Central America 05/03/12

WikiLeaks unearths intelligence on Zetas massacre and US ambassador’s involvement in Honduran coup, as UN reports new levels of drug violence in the region.

WikiLeaks exposes intelligence firm’s analysis of Zetas massacre

On Monday, WikiLeaks began publishing the first of what it claims are 5.5 million e-mails from the U.S.-based global intelligence firm Stratfor, dubbed as a ‘shadow CIA’.

Reportedly snatched in December 2011 by the hacker group Anonymous, these e-mails have exposed the inner workings of Stratfor’s web of intelligence-gathering.

One batch of e-mails dated 18 May 2011 concerns the massacre of dozens of Guatemalan peasants by Los Zetas three days earlier, the worst such incident since 1996.

Stratfor Tactical Analyst Victoria Allen stated: ‘Over the years [Los Zetas] have recruited many Guatemalan kaibiles […] current or former Guatemalan special forces soldiers’.

The analyst hinted that the mass murder may have been the work of the latter, according to the testimony of two of the survivors of the massacre, who said that the attackers wore military-style fatigues and had Mexican accents.

‘The Zetas killed and beheaded the people they were interrogating [to know the whereabouts of regional landowner Otto Salguero], […] but the Zetas likely knew where their target was and why’.

Throughout the leaked e-mails there is a sense that the mass murder was simply an attempt to send a ‘powerful message’. Allen suggests: ‘Los Zetas are there, no one is safe – from the average peasant to the elite landowners (who represent the state)’.

‘The more gruesome the scene created by Los Zetas, the more it will remind the Guatemalan people of the horrific acts of the death squads during that country’s 36 year civil war – and the death squads were kaibiles, who now are aligned [sic] with Los Zetas’.

The following day, Stratfor Tactical Intelligence Analyst Colby Martin arrived at a not so different conclusion:

‘I think the cartels are gearing up for something we long knew was coming. They are possibly no longer willing to share the spoils with the Guatemalans [and their drug cartels], and so they are now willing to push the war into Guatemala on a larger scale in order to take the [drug] routes’.

UN report highlights new levels of drug violence in the region

In other news, Central America has reached ‘alarming and unprecedented’ levels of drug violence as Mexican drug cartels continue to expand their influence in the region, a UN report said on Tuesday.

The annual report from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) – the UN’s drug watchdog – highlights ‘increased levels of violence, kidnapping, bribery torture and homicide’ in the region.

‘The countries of the so-called “Northern Triangle” [Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador] […] now have the world’s highest homicide rates’, the report said.

The report also highlights the proliferation of drug cartels with easy access to firearms, as there are reportedly more than 900 gangs with an estimated 70,000 members in Central America.

WikiLeaks unearths US ambassador’s involvement in the Honduran coup

On Wednesday, another leak from the whistleblower website WikiLeaks suggested a deeper level of complicity between the US and the Honduran military coup of 2009.

The documents highlight talks prior to the coup between the US ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens and the mayor of Tegucigualpa Ricardo Álvarez, as well as former President of Honduras Ricardo Maduro.

On the day of the coup, 28 June 2009, Llorenz allegedly met with the heads of three major companies: Antonio Travel, Emilio Larach and Emin Barjum.

While the directors perceived the coup as illegal, they maintained the need to accept the interim government and to await the November elections.

Since Porfírio Lobo was sworn in as president in early 2010, a wave of violence has swept the country, resulting in the deaths of peasants, political activists and journalists (13), as well as in the widespread repression of human rights defenders.

The INCB’s report last Tuesday singled out Honduras as one of the countries with the world’s highest homicide rate.