Guatemala: cable claims Zetas are taking over the north

Some 100 members of Los Zetas, a Mexican drug gang, had settled in the north central Guatemalan city of Cobán, capital of Alta Verapaz department, by early 2009 and were enjoying protection from “corrupt” police who were reportedly “allied with traffickers,” according to a Feb. 6, 2009 confidential diplomatic cable by US ambassador Stephen McFarland. The cable was one of about 3,000 US diplomatic cables from the WikiLeaks organization that were given to the Mexican daily La Jornada because they dealt with issues relating to Mexico. The Los Zetas gang grew out of a group of Mexican Special Forces soldiers, some of them reportedly trained in counterinsurgency by the US military.

The report was based on an investigation in Cobán by two US officials, who found that “some judges and prosecutors are too frightened to do their jobs properly; others are in league with the traffickers.” The police “sometimes even provide…escort” to the traffickers, the investigators said. One source told an investigator that “immigration authorities are helping the Zetas obtain Guatemalan passports and other documents to normalize their status in the country. The Zetas also are believed to operate a training camp in the area.” Another source “said Zetas freely use the airport, even during daylight hours.”

McFarland concluded the cable with a warning that the Guatemalan government had already lost control in six of the country’s 22 departments: “Zacapa and Izabal fepartments, as well as parts of Jutiapa, Chiquimula, San Marcos, and Petén departments.” “Without outside intervention, Cobán will join the growing list of areas lost to narcotraffickers,” McFarland wrote, without specifying what he meant by “outside intervention.” (LJ, Feb. 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 13.

See our last posts on Guatemala, and Mexico and the WikiLeaks revelations.