The violence engendered by criminal narcotrafficking groups has prompted the Guatemalan Army to mobilize 2,000 soldiers to protect its border with Mexico, Spanish news agency EFE reported. On October 20, the Guatemalan Ministry of the Interior confirmed that the troops are deployed in the municipalities of Tacaná, Ixchiguán, and Tajumulco, an area known as the Poppy Triangle, key to poppy production and from which heroin is made, Central American magazine Estrategia y Negocios reported.
“We are carrying out operations to reinforce and strengthen governance and security in different villages in the municipality of Tacaná, department of San Marcos, where threats from possible drug trafficking groups have been reported from Mexican territory,” Army Colonel Rubén Tellez, director general of the Guatemalan Defense Ministry’s Press Office, told Diálogo on October 27. “So far these are preventive actions and we have Guatemalan Army Infantry, Special Forces, and Reconnaissance units in armored vehicles. In addition, the Guatemalan Air Force is supporting us with the use of drones for reconnaissance over the international political border between Guatemala and Mexico.”
The deployment of Guatemalan service members, which began on September 25, came as an immediate response to a request for help from the authorities of the municipality of Tacaná, to boost security in the face of armed confrontations between the Mexican cartels of Sinaloa (CDS) and Jalisco New Generation (CJNG), which cause deaths, obstruction of routes, and displacement of the inhabitants of the neighboring municipality of Mozintla, Chiapas state, Mexico, according to Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre.
“To date [in our territory] we have no record of clashes or violence related to the struggle between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel,” then Guatemalan Interior Minister David Napoleon Barrientos told El Sol de Mexico. “But the risk to Guatemalan towns is latent, because in San Marcos there is poppy cultivation. It’s a key region that is very attractive to Mexican cartels.”
Some cities in Chiapas along the Guatemalan border are strategic places for the trafficking of drugs, people, and merchandise. These territories have been disputed by the CDS and CJNG for decades. But after years of control of the area by the Sinaloa group, the CJNG managed to gain a foothold, France 24 reported. The rivalry is still ongoing and the CDS continues to fight to impose its dominance.
“The goal is to provide the security that our population needs, given the threats received from Mexican cartels that are operating in the area of Motozintla, Chiapas. At any moment they could move into Guatemalan territory to continue threatening and intimidating our population,” Guatemalan Army Colonel Alex Tuyuc, commander of the First Infantry Brigade, told Diálogo. “The Brigade’s goal is to provide security and prevent any attack by Mexican cartels in Guatemalan territory.”
The military operation counts with the support of 1,000 officers of the National Civil Police (PNC), Europa Press agency reported. “They are also in strategic areas for Guatemala, because they have blind spots where drug trafficking, smuggling, and migrant smuggling coincide.”
“The Guatemalan Army provides security so that PNC units can carry out their actions without any inconvenience,” Col. Tellez said.
“We condemn the murders, kidnappings, disappearances, threats, harassment, extraction of our natural assets, persecution, and dispossession of property,” published the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Mexico’s state of Chiapas. “Criminal groups have taken over our territory and we find ourselves in a state of siege, under social psychosis with narco-blockades that use civil society as a human barrier, forcing them to stay and put their lives and those of their families at risk.”
“In the last 48 hours more than 700 operations have been carried out individually by the Guatemalan Army on the border,” Col. Tellez said in late October. “Military and police units maintain ongoing monitoring on any threat that may cross from other territories into Guatemalan space.”
The Confederation of Employers of the Mexican Republic (COPARMEX) said in an October 10 statement that violence threatens the entire state of Chiapas, while businesses are faced with extortion. COPARMEX added that the local economy is worsening and that circulation on highways is unsafe and in some areas impossible. All economic sectors have been affected, with companies closing and loss of jobs.
Mexico’s Secretary of National Defense also deployed hundreds of members of the Mexican Army, National Guard, Attorney General’s Office, and Chiapas State Police to the southern border to address the situation “that members of organized crime provoked,” El Universal newspaper reported on September 28.