Mexican drug cartels heading south

Feb. 26, 2011 at 11:48 AM
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GUATEMALA CITY, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom says the Central American country is facing a "permanent invasion" by drug cartels fleeing Mexico.

He has deployed hundreds of army troops to Alta Verapaz, a province just south of Mexico, to help root out Los Zetas, a powerful Mexican drug gang, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"We're facing a permanent invasion," Colom said.

Colom declared a state of siege in Alta Verapaz, allowing police to make arrests and search homes without a warrant.

Since he declared the state of siege in late December about 25 suspects have been arrested and more than $1.2 million in illegal items have been confiscated, including cash, drugs and assault rifles and grenades.

Guatemalan officials want to prevent the drug violence rampant in Mexico, where more than 34,000 people have died in drug-related violence since 2006.

"If we put our military against the military of the drug traffickers, we'll simply have thousands of deaths," said Sandino Asturias, a security expert at the Guatemala Studies Center, a think tank in the capital of Guatemala City.

Asturias said he favors the use of wire taps and other intelligence over brute force.

Guatemala has increased its war against drug cartels at the same time it has cut funding for the military.

Mexican security analyst Alberto Islas said Guatemala "lacks the resources to fight organized crime."

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