Authorities in Central America have dismantled a drug trafficking organization the stretched between Guatemala and El Salvador and was responsible for drugs that entered schools and a prison, with the investigation revealing a network of disparate criminal elements with women in prominent roles.
The Guatemala-based group, known as Los Temerarios, smuggled 6.5 kilos of marijuana into El Salvador each week, using a trafficking blind spot to smuggle the drugs across the border, reported El Diario De Hoy. The drugs were then moved deeper into El Salvador using taxis and buses and then stored in the home of Cristina Yamilet Polanco Merlos, a housewife with connections to El Salvador's Texis Cartel and a cell of the Barrio 18 street gang.
According to police, Polanco then sold the marijuana for nearly $60 a pound to women who smuggled it into a jail in the city of Santa Ana. She also worked with a cell of the Barrio 18 street gang, which was in charge of a micro-trafficking operation that sold marijuana in parks and schools in the departments of Santa Ana and La Libertad.
Polanco's point of contact with the Guatemalan cartel was another woman whose full name is unknown.
This is not the first time that police have discovered a connection between the Temerarios and the Texis Cartel. In September 2013, 18 people connected to both cartels were arrested, including Los Temerarios' leader Jose Arturo Silva Sandoval, who was in charge of moving cocaine and heroin provided by the Texis Cartel, according to La Prensa Grafica.
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Though much attention given to drug interdiction efforts focuses on maritime routes along the coasts, this smuggling operation underscores the fact that land routes are still important, especially in border regions where freight trucks, cars and buses pass daily. In 2013, El Salvador began compiling a list of freight companies believed to be involved in drug smuggling, though whether that effort has had any effect on the flow of drugs is unknown and highly doubtful.
The dismantling of this network sending marijuana southwards highlights the link between El Salvador's Texis Cartel and Guatemala's Temerarios, which have in the past collaborated on moving much larger quantities of hard drugs north through these border regions.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Texis Cartel
It is notable that women apparently maintained key roles within this network, with females often occupying secondary positions in criminal organizations, or used only for the likes of transportation and street sales. In 2013, it was reported the female prison population in Guatemala had doubled in eight years, a fact likely driven by the increasing involvement of women in organized criminal activities.