Authorities in Guatemala have discovered two methamphetamine laboratories within the past month, pointing to the Central American country's increasing part in feeding the growing synthetic drug market in Latin America and the United States.
Firefighters who arrived at a burning house in the southern department of Escuintla detected the residence was likely used as a drug laboratory, reported Siglo21. Authorities later seized several barrels of still unidentified synthetic drugs as well as equipment used to produce methamphetamine.
In late January, Guatemalan police seized 30,000 pounds of precursor chemicals at a meth lab in the western city of San Marcos near the Mexican border. Once processed, authorities reported the synthetic drugs were sent to Mexico by sea.
InSight Crime Analysis
A cooperation measure established in 2014 saw Guatemala begin sharing intelligence information with Belize, Honduras and El Salvador in order to combat the trafficking of precursor chemicals and production of synthetic drugs. These two recent meth lab discoveries are the latest indication Guatemala is an important point of production for synthetic drugs in the region.
A thriving trade in precursor chemicals smuggled in from Asia, weak state controls, and its proximity to Mexico have made Guatemala an attractive base of operations for Mexican drug trafficking groups producing methamphetamine. In 2014, authorities discovered a meth lab in the southeastern province of Santa Rosa likely linked to the Sinaloa Cartel that they estimated produced three tons of the synthetic drug per month.
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Despite efforts to combat the activity, Mexican cartels are likely looking to ramp up methamphetamine production in Guatemala given the surge in consumption of the synthetic drug in the United States in recent years. In addition, diminishing markets for cocaine and the legalization of marijuana in several US states is incentivizing cartels to focus on smuggling alternative drugs like methamphetamine and heroin into the United States. The increasing number of meth labs in Guatemala and other parts of Central America also points to a growing market for synthetic drugs in Latin America.