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, November 19, 2007

Cross-border intel and assassins, and challenges in Guatemala

An interesting piece from the San Diego Tribune reports that a Mexican intelligence officer will soon begin working with US agents based at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureau in San Diego. Of course, such an arrangement raises questions of corruption and the dangers of leaks when sharing intelligence.

“You’ve got to go down that road cautiously, but at the same time we’ve got to go full speed ahead,” the San Diego ICE bureau chief told the Tribune.

I would expect that if this pilot program prospers, there will be more Mexican intelligence officials working across the border with ICE investigation units in Phoenix, El Paso, Dallas, Houston, Laredo, and Brownsville.

In Dallas a young man names Rosalio Reta killed for the first time at 13. Four years later, he’s killed some 30 people, all for the enforcement arm of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel known as Los Zetas. Operating as a state-side assassin for Los Zetas, Reta is just one of many young men US authorities believe to be closely associated with Mexican organized crime.

Reta turned himself into the DEA. Calling an agent from prison in Mexico, Reta confessed to two homicides in Texas, hoping to be extradited. Such was his fear of Zeta reprisal for having made a mistake that allowed his target to live and land him in a Mexican jail.

Meanwhile, as Guatemalan president-elect Alvaro Colom prepares to take power in January, the outgoing Public Minister, who oversees public security, held a press conference to announce that 14,000 unserved arrest warrants have accumulated over the past three years. But the Guatemalan National Police only has 35 men assigned to the task of serving these warrants. It was a small bomb for Guatemalan public security, one that underscores, beyond any speculation about organized crime or street gangs, how far the new president has to go before he can make up for his predecessor’s lack of attention on basic public security matters.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Belize, authorities are beginning to report the presence of Mara Salvatrucha, the same street gang whose presence and activities in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador is considered a threat to national security.

This gang’s presence in El Salvador, for example, contributes to recently reported statistics that place the murder rate between January and September 2007 at ten people a day. The total number is 2,677. And this is good news, as this number is 281 less than the number of those murdered during the same time period last year.

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