1. Guatemala $10.116 Billion

  2. Black Market Crime in Guatemala

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.

In a single case investigated by Guatemalan security services, $46.7 Million of Sinaloa drug cartel money was seized and 21 people arrested in December for money laundering violations in Guatemala. A fruit and vegetable was serving as a front company that was sending money to Mexico along with payments of avocados.

Criminal justice programs in Guatemala are seeing an increase in suspicious financial transactions and are reporting more potential money laundering cases. In the first six months of 2013, a total of 76 potential laundering reports were filed that involved $58.2 Million in funds.

In all of 2012, a total of 131 suspicious transactions were filed totaling $31.9 Million. 30 percent of the reports for 2012 were involved possible government corruption, 28 percent were extortion cases, drug trafficking accounted for 17 percent, and the remaining reports were from human trafficking, tax fraud, illegal adoptions and other scams and frauds.

Financial crimes investigators state that a single money laundering case can involve up to 50 bank accounts.

In additional to tracing money through bank accounts, security services have also seized cash from smugglers.  $11.4 Million in cash was seized from people smuggling the money, with most of the seizures taking place at the Guatemalan Airport.

Source:  Araceli Osorio, “Guatemala fights money laundering,” Infosurhoy, January 14, 2014.

According to the Guatemalan Association of Fuel Retailers, between 300,000 and 350,000 gallons fuel is smuggled into Guatemala from Mexico each day. Based on the current price of $4.20 per gallon, the illegal fuel is worth $1.2 to $1.3 Million per day.

Criminal justice officials in Guatemala report that organized crime groups smuggle the fuel into the country through 8 to 9 points along the 500 mile border with Mexico. With the profits from the illegal fuel sales, the crime syndicates then launder the money into building new gas stations.

Source:  Charles Parkinson, “Crime Groups Flooding Guatemala with Illegal Fuel from Mexico,” Insight Crime, December 11, 2013.

Addition oil theft statistics.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that over 200 tons of cocaine is transported across Central America. Grown in the South, the cocaine moves north through Guatemala on its way to markets in the United States and Europe. The value of the cocaine that is passed through Guatemala is estimated to be worth $6 Billion.

According to organized crime researchers at Insight Crime, smugglers in Guatemala earn between $600 Million to $800 Million a year moving the drugs across the country. These “transportistas”, as they are called, are responsible for getting the drugs through territory that they are responsible for. In addition of moving the cocaine, the haulers also participate in the money laundering of funds generated from the sales. Security officials in November 2013 seized $1.4 Million in cash from a single car.

(More profits and earnings from under the table activities.)

Source:  Charles Parkinson, “Seizure Highlights Guatemala’s Poor Record in Cash Smuggling,” Insight Crime, November 6, 2013.


In court testimony, a extortionist working in a Guatemalan prison explained the process of how he joined an extortion network that was operating within the Guatemalan criminal justice system.

During his testimony, the extortionist stated that on a bad week, he would make at least $6,000,and was able to get a single victim to pay $12,000.

The network of 21 prisoners would call individuals, families and businesses in Guatemala and neighboring El Salvador. The victims would then pay the money to outside members who would deposit the funds into the network’s bank accounts.

Other extortion gangs operating from prison were reportedly demanding up to $500,000 from businesses in El Salvador.

(Under the table jobs and other criminal profits.)

Source:  Marguerite Cawley, “Guatemala Prisoner Details Operations of Extortion Ring,” Insight Crime, August14, 2013.

In the first seven months of 2013, criminal justice programs in Guatemala reported that 22 children were kidnapped or stolen in the country.

The children are reportedly taken for the purpose of illegal adoptions and organ trafficking. Hospital workers such as doctors and midwives are reportedly involved in the black market trade and assist the kidnappers by creating fake identification papers such as birth certificates.

Source: Marguerite Cawley, “Guatemala Children Stolen for Illegal Adoption, Organ Trafficking,” Insight Crime, August 6, 2013.

A study conducted by the World Bank found that the economic costs to the Central America region due to organized crime violence is $6.5 Billion per year. The costs associated with the violence decreases the region’s GDP by 7.7 percent.

