Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mexican Cartels Spread Violence To Central America

Part 1
By Jason Beuabien
NPR

Mexico's drug cartels are carving out new territory in Central America, in some of the poorest and most fragile countries in the hemisphere.

Mexican gangs are cutting clandestine airstrips in the Guatemalan jungle, laundering money in El Salvador and unloading boatloads of cocaine on the coast of Honduras.
The World Bank recently warned that narcotics trafficking poses one of the greatest threats to development in the region.

Drug Trafficking In Central America

The volume of drugs passing through Central American countries has risen in recent years. Shipments of cocaine and other drugs originate in Colombia and Venezuela, and travel by sea and air to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and other countries. Overland routes bring the drugs into Mexico and then to the United States.
Map of drug trafficking in Central America

Guatemala is dealing with one of Mexico's most feared cartels: Los Zetas. The Zetas have been blamed for some of the worst massacres in Mexico's bloody drug war. Their presence in Guatemala has been no different.

Guatemala's Wild West
In the capital of the northern Guatemalan Peten region, the bus station is just a small parking lot in the city's main market. Grimy vans and small buses idle by the curb, spewing clouds of powdery, black soot. Several of the drivers have pistols strapped conspicuously to their belts, and they call out the names of Mexican border posts — destinations for migrants, food smugglers and traveling merchants.

This is the Guatemalan equivalent of the Wild West — a remote, sparsely-populated area along Mexico's southern flank.

A local Catholic priest, Father Javier Pla, says in this area, there are few health clinics, schools, police posts or other government services.

"Eighty percent of the residents in the vast Peten province live off subsistence agriculture," he says, adding that there is little or no help from the government. "The consequence is this: people live poorly, or migrate to the United States, or align themselves with criminal groups in order to get by."

Investigators work at the site of a massacre at a ranch in northern Guatemala. Most of the 27 people killed were decapitated.
(Investigators work at the site of a massacre at a ranch in northern Guatemala. Most of the 27 people killed were decapitated.)

And over the last three years there's been a new, powerful criminal group offering work — the Zetas.

'A Huge Aggression' By The Cartels
Earlier this month, dozens of heavily armed gunmen, allegedly from the Zetas, stormed a cattle ranch near here. They tied up the ranch staff, beat them and left 27 people dead. Most were decapitated.

It was the worst massacre in Guatemala since the end of the civil war in 1996.

In an interview with NPR the day before the massacre, President Alvaro Colom said international drug trafficking gangs are the biggest threat facing Guatemala and the region.

"Definitely these groups are very strong financially. They're strong in terms of violence. They're strong in how they manipulate authorities," Colom said. "We are doing what we can against them with our limited resources."

The cartels, with their tens of billions of dollars in revenue each year, have access to machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. They use airplanes, speed boats and even submarines to move cocaine from Colombia into the region. Under attack in Mexico, the Zetas have built their own airstrips in the Guatemalan jungle.

Colom said some parts of his country near the Mexican border are currently controlled by the cartels. The government is fighting back.

The village of Limon, in the Peten region of northern Guatemala, is a very poor area similar to where the Zetas cartel is grabbing territory. There's no electricity, water is trucked in and people cook over open fires.
(The village of Limon, in the Peten region of northern Guatemala, is a very poor area similar to where the Zetas cartel is grabbing territory. There's no electricity, water is trucked in and people cook over open fires.)

"It's a huge aggression. At times our resources are limited, but yes, we are regaining control of our territory," he said.

The push into Guatemala by the Zetas and other Mexican gangs has coincided with a significant rise in violent crime. Guatemala's murder rate is now twice that of Mexico's. And in neighboring Honduras, which faces a similar problem with drug traffickers, the situation is even worse: Honduras now has the highest homicide rate in the hemisphere.

Exploiting A Vacuum
Drug smuggling in Central America is nothing new. What has changed recently is the volume of drugs and the levels of violence.

"Before 2008, the violent incidents related to drug trafficking weren't as common as they've become in the last three years," says Julie Lopez, a Guatemalan writer and researcher who recently wrote a report for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington titled "Guatemala's Crossroads."
The report chronicles how Guatemala's state security apparatus broke down in the years after the 1996 peace accords — a period in which the army was cut by two-thirds and a new national police force was still in its infancy.

Organized crime rushed in to exploit the security vacuum.

