US, Guatemala Sign Cooperation Agreement

US, Guatemala Sign Cooperation Agreement

By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo 
March 09, 2021

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), delivered an aid package to the Prosecutor’s Office for Drug Crimes, under the Guatemalan Office of the Attorney General, to strengthen actions against narcotrafficking, on February 3, 2021.

The donation consists of tactical, technological, and electronic equipment and furniture; training in investigation methodologies to combat criminal groups; and the allocation of funds, in an amount not specified in the MP’s press release.

“Today we thank the technical and financial support that the INL has provided us from the U.S. Embassy, through which the Prosecutor’s Office for Drug Crimes is more consolidated,” María Consuelo Porras Argueta, Guatemalan attorney general, said at the donation handover.

During the ceremony, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala William W. Popp recalled that, in 2019, authorities identified the first imports of coca leaf and the first drug lab in Guatemala. In 2020, air management authorities were implemented, and narcotraffickers found new forms of distribution amid the pandemic, by using home delivery apps.

Four goals

The Guatemalan Office of the Attorney General has set goals for 2021: dismantling narcotrafficking groups, increasing cases that go to trial, destroying chemical precursors, and identifying and destroying property, Ambassador Popp said. “The Office of the Attorney General is not alone in all these efforts. It works side by side with the police […], the Ministry of Defense, and with our law enforcement agencies,” he added.

About 90 percent of the cocaine that enters the United States by land goes through Guatemalan territory, the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia reported on January 23.

Police agreement

“Guatemala faces significant challenges. Many areas of the country, especially along Guatemala’s borders, are under the influence of drug trafficking organizations. Guatemala also confronts an array of transnational criminal organizations involved in migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, money laundering, arms trafficking, and extortion,” the U.S. Department of State says on its website.

As such, the Guatemalan Ministry of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement signed a cooperation agreement on February 3 to expedite the exchange of police information and of migration and criminal records of Guatemalans who are subject to repatriation.

“The goal of this memorandum is to electronically share migration records and criminal records of Guatemalans who are subject to repatriation from the United States; and its purpose is to exchange police and migration data for the administration of criminal justice, so as to suppress criminal activities and internal security threats,” Gendri Reyes Mazariegos, Guatemalan minister of the Interior, said during the signing of the agreement.

By 2021, the Ministry of Defense plans to equip soldiers, acquire weapons for border control, and build military detachments on its borders; buy patrol speedboats and a naval training simulator; and acquire, maintain, and repair aircraft to respond to different threats, the Guatemalan Army said on Twitter on February 12.

“The United States supports Guatemala’s goals to be a safer, more transparent, and prosperous country for the benefit of all citizens,” Ambassador Popp said during the handover ceremony on February 3. “This fight against drug activity will continue to be strong. It is a key fight for Guatemala, for the region, and for the United States and all allied and partner nations of Guatemala.”