Authorities in Guatemala have discovered what they describe as the second biggest methamphetamine laboratory found in the country so far, in a case likely linked to the migration south of Mexico's biggest meth producer: the Sinaloa Cartel.
The laboratory was found in a house in Pueblo Nuevo Viñas, in Guatemala's southeastern Santa Rosa province. The house consisted of four rooms used for the production and storage of methamphetamines and amphetamines, reported Prensa Libre.
Thus far, anti-drug prosecutors have counted nearly one ton of amphetamines and over 350 kilos of meth from the site, which were found in more than 50 plastic barrels. Authorities also discovered precursor chemicals with packaging indicating they were from China and Bangladesh.
Based on the evidence found, authorities estimate approximately three tons of drugs were produced each month at the laboratory.
Investigators believe the drugs produced were sent to Mexico. The group responsible for the laboratory has not been identified, but one official said that three men with Mexican accents attempted to ward them off at the site.
The country's largest synthetic drug laboratory to date was discovered in the Huehuetenango province in September 2012.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although investigators have not determined what drug trafficking group the laboratory belonged to, it is likely the seized narcotics were linked to the Sinaloa Cartel. The group is believed to be Mexico's primary methamphetamine distributor to the United States and there are various signs it has shifted much of its production of the drug into Central American countries, particularly Guatemala.
SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile
One of the main reasons for shifting meth production has been increased restriction on precursor chemicals in Mexico, which banned imports of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine in 2008.
In addition to its geographic proximity to Mexico and the Sinaloa Cartel's established presence there, Guatemala's growing importance for meth production is linked to a major trade in precursor chemicals, many of which are smuggled from Asia. For the past several years, authorities in Guatemala have been seeing an increase in seizures of these chemicals.
Other Central American countries have also become involved in the trade. In late 2012, Honduran officials dismantled a synthetic drug production network reportedly linked to the Sinaloa Cartel, and El Salvador has also emerged as a precursor chemical hotspot.