Jorge Carrasco Araizaga
September 18, 2012
Two hundred U.S. troops, backed by helicopter gunships and heavy weaponry, operating in Guatemala, just over the border with Mexico. Their goal: fight the Sinaloa cartel and Los Zetas, organizations who settled in Central. Officially it is a joint operation between the armies of the United States and Guatemala, called Hammer. However it is the Southern Command of the U.S. Navy who directs the actions, while his soldiers have privileges and immunity in cases of destruction of property and deaths of civilians.
MEXICO CITY (Process). – Enrique Peña Nieto started his government in December with the militarized southern border. United States and Guatemala decided to deploy troops from the two countries on the southern border of Mexico to face the Sinaloa cartel and Los Zetas in the Central American country.
Since mid-August, the U.S. Southern Command in Guatemala walked Operation Hammer against drug trafficking, while the government of that country installed new military bases on the border with Mexico.
Last January, the United States intensified its strategy against organized crime in Central America. Began in Honduras and almost a month ago, in a war zone, about 200 marines deployed supported by helicopter gunships to directly pursue criminal organizations in Guatemala dominated by Joaquin El Chapo Guzman and Los Zetas.
The regional command center for Operation Hammer in Guatemala is located in the Department of Retalhuleu, on the Pacific coast, compared to Tapachula, Chiapas, although the plan also includes the Caribbean Sea and the Department of San Marcos, bordering Chiapas.
From Retalhuleu, the U.S. Southern Command (Southcom) controls the operations of the 171 Marines who will be featured for four months south of the Mexican border, although they could stay longer.
The militarization of the border between Guatemala and Mexico is one of the themes of the meeting of Peña Nieto with President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, scheduled for Monday 17, PRI’s first trip as president-elect.
The U.S. military landed in Guatemala last August 12 with four military helicopters UH-1N Huey, equipped with heavy weapons and the ability to transport troops and missiles. They operate along with 250 troops from the forces of land, sea and air from Guatemala.
They were also deployed Navy ships and U.S. Coast Guard, federal agencies and aircraft security units.
The joint commands also operate on a basis of Parachute, on the Pacific coast, and one in the Central Air Command of Guatemalan territory, where they can react in the prosecution of traffickers.
One of the goals of the Southern Command in the Central American coasts are using semi-submersibles to send drug traffickers to the United States via Mexico.
Earnest Sergeant Barnes, spokesman for Marine Corps Southern Command in Miami, said last August the importance of U.S. military action in Central America: “This is the first deployment of Marines that directly support the fight against transnational crime in this area, and is the biggest maneuver of its kind that we have undertaken in the region in a long time. ”
Although the Marines were deployed in Guatemala since mid-August, the government officially Perez Molina presence of U.S. troops on its territory on the 20th of that month, when the Official Journal reported that the operation in that country last 120 days.
In that publication, the Guatemalan government said that it is not the passage of a foreign army on its territory, but a Compact of Free Military Aircraft Traffic between the U.S. government and Guatemala.
With that argument, skipped the permit must give the Guatemalan Congress for the passage of foreign troops. The agreement granted privileges, exemptions and immunities to U.S. military and civilian during his stay in Guatemala.
For example, the Americans will move with their own permits and licenses without paying for transit toll free or rights of any kind, free use radio spectrum in Guatemala, imported and exported all they want about their activities and contracts awarded without accountability to host country. Guatemala also waive any claims for loss, damage, destruction of property and injury or death of civilian or military personnel.
The operation in Guatemala was launched by Southern Command General Douglas Fraser, the Army air base south of the country, with the endorsement of President Otto Perez Molina, a retired general who took office last January under the principle “iron fist” against crime.
In 1993, Perez Molina, then head of Army Intelligence in his country, was responsible for the apprehension of Chapo Guzman when the plane in which he was traveling crashed Sinaloa drug trafficker in Guatemala.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Southern Command introduced Operation Hammer as a multinational effort against drug trafficking and organized crime in the Central American coast, in the Pacific and the Atlantic.
Along with the seven countries of Central America and Colombia, France, Spain, Netherlands and the UK, as well as Canada, appear as participants, but in practice it is the U.S. that directs it. In addition to Marines, including combat engineers and communications equipment, there are members of the Coast Guard and other U.S. agencies.
