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U.S. Department of State

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1998
Released by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs,
U.S.Department of State 
Washington, DC, February 1999


I. Summary

Guatemala is a significant transit country for cocaine from South
America to Mexico and onward to the United States. Guatemala also
cultivated small amounts of opium poppy and marijuana for domestic
consumption. Diversion of precursor chemicals is also a problem.

The Government of Guatemala (GOG) is actively working to strengthen its
drug enforcement capability. In 1998, the GOG raised police pay and
provided extensive training, equipment and infrastructure for the
Department of Anti-narcotics Operations (DOAN), a division of the newly
formed National Civilian Police (PNC). The Ministry of Government (MOG),
the Public Ministry (MP), and the judiciary worked to integrate
computerized systems to track cases and enhance information sharing
within the GOG and with counterpart Central American institutions. The
GOG fully supported interdiction and eradication operations, including
the use of aerial spraying against the marijuana and opium poppy crops.
At the same time, the executive secretariat for the Commission Against
Addictions and Illicit Drug Trafficking (SECCATID) aggressively pursued
a demand reduction program for Guatemala, and completed the first
comprehensive survey of domestic drug use.

II. Status of Country

Guatemala is a significant transit country for cocaine from South
America to Mexico and onward to the United States. It is estimated that
approximately 200 to 300 metric tons of cocaine transit Guatemala
annually. In the past three years, Guatemalan law enforcement agencies
have intercepted/seized over 17 metric tons of cocaine.

The United States worked to strengthen Guatemala's enforcement
capability by providing training, equipment and infrastructure for the
Civilian National Police (PNC), the Department of Anti-narcotics
Operations (DOAN), and narcotics prosecutors. U.S. programs in Guatemala
focused on strengthening the investigative and enforcement capabilities
of the DOAN, a branch of the PNC formed in 1998. The DOAN is supported
with operational funding, and technical and logistical support for
infrastructure projects. The U.S. has also worked to restore some form
of air interdiction capability through the implementation of the USG
Central Skies Initiative.

Guatemala was a significant producer of opium poppy in the late 80's and
early 90's, but steady aerial eradication operations during 1990-1996
significantly reduced the poppy crop. Recent aerial reconnaissance by
INL airplanes confirmed there are only negligible amounts of opium poppy
and marijuana cultivation in the country.

Diversion of precursor chemicals is also a problem. A recent study
revealed that over $900 million in illegal drugs could have been
produced from the uncontrolled excess chemical imports.

USG agencies assisted the Ministry of Government, the Public Ministry
and the Judiciary in developing integrated computerized systems to track
criminal and narcotics trafficking cases and enhance information sharing
within the GOG and with counterpart Central American institutions. State
DOJ and AID supported programs to develop a responsive judicial system
to prosecute and try narcotics crimes. There was also progress in the
successful prosecution of narcotics related crimes. Over 90 percent of
those accused of narcotics trafficking were convicted, with some
receiving sentences of up to twenty years.

The USG worked with the GOG to confront a growing substance abuse
problem. As part of its master plan, Guatemala's Drug Coordinator, the
Executive Secretariat to the Commission Against the Addiction and
Illicit Trafficking of Drugs (SECCATID), conducted detailed surveys of
estimated drug abuse, including alcohol. The studies confirmed that drug
use rose in most age groups, with cocaine use increasing rapidly. Some
of this increase can be attributed to drug traffickers paying their
Guatemalan colleagues with cocaine for transportation and protection
services, and some of that cocaine is sold on the local market. This,
coupled with a growing crack cocaine problem, portends a devastating
Guatemalan consumption problem with a concomitant destabilizing increase
in common crime.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Accomplishments. In 1998 the GOG implemented the SECCATID master plan
and national strategy, which includes both demand and supply reduction
objectives to be accomplished by the ministries concerned. The GOG
provided additional resources to its counternarcotics agencies and
increased drug awareness programs to help stem an increasingly troubling
drug consumption problem.

In 1998, PNC and DOAN agents seized over 9.20 metric tons of cocaine.
The 1998 seizures included the interception of the largest seizure ever
made by Guatemalan authorities. 2 metric tons. Over four kilos of heroin
and 6 kilos of crack cocaine were also seized.