Lopez says Guatemala still isn't in a position to confront the international drug gangs.
"You have, in some areas, some policemen with 9 mm guns that maybe work, or not, having to face drug traffickers with AK-47s and grenade launchers," she says. "It's a lot to ask of a policeman who doesn't have any means of protecting himself."

But the problem in Guatemala isn't just whether or not the police have sufficient fire power.

A Recipe For Guatemala's Collapse?
Fernando Giron Soto, a security analyst at the Myrna Mack Foundation in Guatemala City, says the problem is that drug trafficking money has permeated Guatemalan society. It corrupts government officials and it flows directly or indirectly into the coffers of the business elite.

"An economy as small as Guatemala's does not support the quantity of banks we have here, nor could it support them, given the difficult economic situation facing this country," he says.

More than half of Guatemala's workforce toils in the informal economy — selling goods on the street, doing manual labor for $10 or less a day. And at the other end of the economic spectrum, those in the small upper class drive German sports cars and avoid paying most taxes. Even by Latin American standards, income distribution in Guatemala remains dramatically skewed in favor of the rich.

Giron and others warn that the volatile mix of a weak state, powerful drug traffickers, lots of weapons and intractable poverty could cause the country to collapse.

"Unless the elites take seriously the question of this country's survival, we run the risk of becoming something — not exactly equal — but something similar to Haiti," Giron says.

The town of Flores in northern Guatemala is packed with small hotels and is a hub for tourists who come to visit Mayan ruins. But the tourism industry in Guatemala has been hard hit by cancellations in response to the drug violence.
(The town of Flores in northern Guatemala is packed with small hotels and is a hub for tourists who come to visit Mayan ruins. But the tourism industry in Guatemala has been hard hit by cancellations in response to the drug violence.)


Tourism, Business Effects
The impact of the narcotics trade is felt throughout this small country.
Drug-fueled violence and corruption discourage new business investment. The government is forced to expend resources and money chasing gunmen from the latest massacre.

And Guatemala's fragile tourism industry loses customers.

"Besides all this ugly stuff about drug trafficking, this is a safe place," says Anselmo Galicia, a tour operator in the northern city of Flores.

Galicia takes American and European tourists on trips to the Mayan pyramids at Tikal and on treks in the jungle. He's never heard of a single tourist getting caught up in the narcotics violence, yet news reports of bloody drug gang shootouts, he says, drive away foreign visitors.

Galicia recounts being in the travel agency office just after word got out of an hours-long clash in Peten between a convoy of Zetas and the police.

"And after that event, they canceled all the reservations," leaving only three or four remaining, he says. That was at just one travel agency — he says the loss in revenue for the region was huge.

President Colom says there's no way Guatemala can tackle this problem on its own. The best solution, he says bluntly, would be for U.S. consumers to stop buying cocaine.

7 comments:

  1. This is not a case of Mexican cartels recently spreading trafficking into Central America, but rather a case of how a multi decades long US 'war on drugs' has spread across ALL of Latin America, from Peru and Brazil north to the North Pole, where no doubt even Santa's elves now traffic drugs!

    It is a colossal example of how US bipartisan donkey and elephant government war policies have done nothing except to spread more and more violence everywhere.

    Instead of US citizens sanctimoniously lecturing others about how they run their own societies, US citizens need to look at how destructive their own society has been to others.

    'The World Bank recently warned that narcotics trafficking poses one of the greatest threats to development in the region.'

    The World Bank itself is the greater threat to development in the region, and its policies are much to blame for the horrible poverty in much of the Americas that helps breed illegal drug trafficking. They should be hung these damn bankers for crimes against society! ...Theft and murder.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yawn. Heard it all before Ardent. I dont even necessarily disagree with you. Its just your long winded, and say the same thing every time. If we want to beat the drug cartels, its gonna be from the ground up, cuz the world bank isnt going to change.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Forrest Gump said it best "Stupid is as stupid does". Ardent, if people are too stupid, lazy, ignorant or whatever the case may be too let it go on, then shame on them as well. The strong have always preyed on the meek. It`s no different in the animal kingdom, and we are all animals, animals called humans. The day Ardent comes on here and has some intelligible things to offer, is the day I`ll quit watching the drug war info. I guess I`ve got a loooooong time of watching.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Let's see? I said that the Mexican cartels per se have not spread violence to Central America because that violence hit Central America long way before it ever got going full steam in Mexico and was caused by other US interventions held long before the US started to push for Calderon's 'drug war' inside Mexico. And then know-nothing people who say nothing themselves then tell me that I said nothing about this article???? Sad....

