Latin America: Guatemala Imposes "State of Prevention" in Drug Crackdown

The Guatemalan government announced Tuesday that it was suspending some constitutional rights in municipalities along the Mexican border as part of an effort to uproot opium crops and drug trafficking in the region. Residents of Concepción Tutuapa, Ixchiguán, San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Tajumulco and Tejutla woke up Tuesday morning to find their towns and villages surrounded by 800 police who arrived in the middle of the night, the Guatemala City newspaper Prensa Libre reported.

Under an emergency two-week order called a state of prevention, the government has suspended the right to carry firearms or hold demonstrations or meetings in the affected area. The measure also expands the government's right to conduct searches. In addition, the government warned the news media "to not incite rebellion because on previous occasions radio stations have urged people to resist the destruction of drug crops."

On Tuesday, police checkpoints blocked access to the affected region and all vehicles were being subjected to searches. Police had also raided at least 22 locations by Tuesday afternoon, when Guatemalan officials held a press conference to announce the offensive.

"The idea of this high impact operation, at the end of 15 days, is to have eradicated the poppy crops, captured people linked to the trade, and confiscate heavy arms," Guatemalan President Oscar Berger told reporters. "We are trying to fight drug trafficking and organized crime," Interior Minister Carlos Vielman added.

For residents of the municipalities, all located in the department of San Marcos, the police operation is causing some nervousness. "The neighbors came to see me very worried, and the only thing I could tell them was that he who has nothing has nothing to fear," Jeronimo Navarro, the mayor of Ixchiguan told Prensa Libre.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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