200 US Marines sent to Guatemala to fight drugsAgence France-Presse
GUATEMALA CITY—Nearly 200 US Marines are patrolling Guatemala’s Pacific coast alongside local armed forces to fight drug traffickers in the first operation of its kind, officials said Friday.
The troops were deployed a week ago under Operation Martillo (Hammer), which targets drug trafficking in Central America and the Caribbean.
In revealing the existence of the operation earlier this month, Defense Minister Ulises Anzueto said the Marines would be in the country for two months, working alongside 2,000 Guatemalan troops.
The operation aims chiefly “to combat drug trafficking” operating via the Pacific coast of Guatemala to Mexico, said Guatemalan presidential spokesman Francisco Cuevas.
The US military presence marks a milestone for Guatemala, where the CIA ran a covert operation that overthrew leftist president Jacobo Arbenz Guzman nearly 60 years ago.
Guatemala then plunged into a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996. An estimated 200,000 people were killed or missing during the war.
Congress is currently working to amend a 2005 provision prohibiting the presence of more than 99 soldiers on Guatemalan soil.
The US Marines are supporting the Guatemalan forces from the sea, and thus do not violate the provision.