An investigation by Guatemala‘s Interior Ministry has identified over 54 drug trafficking organizations within the country, including independent groups and those working as “subsidiaries” for larger transnational organizations.

Authorities also investigated the operations of 40 cells of Barrio-18 and 30 cells of Mara Salvatrucha, reported the AFP

The information collected in the investigation allowed the Minister of the Interior, Mauricio Lopez, to present President Otto Perez with a “crime map” at a June 11 cabinet meeting.

Lopez explained that the criminal groups have been identified according to their areas of operation, threat level, and structure, reported Univision. Some of the 54 groups function as “branches” of larger international organizations, while others operate independently.

The majority of these drug trafficking groups also engage in criminal activity such as arms and human trafficking, assassination, extortion, carjacking, and/or robbery.

InSight Crime Analysis

It is unclear how, if at all, the “crime map” given to President Perez, which was produced using information collected by Guatemala’s intelligence agencies over the past year, relates to the map released earlier this week using information from anti-narcotics investigators from the attorney general’s office. 

While the Interior Ministry could not provide more details, such as the exact areas where groups operate or how many members they have, because the investigation is still ongoing, the remarks echo past reports that the more powerful foreign cartels, most notably the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, often “contract” local groups for their operations within Guatemala. The infighting between these two groups — and between smaller gangs affiliated with each cartel — within Guatemala for territorial control is one of the suspected reasons behind Guatemala’s recent increase in homicides.

In the past there have been indications that the increasingly sophisticated Maras street gangs, such as the 70 mara cells or “clicas” identified by the Interior Ministry, may also be working with transnational drug trafficking organizations such as the Zetas, although reports about the maras becoming “integrated” into the Zetas have proven unfounded.