Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America, has a GDP per capita roughly one-half that of the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. It continues to serve as a major transit country for illegal drugs. Estimates state that nearly 90 percent of narcotics moving from South America to the United States pass through the Central American/Mexican corridor, most of which transits through Guatemala. The Government of Guatemala (GOG) continues to prioritize the fight against drug trafficking and violence. Guatemala achieved improved success in 2014 when total seizures represented a nearly 100 percent increase over 2013. Nevertheless, the GOG’s fight against narcotics trafficking is hampered by the country’s weak public institutions, pervasive corruption and lack of funding.
The country’s geographic location, crime, corruption, and limited governmental and security presence impede effective law enforcement operations and judicial processing, particularly with respect to counternarcotics efforts. In recent years, drug trafficking organizations and other transnational criminal organizations have been able to move drugs, precursor chemicals, persons, and bulk cash through Guatemala with little hindrance, especially along the vast under-governed border areas. The cultivation of opium poppies, whose derivate latex gum is principally exported to Mexico, continues and increasing amounts of marijuana are grown for domestic use.
In past years, the GOG has raised the issue of narcotics legalization in international fora, including at the OAS and UN. Notwithstanding their public call for rutas alternativas in the fight against narcotics, the Government has stated that Guatemala will not unilaterally move to legalize narcotics. Although there does not appear to be a pullback on counternarcotics activities, in January 2014 several members of the Executive cabinet and prominent civil society leaders were appointed to Guatemala's National Commission for Drug Policy Reform, a high-level commission to study alternative drug policies. Their report, published in October 2014, fell short of making recommendations that would propel the country back to the forefront in the regional push for reform, where it once stood.
Through the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), the United States continues to be a key provider of assistance aimed at improving the professional capabilities, equipment, and integrity of Guatemala’s law enforcement and justice sector agencies to enable them to more effectively combat criminal organizations involved in narcotics trafficking and other transnational crimes. The end goal of all U.S. assistance is to create effective structures and organizations sustainable by the Guatemalan government. INL programs in Guatemala seek to support the government’s efforts to reduce crime and violence; professionalize the National Civilian Police force (PNC); improve citizen security through anti-gang initiatives; increase the capacity of justice sector actors and institutions; and interdict counternarcotics.
- Guatemalan authorities are increasingly utilizing the 2010 Seized Assets Law. During 2014, the Seized Asset Secretariat disbursed more than $5.99 million to various GOG institutions, including the Courts, Public Ministry, Ministry of Government (MOG), Ministry of Defense, and Solicitor General’s Office. This marks an increase of $3.54 million from 2013, an almost 150 percent jump.
- In April of 2015 the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was extended through 2017. The mandate was created in 2007 to investigate and dismantle criminal organizations operating within state institutions. The U.S. provides funding to support CICIG’s operation.
- 2014 interdiction statistics in Guatemala report that 8.38 metric tons of cocaine, 134 kilograms of heroin, over 72.5 metric tons of marijuana, 187 metric tons of precursor chemicals and over $13 million in bulk cash were seized by Counternarcotics Police, Naval Units and other U.S.-assisted specialized units. Additionally, Guatemala surrendered 14 fugitives requested for extradition by the United States in 2014, nine of whom were wanted for prosecution on drug-related charges.
2014 saw increased implementation and operation of Model Police Precincts (MPPs). The MPP program aims to reduce violent crime through centralized monitoring and surveillance centers that encourage closer cooperation between Municipal Traffic Police (PMT) and National Civil Police (PNC). By co-locating essential police capabilities, MPPs achieve higher levels of efficiency that allow precincts to conduct community policing programs to include Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) while still dedicating resources toward anti-gang investigative units (PANDA) that have shown success at reducing gang violence.