Zetas or Sinaloa?

Insight Crime has an article specifically about the drug routes of the Zetas and Sinaloa cartel through Guatemala. It offers some interesting thinking material on the whole trafficing business in Central America.

The map in the article shows all three drug routes exiting Guatemala for Mexico. No surprise there. What probably should not be a surprise but at least I had never thought about is that the drugs enter Guatemala from three countries: Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. As Nicaragua shares a border with Honduras and only a short trip across the Gulf of Fonseca from Nicaragua, it raises the question about how much of the traffic is by sea or air vs. crossing Nicaraguan land.

As set out by an 2011 InSight Crime investigation, the Zetas have been operating in Guatemala since 2007, seeking the huge profits available from controlling drug trafficking routes through the Central American nation, and fleeing a crackdown by Mexican authorities.

Since then the group has turned Guatemala into one of its primary areas of operation, using its characteristic aggressive expansionist tactics, and employing brutal measures to gain control over territory.

This information shows Guatemala as a victim in the pipeline from South America to the US. Shortly after taking office a year ago, Guatemalan President Perez called for legalization of drugs in Guatemala to get Guatemala out of this war. Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla supported this idea of legalizing drugs in Central America, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega did not.

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Big Sentences for Mexicans

30 years in prison on each of 18 Mexicans that posed as journalists from Televisa.

Oh, and they lost the $ 9.2 million they had on them that was on its way to Costa Rica.

Even though they got more than 30 years in consecutive sentnces for varios drug offences, 30 is the maximum sentence that the the Constitution of Nicaragua allows.

And world press

Nicaragua seldom scores in mainstream world press unless it is describing it in a less than positive light. I am pleased to see this story made the BBC and The Washington Post.


In the abstract, moving production of any drug further from the U.S. and beyond a country already posing a serious obstacle is a bad idea as it introduces a border and increases the length of the drug route. The assumption, often, is that production moves outward (in this case, to Guatemala and Honduras) because there is less policing in the perimeter countries. While likely true there is less or less effective policing, that isn't really why they relocated from Mexico. The main reason they left Mexico was that Mexico first severely restricted medicines that contain ephedrine/pseudoephedrine, then later implemented a near ban on the importation of the precursor chemicals themselves and related products, as well as closed down illicit importers who had assisted in bringing in nearly 100 tons of the required chems. Thus, non-police work/changes were really the core impetus; the Mexican gangs needed to resort to 1970's technology, generating an inferior product in vast tubs via P2P (phynyl/2/propane). They moved to Guatemala for precursor chemical access, to avoid using the P2P process. Some drugs need not cross Nicaragua to get to Mexico and the U.s. – yet are still part of the same drug end-route.

Difficult situation

Ortega probably would prefer not to have the US decide to make an example of him should he displease them on this issue.

http://nicaragua.usembassy.gov/rpt_2011_incsr.html is interesting in this regard.

Most of the trafficking seems to be through RAAN and RAAS, and I understand that there's some sense that the people in RAAN and RAAS would prefer to have Spanish side of Nicaragua stay out of their affairs, and that the drug money has been welcome there even if it's a dangerous business to be in. Lots of anecdotes on the Other Site from people who live there.

Rebecca Brown


With Prince Barack in office the US is yesterday`s news. Ortega`s fear of the cartels is that he doesn`t want competition and cannot pay his people to cartel standards!

"Anything that is complex is not useful and anything that is useful is simple. This has been my whole life's motto."

Mikhail Kalashnikov, Russian inventor


We know about George HW Bush's "business" run out of Illopongo Air Base in El Salvador in the 1980s and tied to his/Reagan's "freedom fighters" but I have never seen anything about Ortega's drug business. Sources please.