Guatemala Security Threats

Data and information about security threats from Guatemala’s black market. Intelligence and security information collected from government agencies, news articles and other public data sources.

Federal authorities in the United States estimates that street gang Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, has at least 30,000 members in its organization. The members are spread out across the Americas region, with members known to be in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

In the United States, there are at least 8,000 members operating in the country. They have been identified in over 40 countries and in Washington, DC, and are primarily involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking and murder. Between 2006 and 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement  arrested over 4,000 MS-13 members.

The gang members are recognized for their extensive tattoos.

Source:  Samuel Rubenfeld, “Treasury Labels MS-13 Transnational Criminal Organization,” Wall Street Journal, Corruption Currents Blog, October 11, 2012.

In 2011, there were an estimated 25,000 international adoptions around the world, down from the 45,000 adoptions that took place in 2004. The decline was attributed to a global crackdown on illegal adoptions and baby trafficking.

In the United States, a little over 9,000 children and babies were adopted from foreign countries, down 60 percent from 2004. The cost to adoption a baby for parents in the United States is between $20,000 to $40,000.

Guatemala was previously a major source of babies for the international adoption market, providing up to 4,000 babies in 2006. Due to corruption, the United States is no longer allowing its citizens to adopt from Guatemala.

Source:  Associated Press, “International adoptions drop amid fraud crackdowns,” Google News, May 10, 2012.

In fiscal year 2008, parents in the United States adopted 4,123 from Guatemala, making the country the number one source of international adoptions in the U.S.

Due to concerns over corruption, bribery, and child trafficking, Guatemala changed its polices regarding adoptions.

In fiscal year 2011, only 32 children were adopted from Guatemala by U.S. parents.

Source: Alan Greenblatt, ” Fewer Babies Available For Adoption By U.S. Parents,” NPR, November 17, 2011.

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There are an estimated 1.6 million illegal arms being trafficked around Guatemala in 2011.

The homicide rate in the country was 52 people per 100,000 in 2011.

Source: Guy Adams, “Guatemala’s bloody battle with Mexican drug cartels,” Independent, November 5, 2011.

2007 was the last year that parent in the United States could legally adopt children from Guatemala. The practice ended that year due to illegal adoption and child trafficking concerns. Other developed countries previously halted adoptions from Guatemala in 2002.

In 2007, there were 4,726 Guatemalan children who were adoption by United States couples. The attorneys involved in the process in Guatemala made about $35,000 per case.

In 2011, the Guatemalan government announced that it will begin reviewing adoptions cases from that time period to find cases where the child trafficking.

  Source: Meredith Hoffman, “Amid Allegations of Human Trafficking, Guatemala to Review Adoptions,” New American Media, August 24, 2011.

Drug cartel Los Zetas was charging migrants between $7,000 to $10,000 per person to be smuggled from Central American countries through Mexico and into the United States.

The drug trafficking cartel diversified into human smuggling and had recruiters in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to transport people along supply routes towards the U.S. border.

Source: Tim Johnson, “Violent Mexican drug gang, Zetas, taking control of migrant smuggling,” Miami Herald, August 12, 2011.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, over 90 percent of the cocaine from South America that enters the US first travels through Guatemala.

The Mexican government employs 125 immigration officers on the 540 mile border between Guatemala and Mexico. In comparison, the United States employs 30,000 agents on its border with Mexico.

(Latest cocaine facts and statistics.)

Source: Nick Miroff and William Booth, “In southern Mexico, a neglected frontier,” Washington Post, June 21, 2011.

Migrants from Guatemala paid human smugglers $7,000 to be smuggled into the United States from Mexico in 2011.

The human smuggling fee from Guatemala is up from the reported price of $2,450 in 2008.

Source: Associated Press, “Mexico police find 513 US-bound migrants in trucks,” Yahoo News, May 17, 2011.

The Mexican drug cartel Zetas was operating in up to 75 percent of Guatemala’s territory in 2010, according to drug intelligence officials.

Source: Reuters, “Guatemala captures 22 drug traffickers in sweep,” Yahoo News, December 26, 2010.

The price of a single allergy pill containing ephedrine on the black market in Guatemala is $2.50.

A kilogram of bulk ephedrine from China costs $10,000 on the black market in Mexico.

Ephedrine is in high demand as it is used to make methamphetamine.

(How much does meth cost?)

Source: William Booth and Anne-Marie O’Conner, “Mexican cartels emerge as top source for U.S. meth,” Washington Post, November 28, 2010.