Rony Urízar, a Guatemalan Army spokesperson, has indicated that the U.S. Army’s Southern Command has been collaborating in the Army Training Center, located in Poptún, Petén, since 2007.
“The Special Interdiction and Rescue Group (GEIR) is located at this center and receives training in counter-terrorism and urban combat,” the military spokesperson commented, adding that the U.S. specialists have also been providing training to the Naval Special Force at the Pacific Naval Command in Escuintla since 2008.
“Here the training is to counteract drug trafficking and related crimes. They obviously deal with everything that has to do with the sea,” Urízar explained.
From seventy to eighty Army personnel have been trained in each location, receiving six months of updating and refresher courses each year.
The U.S. Embassy in the country declared in a statement, “The presence of U.S. officers forms part of a training commitment in response to an invitation from the Guatemalan Army, which training is carried out continuously, in association with military and police forces, by means of a diplomatic agreement” between the two nations.
“Guatemalan military and police personnel are trained by their U.S. counterparts in operations to control illicit trafficking by land, sea, and air,” the diplomatic mission added.
The increasing presence of members of Mexican drug-trafficking cartels in Guatemala has attracted notice in several countries, coinciding with the periodic visits of U.S. military personnel, as some international media have emphasized.
Fox News broadcast images of activity at the base in Petén, but the Defense Ministry stated that it is not considered secret, as was reported elsewhere. The mentioned television channel broadcast a two-and-a-half-minute story in which it explained that Mexican cartels are moving south, for which reason U.S. specialists are training Guatemalan military personnel in a “jungle” base located “in the northern part of the country.”
The majority of images showed the Guatemalan agents, and the story stated that “U.S. Green Berets have been training them for more than three years.” The military spokesperson avoided saying whether the trainers are Green Berets, but he affirmed that they are “specialized personnel.”
Some international news agencies and media outlets used the headline “U.S. Secretly Trains Guatemalan Troops,” but Urízar asserted that the training is not secret and that the Fox News correspondent was in Poptún last weekend.
According to the U.S. broadcaster’s original story, “the Green Berets have spent three years training the Guatemalan specialists not only in how to shoot well, but also in how to take action against the cartels.”