Completely under the radar, Obama has sent 200 additional US Marines to Guatemala on another drug war adventure. Associated Press:
A team of 200 U.S. Marines began patrolling Guatemala’s western coast this week in an unprecedented operation to beat drug traffickers in the Central America region, a U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday.
The Marines are deployed as part of Operation Martillo, a broader effort started last Jan. 15 to stop drug trafficking along the Central American coast. Focused exclusively on drug dealers in airplanes or boats, the U.S.-led operation involves troops or law enforcement agents from Belize, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama and Spain.
“This is the first Marine deployment that directly supports countering transnational crime in this area, and it’s certainly the largest footprint we’ve had in that area in quite some time,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Earnest Barnes at the U.S. Southern Command in Miami.
Talk about policing the world. The plan, according to military officials, is to intercept drug traffickers. A similar US mission is being carried out by commando-style DEA agents and hundreds of US soldiers in neighboring Honduras. In that case, it has brought about several incidents of killings of Hondurans by American forces and a massive uptick in support and training for a corrupt league of Honduran security forces with a long list of human rights abuses.
Washington’s prohibitionist policies in Central America have caused drug profits to skyrocket and its support for undemocratic police states in Latin America has pushed cartels to build well-armed militias that give state armies a run for their money.
The US has an ugly, bloody history in the region. In Guatemala, the Eisenhower administration imposed a military coup and then sent in the US military while fueling a violent civil war that left more than 200,000 people dead. The height of the bloodshed occurred under 1980s US ally and beneficiary Ríos Montt, during which the number of killings and disappearances reached more than 3,000 per month. Montt’s forces, with the help of his chief of staff Fuentes (recently brought to court for war crimes), slit the throats of women and children, beat innocent civilians and doused them in gasoline to be burned alive, tortured, and mutilated thousands of innocent indigenous peasants. The UN commission investigating the atrocities concluded it constituted acts of genocide. No inquiry into the culpability of US officials has been initiated.
Guatemala currently receives approximately $1oo million in aid annually from the U.S., despite a record of corruption and ties to the drug gangs. The former president, Alfonso Portillo, is in prison on charges of massive corruption. Scores of police chiefs, senior military commanders, and defense ministers have been indicted throughout an attempt to crack down on security forces with drug-trafficking ties.
The Kaibiles, the ruthless U.S.-trained Guatemalan state militia infamous for their role in killing civilians during Guatemala’s civil war, are being recruited in large numbers to violent Mexican drug gangs. Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel is paying large sums to a multitude of Kaibiles forces to pass on the training they received from the United States military.
This is the reality of the US drug war in Central America. And the Obama administration has just exacerbated the chaos by marching in 200 US Marines to Guatemala. Bravo.