Guatemala Warns Country Has Become Cocaine Producer

Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart said on September 18 that his country has become a cocaine producer and is no longer just a transit and storage point, after authorities in recent weeks found coca plantations and laboratories where the drug was being produced.
Herbert Zepeda / Voice of America (VOA) | 8 October 2019

Transnational Threats

Members of an anti-narcotics unit unload cocaine packages seized during operations Retalhuleu and San Marcos, upon arrival at the Air Force Base in Guatemala City on May 20, 2019. (Photo: Johan Ordoñez, AFP)

“Following the discovery of coca plantations, Guatemala has become a cocaine producing country, leaving us in a completely different regional security situation,” said the official at a press conference.

“This puts Guatemala in a completely different situation. We are not only a drug transit country [...], but now Guatemala has become a cocaine producer,” he said.

The minister said Guatemala is working on a strategy with anti-narcotics authorities in the United States to counter this scourge.

He said the United States had delivered five helicopters that were repaired and will be used to counter narcotrafficking in the Central American country.

In the past, U.S. personnel would fly the aircraft, but the Guatemalan Police will now operate them after obtaining a U.S. certification.

With support from the Ministry of Defense, Degenhart said that authorities dismantled three drug laboratories and destroyed coca leaf plantations, the latest in a town on the Caribbean coast, on September 12. The operation took place during a state of siege declared in 22 municipalities, after alleged narcotraffickers executed three service members on September 3.

The coca plantations were found in a mountainous area of El Estor municipality, Izabal department.

International cartels that smuggle drugs and launder money through Guatemala and countries of Central America, with the help of local kingpins, increase crime rates in the region.

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