The GOG also took major steps in passing a new asset seizure law and
implementing recently passed legislation dealing with precursor

Illicit Cultivation. Guatemala has systematically reduced the opium
poppy crop from a high of over 2500 hectares in 1991 to less than 10
hectares in 1998. Typical opium poppies fields today measure less than
one fifth of a hectare and are located in very steep and narrow mountain
ravines, at elevations up to 10,000 feet. An INL Regional Air
Reconnaissance and Eradication (RARE) deployment in September conducted
a thorough survey for illicit crops. A total of 15 small poppy fields
were located in the western highlands in the traditional growing areas.
12 small fields were sprayed and the rest (3) were manually eradicated.

Cannabis production is centered in the large Peten region of northern
Guatemala, bordering on Belize and Mexico. It is estimated that 130
hectares are under cultivation. The RARE deployment found only three
marijuana fields, all of which were manually eradicated by the DOAN.

Production. The GOG does not, as a matter of government policy,
encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic
or psychotropic drugs or controlled substances.

Distribution. The GOG fully cooperates with all U.S. law enforcement
agencies. This year, large loads of cocaine were seized through
investigation of vehicular and maritime smuggling routes. In October,
DOAN agents, acting on DEA-developed intelligence, seized a Colombian
registered aircraft and 450 kilos of cocaine. Later that month, DOAN
agents made a second, and even more significant seizure of 2 metric tons
of cocaine hidden in a concealed compartment of a shipping container.
This is the largest seizure in Guatemalan history.

Sale, Transport, and Financing. With the advent of the Pan American
highway as a major conduit of illegal drugs, and the lack of air assets,
the GOG has been stretched thin in its efforts to attack cocaine
transportation networks. Nevertheless, the GOG coordinated closely with
U.S. law enforcement agencies (primarily DEA and U.S. Customs) and with
its regional partners in Central America to disrupt and interdict
shipments. In May, JIATF-East reported an aircraft dropping numerous
bales into a lagoon located about 125 kilometers southwest of Guatemala
City. Though the DOAN was unable to reach the drop site, they set up a
vehicle checkpoint at access roads to the lagoon and later seized 210
kilos of cocaine. The JIATF-East alert, supported by DEA and the Joint
Planning and Assistance Team (JPAT), provided the DOAN sufficient
reaction time to effect this seizure. In another case, an alert DOAN
officer at the Port of Santo Tomas de Castilla utilized the targeting
techniques taught by the U.S customs advisor and became suspicious when
he noticed an older model vehicle being shipped from Guatemala to Russia
via Finland. He ordered an inspection and found 37 kilos of cocaine
hidden in the gas tank.

The military also played an important role in drug interdiction. In May,
a combined DOAN/Navy patrol discovered a beached go-fast vessel. After
questioning suspects, the patrol seized a fishing vessel with 140 kilos
of cocaine and an additional 525 kilos of cocaine in a cache on the
beach. A U.S. Coast Guard team trained the DOAN and Navy amphibious
units in vessel boarding and search techniques in late March. While the
course was being given, the DOAN seized over 1000 kilos of cocaine that
had been delivered to Guatemala's Pacific coast.

Asset Seizures. On September 29, 1998, the Guatemalan congress approved
law number 62-98, the Anti-narcotics Law Reform Act, and passed it to
the President for final signature. The new law authorizes the PNC to use
seized assets such as vehicles, vessels, weapons, and aircraft for law
enforcement purposes. The use of seized assets is conditional on factors
of the case and ruling by the judge pending trial. Guatemalan
authorities have acknowledged that even where they have been successful
in seizing drug-related money, they have been forced to return the funds
due to inadequate laws.

Extradition. The GOG recently authorized the extradition of Rene
Moscoso, the first fugitive to be extradited to the U.S. since 1995.
Arrest warrants in an overwhelming percentage of cases are not executed,
in part due to police inability to pursue fugitives in difficult to
reach outlying areas as well as incomplete location information. At
present, all but one of the fugitives we have requested to be extradited
remain at large. Despite the relative lack of success with formal
extradition, the GOG has in the past agreed to expel or deport
non-nationals on the basis of violating Guatemalan immigration law.

