01/17/12 — On Saturday, January 14, Guatemala inaugurated President Otto Pérez Molina, whose platform centered around ruling Guatemala with an “iron fist” in order to combat high levels of violence throughout the country. According to CNN, Pérez has made good on his promise to work towards ending the violence in Guatemala, stating that he wants to “lay out for the army an important goal of collaborating, coordinating and cooperating with other security institutions, and that is to put an end to the external threats and contribute to neutralizing illegal armed groups by means of military power.”
Guatemala, a transfer point for drugs moving between Colombia and Mexico, is currently dealing with increased threats from the Mexican Zeta cartel. On the January 11, alleged Zeta cartel members placed blankets warning previous Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom of a pending debt he had with the cartel. The hand written message on the blankets warned that Zetas would not leave Guatemala until this debt had been repaid. According to European Press Agency, the message stated “We shook hands and then we were stabbed in the back, this bill is pending.” President Pérez has accused the Zeta cartel of coming to Guatemala specifically to recruit Guatemalan drug traffickers. He also claims that when the Guatemalan drug traffickers were unwilling to join forces with the Zetas, the Zetas sought to eliminate them. Guatemala is focusing on other Mexican cartel movement throughout the country, too, as it is currently investigating the movements of Sinaola leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán as evidence has suggested that he has passed through Guatemalan territory on various occasions.
Three days after Pérez took office, the Mexican Navy discovered 195 tons of chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine, which were allegedly sent from China en route to Guatemala and Nicaragua. Mexican government officials report that there has been an increase in demand for precursory chemicals used in drug production and, according to BBC, authorities have discovered 900 tons of such chemicals in the last six weeks alone, all bound for Guatemala. According to Milenio, although many of the drugs passing through Guatemala are headed to the United States, President Pérez does not envision U.S. troops stationing themselves in the country for at least the next four years, as has been the custom in other drug trafficking hubs.
In addition to his country’s security strategy, President Pérez has urged all countries in the Americas to adopt a single anti-narco policy for all countries in the region to follow. He argued that the policy adopted by the Mexican government against drug violence has not received joint support from all countries in the region and therefore has not proven to be an adequate strategy to combat the growing violence.