The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.
INL programs in Guatemala aim to enhance U.S. security and prosperity through law enforcement, counternarcotics, border security, and justice sector assistance. These programs are consistent with security and governance priorities of the U.S. Strategy for Central America and the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). By improving the capacity of Guatemalan police, border security, counternarcotics units, prosecutors, judges, and corrections institutions, INL reduces the threat to the United States from crime, drug trafficking, transnational criminal organizations, and irregular migration originating from and moving through Guatemala.
Despite progress in the fight against corruption, drug trafficking, gang violence, and transnational crime, 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.
Guatemala is confronting these challenges by enhancing the capacity of the police, improving border security, reforming laws and justice sector institutions, and creating additional courts focused on organized crime. Guatemalan institutions cooperate with U.S. law enforcement agencies and, together, INL and Guatemala have expanded vetted units, increased drug and contraband seizures, and made substantial progress against crime through projects like the Model Police Precinct and New Correctional Model programs.
Counternarcotics – In 2019, Guatemalan police and military units seized record amounts of narcotics. Despite these achievements, transnational criminal organizations continue to exploit Guatemala as a key transit for illicit narcotics shipments destined for global distribution and consumption markets. To thwart this criminal activity, INL provides dedicated foreign assistance resources and training to Guatemalan Counternarcotics Police, Public Ministry, and Navy partners along with support to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) vetted sponsored units that investigate international drug trafficking organizations. Shared law enforcement intelligence contributed to the Government of Guatemala seizing over 18,000 kilograms of illicit narcotics in 2019. The INL-supported Guatemalan K-9 Unit participated in more than 39 percent of all Guatemalan drug seizures.
Dismantling Gangs and Transnational Crime – INL uses a range of programs to disrupt transnational crime and gangs in Guatemala. INL supports the joint Attorney General and Anti-Gang Police Unit (DIPANDA), which gathers and analyzes actionable intelligence to prosecute and disrupt transnational gang activity. INL also funds an FBI-mentored Transnational Anti-
Gang (TAG) Unit, which cooperates with other TAG units in the Northern Triangle countries to investigate transnational gang activity. Since its founding in 2010, TAG Guatemala has arrested hundreds of dangerous gang members, including leaders of the Guatemalan and Salvadoran branches of the Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street gangs. Beyond the TAG’s anti-gang efforts, the team has a history of successful international fugitive investigations. As of 2020, the TAG has captured 43 fugitives wanted in the United States for various crimes ranging from fraud to homicide.
Border and Port Security – INL supports one U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) advisor who provides technical expertise for Guatemala Customs, National Police, and Immigration on border security, infrastructure, and operations at ports of entry. In 2020, INL assisted the Government of Guatemala to establish two Interagency Highway Checkpoints, with the goal to develop twelve strategically located checkpoints throughout Guatemala’s roadway infrastructure to curb transnational organized crime, tax evasion, and irregular migration.
Police Assistance – INL works with the National Police (PNC), from the police precinct level to highly specialized units, to improve training, evaluation, and efficacy. INL also supports community police efforts through its Model Police Precinct (MPP) program, and through its “10+1” strategy, focused on providing support to the PNC in ten geographic areas in Guatemala with the highest rates of violent crime and gang activity. These efforts expand professionalized police presence in the most dangerous communities of Guatemala through infrastructure, communications, logistics, cameras, and specialized patrolling techniques. To strengthen institutions against corruption, INL works with the PNC Internal Affairs and Police Academy to improve transparency, accountability, curriculum, and evaluation.
Migration Reduction – In 2018, INL took the lead on a whole-of-mission, irregular migration deterrence initiative with the Guatemalan government. This effort brings together the Guatemalan government and indigenous communities from the highest outmigration regions of Guatemala to address the primary drivers of migration: insufficient economic opportunities and basic services, and citizen insecurity. INL provides assistance to improve citizen security through expansion of Guatemalan government security presence, crime prevention projects, including community policing and anti-domestic violence initiatives, and anti-trafficking initiatives.
Forensics – INL support improves the quality and use of forensic evidence in Guatemala. With INL support, Guatemala’s National Institute of Forensic Science (INACIF) received controlled access to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), an FBI DNA database containing criminal DNA samples from the United States as well as other participating countries. INL donated a DNA extraction system to INACIF to support Guatemala’s internal DNA database development. INL provides training, mentorship, and equipment to Guatemala tailored for the development of an integrated regional forensic DNA database to be shared by Northern Triangle countries.
Place Based Strategy (PBS) – INL partners with local government, community groups, and USAID to target high-risk neighborhoods with a full range of programming. This holistic approach was implemented successfully in the neighborhoods of Exodo, Villa Lobos I and II, and La Esperanza in zone 12 of the municipality of Villa Nueva, just outside of Guatemala City. INL provides police training, policing technology, equipment, advisors, construction materials, prevention programs, and School Resource Officers to these areas, while USAID contributes community leadership training and social programs. The municipality of Villa Nueva provides staffing and community programs, and the PNC committed to provide better police coverage. The PBS saw sharp drops in homicides of over 25 percent.
Justice Sector Reform – INL supports broad justice sector reform activities, focused on legal advising, asset forfeiture reform, procedural and institutional changes, and training for prosecutors and judges. INL’s legal advisors assist and train members of the Public Ministry to improve prosecutorial capacity and professionalize investigators and prosecutors. INL assists the Attorney General’s Office to dismantle criminal structures through prosecuting corruption and money laundering, and addressing impunity. INL provides assistance to strengthen the Seized Assets Prosecutors Unit to recover stolen assets and build complex cases. INL advocates for an improved prosecutorial model to reduce backlog and expand access to justice for the Guatemalan people.
Implementation of the New Correctional Model Program – INL’s correctional assistance program in Guatemala aims to shift from a punitive to a rehabilitative model, reduce recidivism, and enhance citizen security, through implementation of the internationally recognized New Correctional Model (NCM). The NCM implementation began in Guatemala’s juvenile detention system and inaugurated in 2020 a Center for Reinsertion and a Model Halfway House. Both facilities are first of their kind in the region, offering rehabilitation to prepare residents for reintegration into society. INL is working to implement the NCM in Guatemala’s adult detention system.