Guatemala massacre points to influence of Mexican drug gang
Guatemala has declared a state of emergency after the murder of 27 people in the northern part of the country. The Zetas of Mexico are accused of the worst massacre since the end of the country's civil war.
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Like Guatemala, where the Zetas have recruited from the army's special forces unit, the Kaibiles, the Mexican group has also reportedly attempted to recruit members of the security forces in El Salvador, according to officials. In July 2010, a former Salvadorean police officer was killed in a shootout with the Mexican army in Nuevo Leon, one of nine police agents who may have found work with the Zetas in Mexico, reports El Salvadorean paper El Diario de Hoy.Skip to next paragraph
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In Honduras, the Zetas are based in the departments of Olancho and Cortes, managing air and sea routes for the trafficking of cocaine. Here, there is also evidence of the Zetas using local gangs as hired guns: in February 2010, Honduran intelligence officials said they intercepted a note in which Barrio 18 discussed receiving payment from the Zetas, in exchange for killing the security minister. The Mexican gang has also been able to establish control over human smuggling and arms trafficking routes in the country, according to one report.
Elsewhere in Central America, there is little evidence of the Zetas wielding the same kind of power and influence as they do in the Northern Triangle. In Costa Rica, where the murder rate has doubled since 2000, reaching 11 homicides per 100,000 residents last year, the increased violenced is blamed on drug trafficking. But while the Sinaloa Cartel is known to have a powerful presence here, the Zetas are not yet believed to have arrived. Similarly, in Nicaragua, the Zetas are not thought to maintain personnel inside the country.
--- Elyssa Pachico is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of her articles here.