Guatemala Seizes $6Mn Shipment of Meth Precursor Chemicals

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Guatemalan authorities have seized a shipment of over 80,000 liters of methamphetamine precursor chemicals which the authorities said came from China and was heading for Honduras.

The shipment of 320 barrels of monomethylamine (pictured), used to make synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine, was confiscated in the Guatemalan city of Puerto Barrios, on the country’s Caribbean coast. Authorities said the shipment arrived from Shanghai in four containers and was due to be sent to Honduras, reports La Prensa Libre.

Guatemalan counternarcotics officials valued the seizure at $6.06 million.

Monomethylamine is illegal in Guatemala, though there are currently no restrictions on the marketing, storage or import of this chemical in Honduras, noted an investigator for Guatemala’s counternarcotics police (DAIA).

InSight Crime Analysis

The fact that the chemicals were reportedly heading for Honduras points to the threat that synthetic drug manufacturing could be on the rise in that country. Mexican drug trafficking groups have historically supplied the majority of the meth imported into the US, and in recent years shifted much of their production south into Guatemala, driven by tighter Mexican restrictions on precursors. The Sinaloa Cartel is thought to be one of the main groups involved in the meth trade in the Central American country.

There are indications that meth production is also increasing in Honduras. In 2008, authorities discovered a major drug processing lab used to manufacture methamphetamine and ecstasy, which had been disguised as a funeral parlor.

Last year, after the first major cocaine production facility was discovered in the country, Honduras’ then-Security Minister Oscar Alvarez warned the country was turning into a drug processing center, citing its weak controls over precursor chemicals.

Guatemala’s seizures of these chemicals have risen sharply in recent two years. In 2011, authorities seized 1,600 tons of precursor chemicals, a 400 percent increase on the previous year. This success is causing problems with storage. In January, the US Embassy in Guatemala City advised citizens against visiting Zone 6 of the capital, due to some 8,800 barrels of precursor chemicals that were inadequately stored.

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