In this photo released by Guatemala National Civil Police, PNC, anti-drugs police officers carry packages containing cocaine in San Andres, northern Guatemala, Sunday, April 13, 2008. Authorities seized more than one ton of cocaine during an anti-drugs operation at this border area with Mexico. (AP Photo/National Civil Police)
By Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times
The Mexican government has no control of its 577-mile border with Guatemala, where arms, drugs and immigrant smugglers appear to have free rein, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable disclosed recently by WikiLeaks.
The document says that Mexico does not have enough resources to patrol the border.
"Limited resources also undermine the effort: while there are 30,000 U.S. CBP officers on the 1,926-mile Mexican/U.S. border, only 125 Mexican immigration officials monitor the 577-mile border with Guatemala," the document states.
"The weakness of the state (Guatemalan government), the pervasive violence, the widespread corruption, and the country's strategic location for drug trafficking are creating a very dangerous cocktail."
The state of lawlessness in Guatemala is such that residents rely on the Zetas instead of police to provide security, the released documents say. The Zetas, who formerly worked for the Gulf cartel, are reported to be making inroads in Chihuahua state.
Several U.S. documents leaked to online whistleblower WikiLeaks mention diplomats' interest in the drug trade and drug corruption in Latin America and the Middle East.
In another recent document, U.S. diplomats voiced concerns that Mexican drug dealers could end up buying certain high-tech weapons that Russia had sold to Venezuela. Such weapons are capable of shooting down U.S. combat helicopters.
The document said U.S. officials feared that members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) would obtain the weapons for the Mexican cartels.
FARC guerrilla members have been reported in Mexico for the past 10 years and are suspected of helping one of the Mexican drug cartels kidnap a high-level official of the National Action Party, officials said.
Last month, the Colombian government asked Mexico for details about a shooting victim in Juárez who was suspected of belonging to FARC. In Colombia, officials said, the FARC has carried out hundreds of kidnappings and extortions, and collaborates with drug cartels to finance its operations.
Mexican drug cartels also have operations in Nicaragua, where U.S. diplomats were told that high-level Nicaraguan officials received suitcases filled with cash to protect drug-traffickers, and that judges in that country released drug dealers soon after they were arrested by Nicaragua's police.
Other leaked U.S. documents have portrayed a Mexico that has lost control of some regions to drug cartels and struggles to develop an effective anti-drug strategy.
President Obama condemned WikiLeaks' disclosure of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables, and called Mexican President Felipe Calderón on Saturday to assure him the leaks would not interfere with U.S.-Mexico relations, the Associated Press reported.
The Mexican government's crackdown against drug cartels began under Calderón in December 2006, but U.S. statistics indicate Mexico's drug wars have not put much of a dent on drug-trafficking in the West Texas region.
Seizures for cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine rose in calendar year 2009 compared to the prior year, according to the West Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area in El Paso. Only marijuana seizures were down.
West Texas HIDTA reported the following seizures in pounds as follows:
Cocaine: 3,040 pounds in 2009; 1,115 pounds in 2008.
Heroin: 132 pounds in 2009; 65 pounds in 2008.
Methamphetamine: 67 pounds in 2009; 18.6 pounds in 2008.
Marijuana: 210,854 pounds in 2009; 295,814 pounds in 2008.
The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area agency coordinates and funds federal, state and local task forces to disrupt or dismantle drug-trafficking organizations.
Different regions across the United States are represented by regional HIDTAs.
According to a 2010 Drug Intelligence Center report, cocaine smuggling routes have shifted due to the increased flow of cocaine to Europe, tougher enforcement in Mexico, unrelenting drug cartel violence and U.S. interdiction efforts.
"Conversely, heroin seizures along the Southwest border have been increasing, most likely as a result of the growing Mexican influence in heroin production and transportation," the 2010 report said.
Mexican officials said drug dealers in Mexico are also selling more illegal drugs in the domestic market than in the past, probably because they are finding it harder to smuggle drugs across the U.S. border.
Drug rehabilitation experts said this is a troubling trend that can be seen in Juárez, which is ravaged by unprecedented violence, and where the number of drug addicts (excluding alcohol addicts) surpasses 100,000.
DEA officials said most of the drugs smuggled into the United States come through Mexico, which is also a producer of heroin and marijuana.
For U.S. border agents, intercepting illegal narcotics is practically a daily occurrence.
This past week, two El Pasoans with express border crossing privileges were arrested in two separate busts after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found marijuana in their vehicles.
Officials identified the suspects caught at the Stanton Street international bridge as Raunice Reyes, 33, and Esther Ivon Navarro, 53.
They were charged with drug smuggling, and their SENTRI status was revoked.
To get a permit under the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection program, applicants must undergo a background check and pay extra fees.
"We have an absolute zero tolerance policy for violations in the SENTRI lane, and we maintain the integrity of the program through random and targeted exams," said William Molaski, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's El Paso port director.