This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"Colombianization" of Guatemala?

This is number 12/2006, and has arrived a little later than expected due to the elections here in Brazil. According to the latest polls published on 12 October, Lula is ahead by 11 points over Geraldo Alckmin. In other news, I heard back from many of you who had trouble purchasing The Reality of a Mexican Mega Cartel. The e-book is now available via my website (not Also, I have installed a monthly survey on my website. The idea is to publish an e-book that reflects the interests of those who visit the website. Have a look, cast your vote, and check out the results. Finally, I will begin placing these newsletters on my blog. Please leave your comments there, thank you.

In this edition:

The first two weeks of October registered record cocaine busts in Central America. During a regional meeting of Defense Ministers in Managua, Nicaragua, authorities there seized 3.1 tones of cocaine off of Nicaragua's Pacific Coast. Days later Costa Rican authorities seized 3.5 tones of cocaine. Both seizures were record interdictions.

The Central American sub-region remains a transit zone. Larger seizures means larger amounts make it through the zone into target ports. The term "Colombianization" has been used to describe how the drug trade has begun to affect security and economy in Mexico. But some observers have begun to talk about the "Colmbianization" of Guatemala, an interesting concept.

Drug traffickers in Guatemala have planted millions of opium poppies in the country's western highlands. Guatemala is Central America's only source country. Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia are South America's source countries. Colombia has the added challenge of a decades' old civil war. Guatemala, however, has a growing problem with Mara Salvatrucha street gangs, which appear to on the road to increased organization and involvement in the drug trade.

Guatemalan president, Oscar Berger, just last week ordered hundreds of soldiers into the streets of Guatemala City to protect public buses. Strikes led by bus drivers, who were protesting the death of five of their colleagues, prompted this heavy-handed response. Street gangs extort bus divers, forcing them to pay a "war tax". Those who don't pay are shot. We're waiting to see what becomes of soldiers protecting bus drivers from street gangs. It seems to be a recipe for more violence.

Meanwhile, these gangs continue to move into the Mexican drug trade. There's little evidence to suggest they are actively linked with one of Mexico's drug smuggling organizations. I have learned, however, that the presence of Central American street gangs in Mexico has spurred a nation-wide copy cat situation. Mexican youths in cities across the country have begun to call themselves "maras", hoping to capitalize on the fear invoked by the term. Have the Mara Salvatrucha grown beyond a street gang into a brand name that represents extreme violence?

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