Law Enforcement and Transit Cooperation. The GOG works closely with USG
organizations to stem the flow of drugs through Guatemala. Both the DEA
and the U.S. Customs Service receive strong support from their GOG
counterparts. A full-time U.S. Customs Inspector is now assigned to the
Port Security Program and a State Department-sponsored police officer
has worked extensively with the new stolen vehicle unit. The recent
return of the La Aurora International airport to civilian control has
resulted in a substantial increase in cooperation among airport
officials, the GOG, and U.S. narcotics personnel.

Precursor Chemical Control. On April 22, the DOAN arrested three
Guatemalans and seized 115 pounds of ephedrine in a sting operation.
This was the GOG's first ephedrine case. Between 1993 and 1995, over 12
metric tons of ephedrine were imported into Guatemala, with more than 4
metric tons considered excess to legitimate needs. DEA has played a
major role in training and advising the new unit. The DOAN has
established a chemical control unit, which recently took action against
a Guatemalan firm attempting to import large quantities of
pseudoephedrine. In 1998, Guatemala passed a law authorizing the
Guatemalan Ministry of health to regulate precursor chemicals.

Demand Reduction. In 1998, SECCATID implemented a comprehensive
Anti-Drug Master Plan. Key to the plan was completion of a definitive
study of drug use in Guatemala. The results indicate an alarming growth
of cocaine use among teens and young adults. This year SECCATID trained
upwards of 800 educators, developed drug educational materials,
including a textbook for use in schools, and began an aggressive public
relations campaign. The GOG is firmly opposed to the legalization of
drugs and continues to increase support for drug education programs.

Law Enforcement Efforts. ICITAP and NAS are working with the GOG in a
major effort to modernize the National Civilian Police (PNC). This year
efforts centered on implementing new software to modernize case tracking
and police reporting and to update the DOAN intelligence functions. The
GOG has also signed preliminary agreements to expand the port security
program. This program has succeeded in uncovering at least one major
smuggling ring, and interdicting over 8 metric tons of cocaine in 1998.

The GOG has also expanded support for the Narcotics Prosecutors Unit of
the Attorney General's office, opening a new office in Quetzaltenango.
This office, with the help of a NAS funded legal advisor, was
responsible for over 110 successful prosecutions this year.

Agreements and Treaties. Guatemala is a party to the 1961 UN Single
Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on
Psychotropic Substances, as well as the 1988 UN Drug Convention. While
most law enforcement efforts by the GOG have been fully consistent with
the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention, some aspects of
the convention have not been codified into law and regulations,
including the provisions on extradition and money laundering.
Extradition between the U.S. and Guatemala is governed by the 1903
extradition treaty and 1940 supplementary convention.

In 1998, Guatemala began a comprehensive stolen vehicle program under
the leadership of a Houston Police Department stolen vehicle expert, as
a follow-on to the stolen vehicle treaty with the U.S. The newly formed
unit seized hundreds of vehicles, arrested 89 car thieves, and arranged
access to the Border Auto Theft Information Center (BATIC) to provide
timely responses for requests for vehicle identification numbers. In
addition, the Attorney General's office has agreed to appoint a special
prosecutor for car theft cases as part of a planned organized crime

Corruption. Though increased salaries for and modernization of the PNC
has somewhat reduced police corruption, corruption continues to be a
problem in Guatemala, especially among the judiciary, the police force,
Customs and Immigration. A positive change in 1998 was the removal of
military officers thought to be involved in corruption and smuggling at
the international airport. This was the culmination of months of effort
by the Embassy. This progress was mitigated by the dismissal of the
pro-active immigration director and the rehiring of several immigration
officers previously fired for corruption.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives

In 1998 the GOG, with DOJ and State assistance, continued to make
significant progress in the development of criminal investigative
capabilities, the new PNC academy, and the structural and organizational
development of the PNC itself. In 1998 the GOG trained and recruited
over 2150 new police agents.

In July 1998, the U.S. and the Government of Guatemala signed letters of
agreement (LOA) on counter-narcotics cooperation. In these agreements,
the GOG committed itself to increase funding and staffing for public
security functions, including narcotics control, and to continue with
critical institutional reforms. While most objectives of the LOA were
met, the GOG did not meet its commitment to raise DOAN staffing to 600
in 1998 because of critical manpower requirements for the fight against
more generalized crime. The GOG has promised to meet this objective in
calendar year 1999 through special training and recruitment programs.

