In any war there are innocent victims. In the 40-year war on drugs, the central American state of Guatemala can lay claim to being just such an innocent casualty. It has been caught in the crossfire between the nations to the south (principally Peru, Colombia and Bolivia) that produce illegal narcotics and the country to the north (America) that has the largest appetite to consume them. Guatemala does little of either.
The problem is that the drugs – principally cocaine – have to be transported from the producing countries to the US, from the south to the north. Unfortunately for Guatemala, it’s in the way.
But Guatemala’s location at the tip of Central America did not always present a problem. As recently as 2008 the US National Drug Intelligence Centre estimated that less than 1% of the estimated 700 tonnes of cocaine that left South America passed through Central America. But that was before the war on drugs intervened, and Guatemala was caught in the fallout.
Prior to 2008 the favoured method of transporting drugs from South America to the US was by sea (via the Caribbean or the Pacific) or by air; land-based smuggling was rare. But two things happened to radically change that, both initiatives of the “war on drugs”.