Mexico and Guatemala Strike Organized Crime

Mexico and Guatemala Strike Organized Crime

By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo
March 19, 2018

The Mexican Department of the Navy and the Guatemalan Navy conduct strategic counter-narcotrafficking operations off the Pacific coast.

Mexico and Guatemala conduct routine combined land, air, and maritime surveillance operations against transnational organized criminal organizations. Thanks to this coordinated effort, the Mexican Department of the Navy (SEMAR, in Spanish) managed to seize close to a ton of cocaine off the coast of Chiapas.

“The Mexican Navy secured 38 packages of cocaine off the coast of Puerto Chiapas, Chiapas, just a few kilometers from the Guatemalan border,” SEMAR reported in a press release. Drugs recovered, SEMAR indicated, weighed 910 kilograms.

Information exchange and cooperation

The operation was conducted through fieldwork and information exchanges between both countries. The Guatemalan Navy tracked a suspect vessel from South America and alerted the Mexican Navy about its illegal entry into Mexican waters.

“[The information] allowed us to place naval units in the area to locate the shipment, which a small vessel jettisoned when it noticed the authorities,” Vice Admiral Juan Randolfo Pardo Aguilar, commander of the Guatemalan Navy, told Diálogo. “The vessel was close to the maritime border between Guatemala and Mexico.”

SEMAR’s 8th Naval Region ordered an operation that included air and surface units. “A combat aircraft was deployed on the mission and, while conducting maritime surveillance spotted an offending vessel that was dropping its cargo at sea, leaving it drifting 222 kilometers off the coast. The ocean patrol, with an onboard helicopter and a coastal patrol in the area, arrived on scene to secure the packages,” indicated the press release.

The nylon sacks, strung together with a rope, were meant to be recovered by other boats to continue their illegal transit to distribution and consumption locations. Based on the vessel’s features and on information and analysis of the route it took, authorities presume it was headed to the shores of southern Guatemala or southern Mexico.

According to SEMAR, “A method narcotrafficking groups use to transport drugs by sea from South America to the shores of Mexico is to leave drugs tied together and floating with a beacon [to electronically signal their precise geographical location]. Later, packets are picked up by narcotraffickers’ vessels.” Cocaine seizures in the Pacific are on the rise, according to Security, Justice and Peace, a nongovernmental organization based in Mexico.

The NGO indicates that cocaine is placed on cargo ships of international shipping lines, or in fast boats with outboard motors, or is left floating off the coasts of Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Colima. Shipments vary in size from 70 kilograms to several tons. The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board indicates that 76 percent of the cocaine entering the United States from South America passes through Central America and Mexico.

Information and cooperation

According to SEMAR’s fifth 2016-2017 Progress Report, more than 14,300 counter-narcotrafficking operations were conducted in 2017, with an average of 3,150 service members participating each month. During the first months of 2018, the Mexican Navy seized 530 kilograms of cocaine in the ports of Guerrero and Colima. The Navy also seized 49 tons of drug precursors—chemicals used to manufacture synthetic drugs—in the Port of Manzanillo. Six people were arrested in those operations, including three foreigners.

To step up the fight against drugs and stamp out activities of criminal groups, SEMAR coordinates high-impact operations with Mexican government agencies such as the Secretariat of National Defense, the Federal Police, the Office of the Attorney General, and several states across the country, including Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Michoacán, the State of Mexico, and Mexico City. The Navy also conducts coordinated operations with neighboring countries.

“This information exchange [between Mexico and Guatemala] is essential to fight drug trafficking. We owe our success to the real-time exchange of information that allows us to make timely interceptions,” Vice Adm. Pardo said. “Relations between both naval forces were based on trust and combined operations, with positive results.”

“The mechanism used by Mexico and Guatemala for cooperation among our naval forces falls within the framework of the Board of Military Commanders for the Guatemala-Mexico Border Area, and good communication between the commands of the Guatemalan Navy and the Mexican Secretariat of the Navy,” Vice Adm. Pardo concluded. “We built trust and committed ourselves to cooperation to fight this transnational threat together.”