    'The day Ardent comes on here and has some intelligible things to offer, is the day I`ll quit watching the drug war info.' and 'Yawn. Heard it all before Ardent. I dont even necessarily disagree with you. Its just your long winded, and say the same thing every time.'

    Gosh! Five whole paragraphs I wrote and then I get told that i am long winded? I said that the World Bank has caused the misery that fuels much of the drug trafficking of the world. Well excuse me, AnonyMoes! And what did you two actually say, other than that you disagree with Ardent's opinions?

    What it is, and we can see this time and time again... it's just that when people simply want to disagree with a pov, they then tell the person that supposedly they have said nothing, when it actuality it was what was said by the person that haves them all steamed!

    ReplyDelete
  5. It`s not that we just disagree with you Ernie, but the whole "you don`t say anything other than disagree with you" is because disagreeing with a liberal is one thing, trying to explain your disagreement points is futile, because a liberal can only see, hear, comprehend one POV, and that is theirs. So, people could get on here and type long, lucid, intelligent disagreements as to why they don`t like your POV`s, but it would be pointless. You would just come up with some other reason as to why your correct and everyone else is wrong. The absolute best way to deal with someone like you is exactly how I do. Ardent, you are so right. Your POV`s are spot on. Keep up the good posts. I love hearing about ,mmmmmmmm, well,mmmmmm, uh,,,,um, what your POV`s are. What are they again? And no, not how the USA wants to perpetuate wars for financial gain, cause they dog won`t hunt. If you believe that your watching Conspiracy Theory too many times. It`s just a book turned into a movie, it`s not real. Most folks don`t want to take the time to type a long winded response as you. Most have a job to do all day, take a few quick seconds of a break to log onto BB and take a peek at what`s going on in Mexico, then maybe throw out a quick comment on something they read. While you seem to have a great government job, which is so ironic it hurts, that you have time to troll this site waiting for the chance at a rebuttal that takes longer for someone to read than they have time to browse the site. As liberals go, they are always right and everyone else`s POV is garbage, wether they go into a long winded explanation or not.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @ARDENT

    BINGO!!!!!..HOORRAAAYYY!!!!!!!
    FINALLY!!!!!

    ardent sez:

    "The World Bank itself is the greater threat to development in the region, and its policies are much to blame for the horrible poverty in much of the Americas that helps breed illegal drug trafficking. They should be hung these damn bankers for crimes against society! ...Theft and murder."


    this is the only thing you have ever said that makes any sense erny

    now look further into it ..

    who owns/controls the worldbank, IMF.. etc. ....and what is their relationship to international drug smuggling ...money laundering...and the destruction of grass roots cash /local economies...and connect those dots to the installation of repressive governments in developing nations such as C. and S. America...backed up by various debt controlled powerful "western" nations

    i am curious as to what you can come up with

    P>S... wonder how they will free Dominic Strauss Kahn..the recently accused rapist ..ex IMF director?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Brito, you might as well know. I will never agree with your Jews are a world menace theorizing. This constant obsession of yours is in fact an illness.

    Jews are not messing up Mexico or the US of A.

    And Anonymous 6:59 am... Thanks for explaining why Far Right conservatives like yourself can only flame others personally, and never make there own points of view any more coherent or rational than Rush or Beck or Newt or Sarah never manage to do...

    'It`s not that we just disagree with you Ernie, but the whole "you don`t say anything other than disagree with you" is because disagreeing with a liberal is one thing, trying to explain your disagreement points is futile, because a liberal can only see, hear, comprehend one POV, and that is theirs. So, people could get on here and type long, lucid, intelligent disagreements as to why they don`t like your POV`s, but it would be pointless.'

    Yes, don't even try to explain your opinions. Just blurt them out half assed totally. After all, you geniuses are just talking with liberals now. No need to even be coherent.

    Still, that doesn't detract from the fact that it is the US spreading violence everywhere in Latin America, not Mexican cartels just spreading anew violence to Central America, like this article tried to maintain to us nice BB reading folk.

    ReplyDelete

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