent of all seizures in 2009. Mexican produced heroin was second with 39 percent that same year. Afghan heroin, meanwhile accounts for less than 10 percent of heroin consumption in the US, Special Agent Ramona Sanchez of the DEA stated last year.
Indeed, DEA sources have confirmed this trend to InSight Crime, stating that the majority of heroin they observe entering the US comes from Colombia. The Canadian market, on the other hand, is dominated by Afghan heroin, according to the UNODC report.
Mexican organized crime analyst Edgardo Buscaglia declared in an interview last year that the Sinaloa Cartel had links to the Afghan heroin trade through middlemen they work with in Turkey and Afghanistan, buying the drug to ship back to the Americas for distribution. While the Cartel's global reach and control of trafficking networks through the Central American isthmus means such a suggestion is plausible, there has been little evidence since to substantiate the claim.
Much of the heroin smuggling networks in Central and South America are typically controlled by smaller groups with larger cartels usually involving themselves by charging smugglers to use their trafficking corridors. With regards to Afghan heroin running through the region, though, a larger criminal organization would likely be needed to direct international shipments and get it on the ground in the Americas.
According to a Guatemalan anti-narcotics agent, the shipment seized at Guatemala City airport was not ready for distribution though still had a value of approximately $5 million.