Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mexican drug gangs move to Guatemala

AMATITLAN, Guatemala, June 4 (UPI) -- Mexican drug gangs are moving operations to Guatemala, where weak law enforcement and deep-rooted corruption provide fertile ground, officials and analysts say.

Since early 2008, organized Mexican drug gangs, including a criminal mercenary army known as Los Zetas, the armed wing of Mexico's so-called Gulf Cartel, have moved into Guatemala's northern and eastern provinces, the Los Angeles Times reports.

They're ramping up to escape Mexican President Felipe Calderon's 2 1/2 -year offensive against narcotics traffickers, which is hurting the cartel's international drug shipments, the Times says.

"They're looking for new areas," said a U.S. official who spoke with the Times on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to comment on the matter. "They need a place where they can operate with impunity."

More than 6,000 people were killed in Guatemala in 2008, with most killings linked to the drug trade, police say.

The spreading influence of Mexican traffickers has Guatemalan authorities on edge and is stirring concern in Washington that powerful drug gangs could imperil fragile Guatemala and its weak neighbor, Honduras, the Times says.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says the Zetas may be the region's "most technologically advanced, sophisticated and violent" paramilitary enforcement group.


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