Guatemala has quietly become the transshipment point for more than 75 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the U.S., the Boston Globe reports. Loosely patrolled borders, two coastlines, corruption, and lax enforcement have long made Guatemala a favored transit point for contraband. With U.S. resources channeled toward battling drugs in Colombia and terrorism in the Middle East, organized crime has made even more dramatic inroads in the past several years.
In the first half of this year, traffickers moved 90 percent of U.S.-bound cocaine through Central America, much of it through Guatemala, a top U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official told Congress this month. As Mexico has stepped up antidrug patrols and interdiction, traffickers are increasingly looking to Guatemala as a dropoff point. Senior Guatemalan officials said they would ask for stepped-up US military cooperation and a permanent DEA base in the dense jungle bordering Mexico. Their remarks followed the arrest this month near Washington, D.C., of Guatemala’s top three antidrug investigators on charges of narcotics trafficking. As U.S. Coast Guard and Navy boats stepped up patrols along the coast in the past year, traffickers have begun to use small planes to drop cocaine packets along coastlines and pay fishermen to pick them up and hand them off to the trafficking networks onshore.