The impact of organized crime and drug trafficking violence on the countries GDP is as follows:

El Salvador: 10.8 percent of GDP worth $2 Billion.

Nicaragua: 10 percent of GDP worth $529 Million.

Honduras: 9.6 percent of GDP worth $885 Million.

Guatemala: 7.7 percent of GDP worth $2.2 Billion.

Costa Rica: 3.6 percent of GDP worth $791 Million.

There are 41 homicides for every 100,000 residents in Central America. 24 percent of the world’s marijuana smokers and 45 percent of the world’s cocaine users resides in Central America.

(What is racketeering?Find examples here.)

Source:  Sergio Ramos, “Central America: Organized crime costs Central America billions,” Infosurhoy, August 5, 2013.

The Interior Ministry of Guatemala released the results of an investigation into drug trafficking organizations within the country. According to the report, authorities identified over 54 drug trafficking groups operating in Guatemala as of June 2013.

In addition to the drug traffickers, security officials identified 40 cells of the organized crime gang Barrio-18 and 30 cells of Mara Salvatrucha in Guatemala.

(See all drug trafficking statistics here.)

Source:  Claire O’Neil McCleskey, “Guatemalan Officials Identify 54 Drug Trafficking Groups,” Insight Crime, June 12, 2013.

A report released by the Collective Security Analysis for Democracy stated that there were 2.8 million unregistered firearms in Central America, and an additional 15 million unregistered guns in Mexico.

According to the study, the majority of these guns are used by organized crime gangs and drug trafficking cartels to carry out their illicit activities.

The Central America Region has the world’s highest gun-homicide rate, with 41 people being killed by guns per 10,000 people.

According to statistics released by criminal justice programs, Honduras has a gun-homicide rate of 85.5 people per 10,000, followed by El Salvador with 69.2 homicides, Guatemala with 38.5, Mexico with 22.7, Panama with 18, and Costa Rica with 11.3 gun-related homicides.

The World Health Organization states that 5 homicides per 10,000 is considered normal, with over 10 homicides per 10,000 being an “epidemic”.

The unregistered guns in the region comes from four main sources. The first source is through straw buyers who purchase firearms on behalf of the drug cartels. The second source is by purchasing guns from corrupt military soldiers in Guatemala and Honduras. The third source is finding left over supplies from the civil wars that took place in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s. And the last source of unregistered firearms is through the crafting of home-made weapons known as chimbas. The guns are handcrafted and uses a welded pipe and can fire a single shotgun cartridge.

(Prices of Ak-47s and other firearms on the black market.)

Source:  Sergio Ramos, “Weapons trafficking increases in Central America, Mexico,” Infosurhoy, May 30, 2013.

More arms trafficking data.

Criminal justice agencies on the US-Mexico border have seen arrests for human smuggling in the Rio Grande Valley increase by 65 percent as more people attempt to enter the US. In March 2013, US Border Patrol agents arrested 16,000 people who were attempting to enter the country.

Between October 2012 to March 2013, authorities found around 70 bodies that were buried in the valley, over twice the amount of dead bodies found in the previous time frame the year before.

In comparison to the increase of arrest at the Rio Grande Valley, arrests of migrants at the Tuscon, Arizona area decreased by 3 percent last year.

The migrants attempting to enter the United States are not simply from Mexico. Human smuggling groups are sending people  originating from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

There were 94,532 arrests made by the US Border Patrol in 2012 of migrants who were not from Mexico. Nearly half of these non-Mexican migrants were arrested in the Rio Grande Valley.

Source:  Zac Fine, “Crossing the Rio Grande… with the help of a U.S. immigration officer as force targets upsurge in Mexicans trying to get over border,” Daily Mail, May 21, 2013.

According to industry officials, there are around 300,000 private security guards working in the Central America region. The number of private guards in the region are higher than the number of police officers in the region. The rise in security guards to attributed to fears of kidnap for ransom activities.

In Guatemala, there are 24,000 police officers in the country. The number of security guards is estimated to be around 100,000.

In Costa Rica and Honduras, there are twice as many security guards as police officers in each country.

The private security guard industry in the region is growing at 8 percent annually.

Source:  AFP, “Private security industry grows as organized crime spreads through Central America,” Tico Times, October 21, 2012.