Guatemala Overwhelmed by Seizures of Drug Chemicals

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In an indication that Guatemala lacks the resources to deal with the tide of drug precursor chemicals entering the country, the US Embassy has warned its citizens not to travel to certain areas of Guatemala City due to the improper storage of chemicals seized by the authorities.

According to Spanish news agency EFE, the embassy advised US citizens to refrain from going to Zone 6 in Guatemala City. Some 8,800 barrels of precursor chemicals, used to make synthetic drugs and all confiscated in the past month by Guatemalan authorities, are being kept by the Anti-Narcotics Analysis and Information Division (DAIA).

While the embassy assured citizens that the Guatemalan government is taking the necessary steps to mitigate any public safety issues, this appears to run counter to a report in La Prensa Libre suggesting that a school in Zone 6 has long requested the removal of these substances due to the threat posed to its students.

Agents at the DAIA have reported that working with these substances has affected their health.

InSight Crime Analysis

The sharp rise in the confiscation of precursor chemicals in Guatemala comes as Mexican cartels have started to diversify into synthetic drugs — methamphetamine, LSD, ecstasy — and push production outside of their own country. It is believed that Mexico’s largest trafficking organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, may even now be producing as much methamphetamine in Guatemala, if not more, than they do in Mexico.

In some ways, Guatemala is suffering the consequences of its success in intercepting these chemicals. In 2011, Guatemalan authorities seized 1,600 tons of precursor chemicals, marking a 400 percent increase on the previous year. In October, in the Guatemalan port of Quetzal, the authorities ran out of space to store thousands of tons of precursor chemicals that they had seized.

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