GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – Central American countries, and especially Guatemala, will be unable to contain the growing threat from Mexican and Colombian drug cartels unless they are given strong international support, warned Carlos Castresana, the head of the UN International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), at a press conference at UN headquarters on 24 February.
“Latin America doesn’t have time; this is an emergency,” said Castresana, according to AP.
Prensa Libre reported him as saying that “geographically, all Central America is a crossroads between Colombia and Mexico for the flow of narcotics to the USA. This is a regional problem and calls for a regional response.”
According to Castresana, international measures are needed to combat organized crime, the flow of narcotics, and impunity in Guatemala and in Central America in general. He emphasised that Guatemala is the country most threatened by the invasion of the drug lords.
As a result of increased activity by Mexican drug cartels, the Guatemalan government has stepped up the military presence on its borders, according to Actualidad 2.0.
The head of CICIG warned that “unless the Mexican groups are stopped they will have taken the capital in two years”.
Guatemala’s ambassador to Mexico José Luis Chea also expressed the same fear, “In Guatemala now, we have massacres, battles between rival drug gangs, and kidnappings at levels that we had never experienced.”
Perhaps the first sign of the worsening situation was an incident in March 2008, when 11 people were killed in a shootout in the eastern department of Zapaca. Things got worse still in November, when 17 people died in Huehuetenango in a pitched battle that, according to official reports, was the result of a misunderstanding between rival drug gangs.
Also in November, 16 were left dead in what was apparently a dispute over a shipment of cocaine bound for Nicaragua. The incident has yet to be explained.
In an interview with Prensa Libre, the Swedish ambassador Ewa Werner who is currently the European Union’s senior diplomat in Guatemala, commented that the way drug gangs are penetrating the country is putting the entire system at risk. “I think that what has got us all worried is that, if it’s not stopped now, the lack of law and order together with impunity might bring down the system… the whole country practically”.