Cartel violence in Chiapas spreads across the southern border into Guatemala

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More and more, Guatemala views its shared border with Mexico with apprehension. Authorities in the Central American country have alerted Mexico’s Foreign Ministry to the growing presence of CJNG members in their territory. The criminal group has gained strength in the region of Frontera Comalapa and Motozintla, municipalities linked by a highway that the cartel blocks and unblocks at will, using its own checkpoints. The population is fleeing the area, displaced by the violence and a lack of protection in the absence of a significant state presence, and spurred by fears of being killed or forcibly recruited by organized crime.

Specifically, in recent weeks, the CJNG set up a checkpoint on the border between Motozintla, on the Mexican side, and in Cantón Cheguate, on the Guatemalan side. According to the Mexican newspaper Milenio, the criminals were heavily armed and wore bulletproof vests. According to the outlet, those same cartel members were involved in the initial confrontation with Guatemalan armed forces that took place during the second week of January, when an armed unit of the cartel crossed into Guatemala and clashed with a military unit, which returned fire and managed to capture two of the attackers. Both confessed to being from Chiapas and belonging to the CJNG. The police also located two safe houses.

Guatemala has deployed 2,000 military personnel to Cantón Cheguate. The strategy is part of an operation that has been underway for months, aimed at reinforcing the border in the face of disorder and violence in Chiapas. Last September, Guatemalan authorities announced the deployment of more than 300 soldiers to the Department of San Marcos, which shares a border with Motozintla, Amatenango de la Frontera and Mazapa de Madero in Mexico. In December, 10 Guatemalan chicken sellers disappeared in Frontera Comalapa. They were never heard from again.

Chiapas has yet to get a break from the violence as it deals with the daily consequences of the infiltration of organized crime, with no government counterweights others than an increasing militarization that has not managed — or, according to many human rights organizations working on the ground, has not even tried — to tackle the problem. The population displaced by the violence is in the thousands, while massacres have become part of the daily vocabulary and the region suffers a growing sense of abandonment — a sense that the only law governing the territory is the one imposed by drug traffickers.

Even the Church has raised its voice in open protest. This is how the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas summarized the situation in a message published this Thursday: “We unite our voices in protest to testify to the endless abuses and injustices that our towns and communities are experiencing, especially the insecurity, violence and territorial disputes provoked by organized crime, in the face of which all three levels of government are either overwhelmed, permissive, or colluding in the system of control that these groups exercise in Mexico […] This has had very serious consequences for our municipalities and our communities, including: violence and confrontations between armed groups and drug traffickers, which result in kidnappings, disappearances, forced displacements of people and entire families, as well as the loss of assets and savings that these families have earned through so much effort […] On top of this — out of fear of reprisals, impunity and the non-exercise of the rule of law — people do not want to report crimes to the authorities. This has also created power struggles between organizations that have been manipulated by political parties, caciquismo, and corrupt local officials and businessmen.”

Source: El Pais

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