According to the Southern Command, the mission of Operation Hammer is to monitor the coast of Central America to detect and intercept drug traffickers routes used to smuggle drugs, weapons, money and people, so it has no end date for operation in the area.
Technically, the Marines only use their weapons against drug traffickers and defense should help local authorities to quickly stop the criminals.
The plan referred began in the Gulf of Honduras and continued there for four months. In that country there is also a strong presence of Mexican drug cartels. The deployment of U.S. troops in Guatemala is the second phase of the action in Central Southern Command.
Last July, General John Kelly, commander of SOUTHCOM, testified before the Armed Services Committee U.S. Senate that one of his tasks as commander was the war on drugs.
According to the trade publication U.S. Marine Corps Times, Marines landed in Guatemala on August 12 in response to a request from that country to fight organized crime groups, which have caused beyond the major wave of violence since the civil war in the last third of the last century.
The government and local media attributed the violence to the presence of Mexican drug cartels, particularly since it came a few years ago to dispute Los Zetas control to Chapo Guzman. After escaping in 2001 from the maximum security prison in Puente Grande, Jalisco, Sinaloa kingpin used Guatemala as one of their hideouts. (Process 1805).
Southcom figures show that since the start of Operation Hammer have seized 78 tons of cocaine and nearly six thousand kilos of marijuana, three and a half million dollars in cash and assets including 56 submarines, speedboats, planes and other vehicles.
Besides the U.S. military deployment, Perez Molina announced in early September, the installation of three military bases in the departments of San Marcos, west, Petén, north, on the border with Mexico, and Izabal, northeast, in the Caribbean.
In these facilities will also agents of the National Civil Police, Immigration and Finance to control drug trafficking, smuggling and human trafficking, said the president, who has announced the installation of at least nine military bases across the country.
At the base of the Petén was installed Special Operations Brigade Selva, whose main task will be to combat drug traffickers in the area, dominated by Los Zetas. The unit will have a command of kaibiles, Guatemalan army special forces. Of this elite group, which has been accused of massacres and other serious human rights violations, have dropped some elements to work in the service of Mexican drug traffickers.
On the border with Mexico, the territory that lies between the departments of Quetzaltenango, San Marcos, Huehuetenango and Quiché is considered part of the “no man’s land”, there is no monitoring and disputed area of drug traffickers.
In May 2011, Los Zetas were blamed for having massacred 27 peasants in El Petén, in its most violent action since settled in Guatemala five years ago, in partnership with local drug dealers in the area and moving to the Sinaloa Cartel.
Its principal place of business is the city of Coban, 205 miles north of Guatemala City, but also located in the departments of Baja Verapaz, Alta Verapaz and Petén.
According to an investigation by this weekly last year (Proceso 1805), the first record of the Zetas in the country was made in 2007, when he was still armed wing of the Gulf Cartel. Its members were called by local drug dealers working for the organization for the purpose of perpetrating accounting adjustments.
According to the civil and military intelligence Guatemala, the head of Los Zetas, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, has operated directly in that country, as well as El Chapo Guzman, who even has it as a hideout.
Only in the first half of last year, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel had been placed by both the Guatemalan government and the DEA five or six times in Guatemala, on the border with Mexico and on the border with Honduras, guarded by military Central. Even has taken refuge in the very capital of Guatemala.
Early last year, he was placed in Majadas residential complex, located in one of the most exclusive, north of the city, adjacent to Tikal Futura Hotel.
On July 9, 2001, at the exit of the hotel was executed Argentine singer Facundo Cabral and author, who was traveling in a vehicle with the Nicaraguan businessman Henry Fariña, accused of working for the Sinaloa Cartel.
The organization controlled by El Chapo is present in the neighboring country since the nineties, on the Pacific coast, where he has established links with local drug traffickers to smuggle drugs from Colombia. Also contacted drug Guatemalan families on the border with El Salvador.
Operation Hammer in Central coincides with the Pentagon plan proposed by the United States to Mexico to organize U.S. military in Mexico Chapo arrest, in an action similar to that carried out by special forces of the country to arrest and execute the head of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden (Process 1867).