HomeNewsBriefNarco-Planes Leave No Respite for Guatemala
BRIEF

Narco-Planes Leave No Respite for Guatemala

COCAINE / 11 SEP 2019 BY JUAN CAMILO JARAMILLO AND JOSEFINA SALOMÓN EN

The growing number of flights carrying drugs across Guatemala has brought renewed attention to the government’s failed strategies to tackle drug trafficking. 

So far in 2019, authorities have detected at least 30 small aircrafts used to transport drugs passing through the country, according to data from the Defense Ministry reported by Prensa Libre. 

The most recent discovery took place on August 26 at the Laguna del Tigre National Park, in the border department of Petén. The aircraft was found on fire at a clandestine airstrip, with around 210 packets of cocaine strewn around it.

A few days prior, on August 17, authorities had intercepted another illegal plane at the same park. That plane was carrying 422 packets of cocaine and 10 Mexican citizens were detained along with one Colombian, the newspaper Periódico Correo reported.  

On August 9, a new narco-plane was discovered, this time with 171 packets of cocaine and the remains of two Mexican men, on a clandestine runaway in the Suchitepéquez department to the south of the country, according to the newspaper La Hora.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profile

For years, Guatemala has been identified as one of the key points along drug routes headed towards Mexico and the United States. 

So far in 2019, authorities have seized 11,741 kilos of cocaine in the country, according to official statistics reported by Televisa. This represents an increase in comparison to the same period in 2018, when 5,753 kilos were seized. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Flights carrying drugs passing through Guatemala is nothing new but their growing frequency is almost certainly due to increased cargos of cocaine leaving Colombia to head north to the United States. But their increase has also spread doubts about Guatemala's strategy in dealing with them.

Small planes are among the most widely-used vehicles for transporting drugs as they are both easy to obtain and difficult to intercept, as Óscar Giovanni Pérez Figueroa, a spokesman for the Guatemalan Army explained to Prensa Libre.

But Pérez Figueroa added that six of the planes detected in Guatemala this year are jets. Jets are even more effective as they are capable of carrying heavier loads of between 3 and 5 tons, which gives them more flight autonomy in addition to being faster than lighter, propeller aircraft. 

SEE ALSO: Drug Flights Coming Through Guatemala Continue to Soar

“They land the planes, they get out, they unload the shipments, they burn the planes, they leave the area, and an hour later or 45 minutes later, our units arrive by helicopter, Pérez Figueroa told Prensa Libre as an explanation for why few arrests are made.

In other instances, the narco-flights have been facilitated by corrupt officials.  

In May 2018, following the discovery of a crashed plane carrying chemical precursors used for processing cocaine, an operation led to the arrests of five workers of the Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics (Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil - DGAC), who were accused of omitting the relevant air controls. 

However, a recent operation has also raised questions about the true effectiveness of the official strategy. 

On September 4, three soldiers from the Guatemalan army died and five were injured in the midst of a confusing series of events in the community of El Estor, in the department of Izabal.

According to the official version of events, the soldiers were pursuing a light aircraft that, they believed to be carrying drugs, as news site Nómada reported, which led them to enter a nearby community where authorities say they were attacked. Members of the community have questioned this version of events. 

In response, President Jimmy Morales declared a state of siege in some 20 municipalities in six departments, which Congress approved on September 7th. The state of siege will be in effect for 30 days and will limit the freedom of action, of transportation, and of demonstration among other rights. Such a sweeping response to an incident stemming from a flight carrying drugs seems exaggerated, if there is no other motive behind it.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CARTEL OF THE SUNS / 2 MAY 2022

In 2016, two adopted nephews of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro were found guilty of a conspiracy to bring 800 kilograms…

COCAINE / 16 FEB 2021

Santa Bárbara sees its fair share of narcotics seizures and has played host to major drug trafficking groups such as…

COCAINE / 15 SEP 2022

Uruguay is becoming an increasingly popular stop along the cocaine pipeline to Europe. But authorities are struggling to respond.

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…