Guatemala has increased security in seven provinces to prepare for violent spillover from the rift in the Zetas gang, though it remains to be seen if conflict between rival factions will spread further south than the group’s strongholds in Mexico.
Julio Rivera Claveria, Guatemalan vice minister of security, told La Prensa Libre, “There are specific plans in place for the possibility that there will be clashes between [Zetas factions] in [Guatemala], although I believe that this will be contained in Mexico.”
Claveria would not say where the government had focused its security measures, though Prensa Libre noted that the Zetas have been responsible for violence in the provinces of Zacapa, Peten, Alta Verapaz, El Progreso, Chiquimula, and Huehuetenango.
Reports of a split between the Zetas’ two main leaders — Heriberto Lazcano, alias “Z-3,” and Miguel Angel Treviño, alias “Z-40,” — first emerged at the end of July. According to Prensa Libre, the split was behind some 90 killings in Mexico in August.
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The Zetas have long presented the Guatemalan government with problems, dating back to their arrival in the country in 2007. Their presence came to international attention last year when the group massacred 27 farm laborers in the northern province of Peten. In March this year, banners were hung in the province, signed in the name of the Zetas, which openly challenged the government, threatening attacks against civilians if the authorities continued to pursue them.
The Zetas split is likely to have the greatest ramifications in their powerbase in northeast Mexico. It remains to be seen how deep the fracture goes, and what impact it will have on their operations in Guatemala.
One possible outcome of the split is that the Zetas will withdraw to some extent from Guatemala, bringing back men to fight rival groups and keep hold of their Mexican territory. This in turn could increase the threat in Guatemala, throwing the country’s criminal world into a state of uncertainty.