May 30, 2011

Whack-a-mole drug war: Mexican Cartels Spread Violence To Central America

NPR looks at the drug war in Central America in a three-part series, beginning with Guatemala.

Mexican Cartels Spread Violence To Central America : NPR: "In the capital of the northern Guatemalan Peten region, the bus station is just a small parking lot in the city's main market. Grimy vans and small buses idle by the curb, spewing clouds of powdery, black soot. Several of the drivers have pistols strapped conspicuously to their belts, and they call out the names of Mexican border posts — destinations for migrants, food smugglers and traveling merchants.

This is the Guatemalan equivalent of the Wild West — a remote, sparsely-populated area along Mexico's southern flank.... (Here) over the last three years there's been a new, powerful criminal group offering work — the Zetas.

Earlier this month, dozens of heavily armed gunmen, allegedly from the Zetas, stormed a cattle ranch near here. They tied up the ranch staff, beat them and left 27 people dead. Most were decapitated. ...

President Alvaro Colom said international drug trafficking gangs are the biggest threat facing Guatemala and the region.

"Definitely these groups are very strong financially. They're strong in terms of violence. They're strong in how they manipulate authorities," Colom said. "We are doing what we can against them with our limited resources."

The cartels, with their tens of billions of dollars in revenue each year, have access to machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. They use airplanes, speed boats and even submarines to move cocaine from Colombia into the region. Under attack in Mexico, the Zetas have built their own airstrips in the Guatemalan jungle.

Colom said some parts of his country near the Mexican border are currently controlled by the cartels."

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