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The remains of a 66-year-old woman killed by the Guatemalan army. (photo by Jonathan Moller)

Drugs and the Guatemalan Military
A Report from the Texas Observer

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 169

For more information contact
Kate Doyle - kadoyle@gwu.edu

Research Assistance: Emilene Martínez Morales
Additional Research: Cecilia Golombek

Posted - November 18, 2005

Related Links

Dear Mr. President: Lessons on Justice from Guatemala
The Latest Release from the Archive's Mexico Project

Mexico's Southern Front
Guatemala and the Search for Security

The Guatemalan Military: What the U.S. Files Reveal
Archive releases comprehensive report and database on Guatemalan security forces

Guatemala: Colonel Byron Lima Estrada
Declassified documents on former intelligence chief and alleged mastermind behind the Gerardi murder

Guatemalan "Death Squad Dossier"
Army log reveals the fate of scores of Guatemalan citizens "disappeared" during the mid-1980s

U.S. Policy in Guatemala, 1963-1993

CIA and Assassinations
The Guatemala 1954 Documents

Jungle exercises for the Guatemalan Kaibiles. (photo by Jeremy Bigwood)
Washington, D.C., November 18, 2005 - Investigative journalist Frank Smyth breaks new ground in documenting links between retired Guatemalan military officers and drug trafficking into the United States in "The Untouchable Narco-State: Guatemala's Military Defies the DEA." Smyth's story, featured in the independent weekly Texas Observer appearing on news stands today, uses declassified U.S. documents from the National Security Archive among other critical evidence.

Smyth's article tells the devastating tale of ongoing, endemic corruption in Guatemala, made possible by the clandestine ties between smugglers and former senior military officers. Unlike other Latin American countries like Colombia and Mexico, Guatemala has not prosecuted or extradited any of its drug kingpins for a over decade. Today the country is a hub for drug smuggling into the United States - according to statistics cited in the article, up to 75% of all cocaine that reaches the United States passes through this Central American nation.

Records provided by the National Security Archive for the story describe a powerful and brutal military institution with intimate ties to the United States and a history of corruption. They include information on:

  • Scorched-earth tactics used by the Guatemalan army during the 30-year civil conflict that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead and missing;
  • The military's vast web of informants available to them during and after the conflict;
  • How one corrupt ex-officer, Lt. Col. Carlos Ochoa Ruiz, used his connections in the military to protect drug trafficking and car smuggling operations inside Guatemala.

Additional documents obtained by the Archive through the Freedom of Information Act include U.S. intelligence reports linking senior military and intelligence officials - such as retired Generals Francisco Ortega Menaldo and Manuel Antonio Callejas y Callejas, both mentioned in the Texas Observer article - to a web of corruption run by military, police and customs officials. These and other declassified records can be accessed through links in the text of Frank Smyth's article.

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