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Cocaine seizures in Guatemala the highest in a decade

January 9, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Cocaine seizures in Guatemala the highest in a decade Police carry packages containing cocaine seized in June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

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2016 marked the greatest number of cocaine seizures in the last ten years for Guatemala, the country’s anti-drug prosecutor revealed.

Authorities in Guatemala intercepted 27,397.3 pounds of cocaine in 2016, according to Aldo Chapas. The bulk of the drugs were confiscated at the port of San José on the country’s Pacific coast, and at the Santo Tomás port, on the Caribbean coast.

An example of a recent seizure occurred on December 3rd when the naval special forces identified boats operated by four Guatemalans in the Atlantic.

Business Insider reported authorities had seized over 3,600 pounds of cocaine, which had an estimated street value of approximately $22.3 million.

Chapas attributed the apprehensions to narco-trafficking organizations working in the country to send drugs from South American countries to Guatemala for local distribution or further transportation north, such as through Mexico into the United States.

“They transfer the drug from Ecuador or Colombia, they depart from the port, and they bring it to Guatemala via maritime [routes],” Chapas stated. “There it is received by a structure that transfers it to its destination, such as Mexico, or distributes it among local structures, which distribute it to other structures.”

Guatemala’s PNC intercepted this cocaine haul back on July 23rd, 2016

Chapas also associated the increase in cocaine seizures to a “strengthening in investigations on the part of the public prosecutor’s office” and to collaborated work between naval units and the antinarcotics section of the federal police.

Guatemala and the neighboring country of Honduras have long been major centers for narco-trafficking.

Honduras seized over 6 tons of drugs in 2016 — which is only 10 tons fewer than what was taken in 2015. Among that find were 1,763 pounds of cocaine and over 12,000 pounds of pot.

Authorities in Hondurans also revealed that they destroyed 26 clandestine runways, which, along with fast boats, are used by traffickers to transport drugs from South America to areas in Central America and beyond.

In the past few years, Guatemala has had success in evading the serious violent crime and proliferation of criminal groups that has been observed in El Salvador and Honduras, which along with Guatemala, make up the Northern Triangle area.

Police in Honduras seize 450 kilos of drugs off a private plane in Brus Laguna, Honduras REUTERS/Honduran Police/Handout

However, in Guatemala, much like other parts of the region, success in fighting larger and high-profile traffickers has cleared space for other, smaller criminal organizations. One assessment puts the number of different criminal organizations in Guatemala at 54, according to Evan Ellis, a professor of Latin American Studies at the U.S. Army War College of Strategic Studies Institute.

However, those fragmented groups still work to transport drugs through Guatemalan areas and maintain contacts with larger criminal groups, including the powerful Sinaloa cartel and Jalisco New Generation.

A report by Insight Crime indicates that the Sinaloa cartel smuggles most of the cocaine made in Colombia through Guatemala, relying on a network of ports that link South America to Central America and Mexico.

The Sinaloa cartel has had a long-standing occupation in Guatemala. The infamous Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was apprehended there back in 1993.

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