Progress continued in narcotics-related prosecutions, along with the
addition of a new unit in Quetzaltenango. The implementation of the
MIATEC computerized case management program, developed with DOJ and
State assistance, should help to expedite clearing the case backlog and
better manage prosecutions.

Early this year, the United States and Guatemala initiated discussions
on a maritime counter-drug agreement. The program met with resistance
from the Guatemalan government and the opposition political parties on
traditional sovereignty grounds. However, the GOG cooperates on an ad
hoc basis and was willing to grant the same rights in the maritime
agreement informally during pre-deployment "Central Skies"
exercises. No progress is expected on this until after 1999 Presidential
and Congressional elections.

In 1998 a total of 24 Guatemalan officials attended two core programs
and two advanced drug and financial crimes investigations courses at the
International law enforcement Academy (ILEA) south in Panama and Costa
Rica. Three Guatemalan officials participated in an OAS-funded Regional
Port Security Seminar in Panama during September 1998. In addition, two
Customs officers traveled to Guatemala in November 1998 to conduct a
Post-funded Intelligence collection and analysis course for Central
American narcotics police officers.

The Road Ahead. Major cocaine transshipment through Guatemala is
expected to continue or increase for the foreseeable future. Air
transshipment of cocaine will become an increasingly serious problem
because of the lack of GOG air interdiction capabilities. Embassy
efforts will continue to focus on developing an effective air
interdiction program, developing a more professional Anti-narcotics
police (DOAN) and an effective intelligence capability, combined with
continued training and support for the narcotics prosecutors and members
of the judicial system. The GOG anti-narcotics forces, assisted by the
U.S., will continue to develop qualitatively and quantitatively, with
more effective investigative and law enforcement units to control
transshipment, expanded case management and tracking, increased data
collection and analysis capability, and greater regional cooperation.

Diversion of precursor chemicals will be targeted as the new legislation
and subsequent regulations are implemented. Specific legislation is
needed to address money laundering before it becomes a threat to the
stability of Guatemala's fragile financial sector. While SECCATID has
drafted such legislation, little progress has been made to date, and the
prognosis for passage in 1999 is unknown.

Some opium poppy cultivation will continue in the remote highlands and
may increase due to the absence of regular aerial reconnaissance and
only occasional aerial eradication. The continued ground operations by
the DOAN eradication unit will gain in importance, though this
capability must be augmented by an intensive public information campaign
and some form of aerial reconnaissance. Marijuana cultivation will also
continue, and could become a serious problem if not controlled by
periodic eradication measures. The GOG will increase public education
and demand reduction efforts, bringing in more private and public
funding. Cocaine abuse will continue to grow as that percentage of
cocaine shipments traffickers now trade for transportation support
services is sold on the local market. This domestic cocaine trafficking
and use will increase pressure on the still fledgling civilian police
force and exacerbate domestic violence.

[end of document]

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Statistical Tables                          
TABLES for CY         1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990
  Harvestable Cultivation     [ha] 3 7 0 39 50 438 730 1,145 845
  Eradication     [ha] 12 3 12 86 150 426 470 576 1,085
  Cultivation     [ha] 15 10 12 125 200 864 1,200 1,721 1,930
  Theoretical Potential Yield     [mt] 0.20 0.10 0.00 0.40 0.50 4 7.0 11.5 8.5
  Harvestable Cultivation     [ha] 82 91 41 50 100 unk 80 55 92
  Eradication     [ha] 48 59 213 250 100 200 40 66 35
  Cultivation     [ha] 130 150 254 300 200 unk 120 121 127
  Theoretical Potential Yield     [mt] 10 12 5 6 12   20 55 92
  Cocaine     [mt] 9.2 4.3 4.0 1.0 2.0 7.6 9.5 15.4 15.5
  Cannabis     [mt] 0.18 0.34 16.40 0.50 1.76 2.1 0.7 1.3 6.8
  Heroin     [kg] 3.65 16.20 7.80 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.001    
  Opium     [kg] 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.0      
Arrests         872 188 189            
USG surveys estimate average yield at 10 kg of opium gum per hectare. Figures for all years have been adjusted accordingly.