Guatemala Seizure Sparks Concern Over Cocaine Processing

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Officials in Guatemala claimed that a seizure of a large shipment of cocaine paste is evidence that the Central American country is increasingly becoming a cocaine processing hub.

On August 13, authorities in Guatemala’s largest Pacific Ocean port discovered 80 barrels of cocaine paste in a shipping container. The container was registered to a company from Guatemala City and was supposed to contain varnish, Prensa Libre reported.

Guatemalan authorities have framed the seizure as a turning point in Guatemala’s drug trade. Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla told reporters that the discovery indicates that Guatemala is now being used to process cocaine paste, not just as a transit point for drug shipments. He noted that multiple clandestine drug laboratories have been found inside the country.

InSight Crime Analysis

While there is evidence to suggest that the Sinaloa Cartel may be shifting methamphetamine production to Guatemala, there have been few reported discoveries of cocaine laboratories here. The Central American country is better known as a transit point for cocaine trafficking. Lopez Bonilla’s mention of processing labs most likely referring to a number of methamphetamine labs that have been discovered in recent years.

While the cocaine paste shipment might not necessarily be an indicator of cocaine processing in Guatemala, there are some signs of cocaine processing in its southern neighbor, Honduras. In March 2011, Honduran officials claimed to have discovered a cocaine hydrochloride lab in the country, which like Guatemala, is generally considered a transit point for drug shipments.

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